I’m STILL catching up on comics I missed from 2018, which is how I happened to find myself reading BOOM! Studios’s Abbott a few weekends ago. And while writer Saladin Ahmed and illustrator Sami Kivelä delivered a heck of a supernatural crime thriller, it was colorist Jason Wordie’s work that blew me away.
Wordie uses a soft color palette and what I would guess are some digital wash and blending techniques to set Abbott squarely in the 1970s. If you knew nothing about the book going in, Wordie’s mellow-yet-psychedelic colors (a blend of pastels and neons) would tell you exactly what what kind of ride you’re in for.
But that palette and those techniques don’t just set the tone for Abbott‘s real world. They also establish the ground rules that Wordie then deliberately breaks during the book’s supernatural sequences.
As the spirit world of the Umbra emerges around Elena Abbott, Wordie’s colors break free of the objects they inhabit. They seep into the surrounding areas of the page, and they transform Abbott‘s typically well-defined world into something hazy and indefinite. When the Umbra appears, Abbott‘s Detroit quickly turns stark and sinister.
There are specific moments where Elena can feel this transition coming on, where something tells her that the Umbra is about to re-enter her life. These moments are colored (and inked) more “roughly” than every other panel in the book, as if the colors themselves are breaking the boundary between worlds. As if they are trying to warn Elena about what is yet to come.
There are a number of other cool effects on display in Abbott, including the dappling effects that Wordie uses to show post-gunshot blood spatter, the “smoke” effect that he combines with more stark black-and-whites throughout the book, and the tighter “supernatural purple” overlays he uses to show a particular character’s connection to the Umbra. I’ve highlighted an example of each below (and you can click to view the images full-size).
If you’re at all interested in comic book coloring, or you just like reading good stories with great colors, I highly recommend taking a look at Abbott. And you might also want to check out this interview Wordie did with Comics Now, where the colorist spoke directly about creating Abbott‘s “dark dimension.”