The cover: Under the surface of Saitama, Japan, Professor Shun Kukyo sits in the same chair he’s sat in for thirty years. The ruins of his once pristine laboratory surround him, as do the hundreds of sheets of paper he draws each day. The inscriptions on the paper are always the same. Behind him the portal, he helped create, rages, as it’s continued to do since 1979. This is a fantastic, ominous illustration that gives lots of clues about what’s within the pages of this issue. Laurence Campbell did a great job on this cover. I wanted the colors to be a little brighter, but that’s how all readers should feel–like they want to see all the details. Campbell knows that some things should be left in the dark. Overall grade: A
The story: Living up to the headline atop the cover, “Starting Point For New Readers!”, this tale titled “The Broken Equation” (Part 1 of 2) by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi requires no previous reading of any of these characters’ earlier exploits to understand. Johann Kraus is in what’s left of the Land of the Rising Sun, and things have already gone wrong. Half of the platoon is missing, U.N. troops still can’t get in, and there are giant monsters, bigger than Godzilla, wrecking havoc. Four of these lost men are winding their way down what’s left of the streets, avoiding attacks, trying to find Ako Quantum Systems. A manhole pops open, revealing an old man in a lab coat, sporting an eye patch. This begins a tale that comes the closest to a modern day H.P. Lovecraft story than has been done in quite some time. The old man reveals an underground laboratory and introduces the group to Professor Kukyo and how he got to his present state. I was enthralled with Pages 10 – 15. Those six pages are worth the cover price alone, but things are not to be contained in the past. When the action returns to the present things take a turn bigger than when Liz blew up the underworld. This seems like the beginning of a year long storyline, more so than the first of a two parter. How anyone could read this without their mouth agape is beyond me. Fantastic. Overall grade: A+
The art: Previous B.P.R.D. series’ styles have been excellent followed and warped to his own interpretation by Joe Querio. The monsters are bizarre beings that lash out for some unseen purpose, yet seemingly possess some type of intelligence–an amazing line to stand on by an artist. Pages 3, 4, 12, 13, and 22 will elicit revulsion and yet have readers straining to try to make sense of the unearthly. The technology used in this story is utterly cool. Kraus wearing a headset on the first page looks amazing, the reveal on the desolate lab on 8 recent retro-cool, the “real” setting on 9 frighteningly medieval, and the headset on 10 disarmingly innocuous. The characters look terrific. Having grown up on 1970s anime, you set a story in Japan with a guy in a lab coat with an eye patch and I’m in heaven. Professor Kukyo is a scene stealer! And the addition of that glass jar below him was a wonderfully foul inclusion. I love both of his incarnations in this story. The energy/force unleashed late in the book is great. This is so repetitious to say in regards to the artists that have drawn on this book, but I can’t imagine this artist on any other book. Querio should not be allowed to leave as illustrator for the Mignolaverse. Overall grade: A+
The colors: I expect certain things from colorist Dave Stewart when I see his name in the credits. I expect the coloring to be very artistic, with panels given particular shades or washes to enhance the, usually, dark tone of the story. That’s exactly how the book opens with a panorama of Johann in the ruins of Saitama in brown rusts. Orange enters on the following pages with sound effects. When the story goes underground the colors brighten, which is ironic so far underground, and then they become cool blues in the flashback, until “something” happens. I must draw attention to the purple-pink flesh of Pages 12 and 13. I’ve never seen Stewart use those colors on this type of character and it worked wonderfully. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Clem Robins provides scene setting, dialogue, transmissions, sounds, and an editorial note for this issue. Once again, he’s on top of his game and the big sounds in the final quarter of the book were exactly what I wanted to “hear.” Overall grade: A+
The final line: I love this. It feeds my need for adventure and horror in one book. The only way this could be better was if it was weekly. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.