In Review: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #126

Are things improving, stabilizing, or getting worse? It's hard to tell when it's all going to hell. However, it sure is fun to read.

The cover: The top image is dominated by a wailing monster with a Zinco collar around its neck. To the left is the terrible grimace of the Black Flame, the individual whose return to earth has sparked a new level in the war against humanity. To the bottom right is a child’s photograph that will spur someone to make a choice. The bottom of the cover has Director Nichayko and soldier Leonid sporting monstrous weapons. Such firearms could only be used on a large enemy and they are. Another sensational cover by Laurence Campbell. I love the composition–this split cover is a winner every time. I want this and the previous covers to be prints! C’mon, Dark Horse, remember when you sold prints? Overall grade: A+

The story: “Flesh and Stone” by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi opens in the frozen wastelands as Johann leads a group of men to find a monster that’s disappeared. They have to travel by horseback because the cold would be too much for any machine. A patrol is needed and Agent Oscar is selected to head it. Accompanying him will be Agent Howards, who has just ridden into town, his magical sword on his back. The scene then shifts to New York, in a Zinco bunker, where scientists are going to subject someone to a mutant’s bite. It’s the most inhuman sequence I’ve seen in a comic all year. No one has a conscience about what’s going on because the test “was commissioned by the Black Flame himself.” I swear you could hear a pin drop after that uttering, until the scream occurs. Something is discovered by one of these Zinco employees on Page 6 and could change a lot of what’s happening in the Big Apple. The scene then goes to Russia where Nichayko and Leonid have their hands full. This is an epic scene that would bust the budget of any film, and ends with the most empty five words on Page 12. The book then returns to the wastelands with the B.P.R.D., who are involved in their own monstrous adventure. Never a dull moment when the world is coming to and end. Overall grade: A

The art: Beautiful work throughout by James Harren. The wastelands the B.P.R.D. are in could be found in America today, though there would be a lot more people and less monsters. The opening three pages felt like a classic western as the men rode into the deserted town. The arrival of Howards should be read with Ennio Morricone’s classic whistle being played. The sudden shift to the creature on Page 4 is startling and absolutely disturbing to look at. Not helping is what’s planned for the creature. This was wonderfully awful stuff contrasted against men of science watching calmly. Just gross. Page 6 reveals without dialogue that someone might still have their conscience. The Russia pages would make Guillermo del Toro stand and applaud. That double-paged spread on 12 and 13 is beautiful and the perfect imagery for the dialogue. The final four pages of the book capture a creature in motion superbly, especially that last page with it’s perfect cliffhanger. Everything is outstanding in this book’s visuals. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Terrific coloring by Dave Stewart. The opening cold can be felt with all the white and grays used. I like that when Howards appeared his goggles matched the color of the snow, perhaps implying he’s dead inside? The gold coming off of his sword was a good way to make it standout from the terrain. The mutant is a disgusting fleshy mess of colors. The rose colored eyes and putrid green spittle completed its awful image. The bottom of Page 5 is a horror with red. Oranges and yellows are used for the tremendous battle in Russia and I like that the explosion on 10 is mostly white, making it seem even stronger than it was drawn. Orange and yellow are also dominate on the final pages, becoming a great swirling mix in the second to last panel of the book as “it” got closer to the reader. Exceptional work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue and sounds provided by Clem Robins keep the story moving forward in excellent fashion. Overall grade: A

The final line: Are things improving, stabilizing, or getting worse? It’s hard to tell when it’s all going to hell. However, it sure is fun to read. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five 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.
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