Review – “The Abductables” by Cauldron Comics (Festival of Dread special)

At some point, aliens became a part of Halloween culture. Why did this happen, exactly? Was it the consistent appearance of Kodos and Kang in The SimpsonsTreehouse of Horror speicals? The release of Ridley Scott’s Alien film series? Or does it go even further back to Cold War-era sci-fi/horror flicks like Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

While it makes virtually no sense that All Hallow’s Eve would be associated with extra-terrestrials, there’s no sense in pushing back against reality. The best I can do is take that probe straight up the tailpipe, and since we haven’t done covered any alien stuff during our Festival of Dread Halloween event, there’s no better time than now to go interstellar with Cauldron Comics’ sci-fi graphic novel The Abductables!

Note: Minor spoilers ahead!

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In space, no one can hear them scream

The Abductables is a tongue-in-cheek take on the alien abduction story that flips the script on the extra-terrestrial abductors… with gloriously violent results. The story begins as an abducted Agent Alden awakens from a coma and finds himself on an alien examination table. Having lost all memory of who he is and how he came to be on an alien ship, Alden immediately begins pulverizing and murderizing his captors in increasingly amusing ways.

The book includes a girthy 52 pages of story, and while an unbridled alien bloodbath might have worn thin by the end, fortunately writer Michael Derrick mixes up the action and reveals a more engaging backstory than one might have expected from the outset. The story even ends on a fairly tantalizing “semi”-cliffhanger for a book described as a one-shot, so while I was really only hoping for a violent, interstellar romp, I wound up with a with a coherent plot featuring well-realized characters who I actually halfway cared about by the end.

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“Why does it hurt to sit! Why?!”

One of The Abductables’ strongest points is its irreverent humor, which may draw a bit too largely on anal probe references, but hot damn are they funny. In an era of  #MeToo-inspired Puritanism, reading a comic that throws caution to the wind so flippantly was a huge breath of fresh air. The “Probe this, bitch!” line remains one of my favorite uses for one of my favorite words. Just thinking about it now still brings a smile to my face.

If it wasn’t clear already, The Abductables is not at all a book intended for young audiences. The violence is deliberately graphic and hyper-exaggerated, with plenty of guns, blood, and disembowelments to keep the the most ravenous gore-hound satisfied. It’s all done for humorous effect, though. It’s not at all realistic like a war movie, it’s akin to Simon Bisley’s Lobo or a Splatterhouse game.

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Splortch!

Canales, you mad, Basque bastard!

Since working with Richard C. Meyer on Iron Sights, Basque artist Ibai Canales has become one of the most in-demand comic illustrators on the indie scene. Like so much else in The Abductables, the art style is exaggerated, and as such it may not be pleasing to everybody. However, I found Canales‘ artwork to be a great match for the tone of the book, giving the characters an expressive and injecting almost every page with high levels of raw energy. I say “almost” every page, because there are a few pages scattered throughout the The Abductables that suffer from being a bit too crowded, whether by excessive text or overly-compressed panel layouts. In my opinion, Canales’ art is better suited for larger panels, which makes the pages look a bit more dynamic and gives the art more room to breathe.

The book is entirely in gray scale black-and-white, which is completely understandable for a crowdfunded, independent book. Unfortunately, the book would have benefited from a few splashes of color: simple lighting effects, bright energy blasts emanating from the alien weapons, or even some bright reds (or greens) to accent the bountiful showers of blood.

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Probe me, Daddy

Neither writer Michael Derrick nor artist Ibai Canales has teased any kind of follow-up to The Abductables (that I’m aware of, anyway). While I am interested to see where Agent Alden’s story takes him, I’m also satisfied with the ending I got. The Abductables isn’t a perfect book, and much of your enjoyment will depend on whether you are keen on the art, and if you appreciate the books’ intentionally offensive jokes. I did enjoy it, so I would recommend it to the like-minded.

If you didn’t buy into the original crowdfunding campaign, there’s unfortunately no way to pick up a copy of The Abductables at the moment, digital or otherwise. Here’s hoping that Cauldron Comics does offer some way to make The Abductables available. If I have indeed aroused your interest in the book, you can follow Michael Derrick on social media here to be the first to know when if he has any updates. If….

Thanks for reading! If you want to check out more of our Festival of Dread content, go here!


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