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Review: ‘Abigail and The Snowman’

abigail-and-the-snowmanAbigail and The Snowman
Writer/artist: Roger Langridge
Boom Studios; $14.99

The first friend that Abigail makes upon moving to a new town is a very unusual one: An impeccably dressed yeti. The yeti, who answers to the name “Specimen 486″, was born in the Himalayas but raised in a secret government facility which he has just escaped from. In fact, he was in hiding at a neighborhood playground when Abigail spotted him.

Like all yeti, he has the natural ability to cloud the minds of humans, so that they can neither see nor hear him, but that ability doesn’t work on children, which is how Abigail spotted him. She promptly renames him Claude, the name of her imaginary invisible dog, invites him to stay at her place, and becomes his best friend.

There is another way to see yeti–aside from being a child, that is–and it involves the special high-tech glasses devices worn by the pair of men-in-black types pursuing him. They are written and drawn as if cartoonist Roger Langridge simply cast Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the roles, which he essentially did.

While their presence is the most obvious and outward acknowledgment of Langridge’s love of classic film comedy, it all but permeates the comic, and Langridge seems to have particular fun with Claude’s subjective invisibility, as panels alternate between adult and childhood points-of-view of goings-on, leading to both broad slapstick (as when Claude physically throws his pursuers out of a classroom, or dances in front of Abigail’s father to prove his invisibility) and more gentle behavioral business, as when late in the story Abigail reveals Claude’s existence to her father, and he tries to have a conversation with someone he can neither see nor hear.

It’s a pretty perfect example of the magical friend genre of children’s entertainment, and one that hits all of the expected notes while skipping along to its Hollywood movie-style ending, complete with big action climax, punishment of the villain and a happy/sad/happy resolution of where Claude really belongs.

What elevates Abigail and The Snowman far above being simply a delightful kids’ movie in comics format is Langridge’s visual execution and his supremely confident application of the medium’s strengths over alternate media, like prose or film.

Each panel is filled with Langridge’s loose, evocative designs that are nevertheless meticulously rendered. Put another way, Langridge just plain draws funny, but in such a grounded way that while his characters are always fun to look at, the panels featuring them never seem wild or chaotic.

One need look no farther than Claude for an example of Langridge’s superior design and cartooning abilities. His head sits directly atop his torso, with no neck evident, giving him the look of a snow-capped mountain crossed with a gorilla, his long arms and massive hands dangling down to the knees of his downright dainty little legs. Dressed in various suits, Claude’s head peeks out of them unnaturally, his massive underbite giving him a somewhat Muppet-like look—it’s probably no coincidence that Langridge worked for so long on Muppet comics prior to this—and a single curved pen-stroke providing an always over-expressive eyebrow.

And yet the world this fantastic beast moves through is as familiar as the one you yourself move through every day. And that is what makes Abigail and The Snowman so magical: Its effective marriage of the mundane and the insane, performed by an assured master of the medium.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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