It begins with the stark cover, with it's worn print-box letters and subdued landscape; an ominous warning of the things to come. A tension that mounts from the first panel of a young boy leaning over the corpse of his slain dog, building with the turn of each page. ABEL, the first graphic novel from the team of Harms and Bloodworth, is an exercise in foreshadowing and despair that culminates in sheer horror; delivering on a dark, cold promise.
John and Philip are two brothers living during the second World War in the middle of an impoverished heartland not yet dining off the fruit of the war-time economy. John, the younger of the two, is shy and meek and struggling to understand the world around him, marked by the uncontrollable violent outbursts of his brother and the more subtle ingrained rascism that is all but accepted in the town of Friend, Nebraska. It's this thirst for comprehension that drives John to befriend an Asian gardner in the employ of a local wealthy landowner, a budding friendship doomed by the insidious evil of the times.
ABEL's strength lies in Harms' ability to misdirect the reader through tense confrontations and non-confrontations, transforming what could otherwise be dry and well-traveled material. Instead, it's a time bomb that seemingly recoils just when it's set to explode; and eventually does.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.