In Review: B.P.R.D. #131

This is a disturbing issue because it questions a major character's motives. Honest moral horrors are always the most frightening.

The cover: A desperate hand leaves a bloody smear on the bubble helmet of Johann Kraus’ containment suit. A wonderfully simple idea for a cover executed well by Laurence Campbell. This image does not directly give away anything of this issue’s story, but it represents so much more. The best covers are the simplest ideas that hint at what’s to come, and this succeeds wildly. Overall grade: A+

The story: At the B.P.R.D.’s base in Colorado, Kate Corrigan is asking Agent Nichols to relate to her what happened in Kansas, which will explain why Johann Kraus abandoned his containment suit and didn’t return. The agent is reluctant to do so until ordered. Seven agents and Kraus are pinned behind a bus as they’re taking fire from a group that’s holed up in a motel. Kraus orders Agent Enos to fire some grenades at the building, but he disagrees. “Why the hell do I need to take them out? I mean, we’re the invaders here! According the briefing, this is their motel.” His superior counters that they’re there to take out the cult because they’re housing a large, dangerous creature. The agent continues to refuse and their words become heated. A decision is reached by one of the characters on Page 5 and things take a very dramatic turn. It’s been a while since Kraus has received the focus of a tale, and he gets it in “Nowhere, Nothing, Never” by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. I, too, had become complacent with how I thought of the ectoplasmic spirit, but this book reminds me, and all readers, of what he’s capable of. Everyone is absolutely right in this issue, and that’s the problem. This issue brings Kraus’ abilities into a morally gray area, where everyone wins and loses. This left me wondering if Nichols was right in what he does–it’s an overreaction, to be sure, but I can’t say as I blame him. His argument is absolutely valid for what has happened. Though the agent’s fate is put on hold, the final two pages hint that the tale in Kansas is far from over. Overall grade: A+

The art: This contains the expected images from a B.P.R.D. book: agents under fire, familiar locations that have become rundown due to the apocalypse, and monsters. Stating these as “expected” does a disservice to what Peter Snejbjerg does on this book. The opening page teases this graphic tale with strong emotions out of Nichols: the first panel has him wearing his anger on his sleeve and the second shows his simmering fury, as he listens to Kate, with his arms defiantly crossed. The second page establishes where both sides of the conflict are at the Kansas location. It’s not a great distance, making each gunshot palpable and the possibility of death great. Each blast that hits the ground or breaks a window makes the tension rise. Enos’ expressions as he mulls over Kraus’ words are terrific, especially the one at the bottom of Page 3. Of all the characters in this book, Enos shows the most emotions, but no reader will be able to predict the many different looks he gives in this issue. The other humans look great, with the cultists in the motel looking as normal as you or I, though way they have is nothing ordinary. The plane ride at the end of this issue is visually uncomfortable, given how close the characters are to each other, and Page 19 has a wowser of a sequence in the last four panels. This is a great looking book, with visuals that will make one feel really uncomfortable. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Contributing his sensational coloring to this book is Dave Stewart, who uses his skills to manipulate the visuals to increase the power of the text. For example, the opening page uses a sick green for the background which gives readers an ill feeling as Kate and Nichols have their discussion over Kraus’ empty suit. The first panel on the second page is an immediate departure from this ill feeling as the bright gunshots from the Kansas cult highlights its members’ faces. Bright colors are used to highlight the prophetic writing on Enos’ helmet and blood is strong in reds, which are used a lot in this issue. Page 6 has some really bright sound effects that put some extra punch into panels as things go boom. As explosions get bigger, orange and yellows are employed to make their power impressive. The object that’s found on Page 14 must be using a color that’s called mocos. This book is a textbook example of how colors add to art. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The B.P.R.D.’s letterer is Clem Robins and he brings dialogue, sounds, and moans to this book. All are great. I’m a big fan of sound effects and am always yearning to see more inserted into books, but with what occurs on Pages 8 – 13 I’m glad he didn’t make noises for “it.” Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is a disturbing issue because it questions a major character’s motives. Honest moral horrors are always the most frightening. I’m leaving this issue with the worst possible question: Now what? Highest possible recommendation. 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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