Given the fact that both Superheroes and Humor are somewhat “dead” genres in the world of independent comics, Kevin Rubio’s Abyss is a breath of much-needed fresh air that shows the mainstream comics world exactly what they should be producing monthly. The best way that I can think to describe Abyss is a combination of the following elements: Imagine the premise for Wanted (check my review if you don’t know it, and the movie doesn’t count!) being executed in a style that reminiscent of The Incredibles, “ The Tick“, and “Clerks: The Animated Series,” with a touch of “Robot Chicken”‘s referential and self-parodying humor. Are you intrigued yet?
Abyss is the story of Eric Hoffman, a privileged teenager whose father (a military weapons contractor) kept a dastardly secret. After his dad’s tragic death, Eric finds out that Papa Hoffman was Abyss, the most feared and reviled supervillain in the world, and that the mantle must now be passed to him. He learns this from his very-much-alive father, who faked his death so that Eric could take over the real family business. Eric is not cut from the same cloth as Wesley Gibson from Wanted, however, and rebels. When Mr. Hoffman decides he’d rather kill his son than let him go, Eric steals the Abyss costume and jet and flies to San Francisco to stop a bomb his father planted from killing hundreds of innocent people. Imagine Eric’s surprise when his father’s arch-nemesis, The Arrow (and his plucky sidekick, Quiver) tries to apprehend and arrest him for supervillainy! And that’s just the first issue!
While Abyss shares an initial premise with Wanted, it is certainly a much more straightforward comic book tale than Millar’s groundbreaking “villain’s journey.” Eric doesn’t get savagely beaten or forced to butcher livestock, so he isn’t of the mindset to murder an entire precint house full of cops. I found him to be a far more identifiable character than Wanted’s Wesley Gibson/The Killer, which contributed greatly to my ability to enjoy the story. Even the villains of Abyss seem more well-rounded and interesting, with clearer and more reasonable motivations. Perhaps I’m being too easy on it (and too harsh on Wanted) by comparing the two, but with such similar story points it is difficult to avoid.
Abyss is a parody of superhero comics, but not in that annoying (GENRE) MOVIE style that has saturated the film market over the past few years. It’s far more up the alley of movies like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, as interested in telling its own story as it is at goofing on the genre’s conventions. Characters actually have dimension, and the gags never feel forced or contrived. It makes sense that Kevin Rubio would choose this style for his first major comics, since his most prominent non-comics achievement is a fan-made film called TROOPS, a parody mash-up of COPS and Star Wars. Jokes range from the cliche (calling superhero costumes homoerotic) to the spot-on (having the heroes drive around in a compact hybrid car because they’ve “gone green”), with most being fresh and clever. There’s even a bit of English language humor:
ERIC: “Quiver?! You can’t be serious.”
QUIVER: “What? It’s a good name.”
ERIC: “It’s a transitive verb that means ‘to shake or tremble.'”
That joke cracked me up, and hopefully it at least gave you a chuckle. There are plenty of throw-away visual gags as well, especially during the scenes at a comic convention. My favorites are the sharks with laser beams attached to their heads and Pollack, a parody of Rorschach from Watchmen whose mask is haphazardly splattered with paint. There’s also a brief cameo appearance by fellow Red 5 Comics character Atomic Robo (whose series is written by Brian Clevinger, known for his webcomic 8-Bit Theatre.)
Abyss is one of the few post-1990s comics that understands exactly what made fans want to read them in the first place: Action and fun. If Wanted left you with an unpleasant feeling, if you like wisecracking, relatable heroes and if you enjoy poking fun at the conventions of the superhero genre as much as (or more than) you enjoy the genre itself, Abyss is the comic for you.