In Review: B.P.R.D. #137

Every page brings the reader hope and hell. Recommended.

The cover: The hellish head of the Black Flame is barely visible in the top half of this cover by Laurence Campbell with Dave Stewart. Two electrical beams shoot of his eyes and their purpose is explained in this issue. Below him is the body of Fenix hooked up to several machines that monitor her vitals. She’s been unconscious for some time and this issue explains why. This is a good thematic cover by this pair, which has the villain in almost absolute darkness, because that’s where he belongs. Overall grade: A

The story: This issue by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi amazingly starts with Fenix and her dog walking through a field in the mountains. She chides the dog for not wanting to join her at the peak of a hill and the beast reluctantly follows. What she finds is the headquarters of the B.P.R.D. destroyed. A little girl consumed in blue flame appears next to her saying, “It hasn’t happened. But it will. And nobody can stop it.” Black tentacles come out of the gap and approach the young woman before the scene transitions to reality: the medical facilities of the B.P.R.D. where Fenix remains unconscious. Panya and Kate are looking at Fenix, with the old woman telling Kate that she can gather intelligence undetected because of the girl’s condition. The Black Flame is embedded in the girl’s subconscious because he’s (it’s?) extending himself across the globe; Fenix’s receptiveness to the metanatural has drawn her into his web. The Black Flame is also controlling the Ogdru Jahad in New York. This information spurs Kate into action. The American Navy is now assisting the B.P.R.D. because of the appearance of McWhirter last issue, who claims to have a weapon that can destroy the monsters of the city. The goal is to go back to the city and destroy the Flame. Things start out hopeful and then collapse. This was a very tense issue for several reasons: 1, The gang is going back to New York and that went very wrong last time; 2. The Black Flame is there and he’s seemingly all-powerful; 3. They’re trusting McWhirter, a man — though now a steam powered cyborg — who once wanted to bring ruin to the a portion of the world’s population to save it; 4. There’s something horribly wrong with “something” in the water that Johann can’t help; 5. and Panya finds something troubling on her door. Just when I think the characters can’t be in any worse a situation, Mignola and Arcudi gleefully dig deeper into Hell for these heroes. Incredible reading. Overall grade: A+

The art: The issue opens with Laurence Campbell getting to do something that’s rarely seen in this title, a beautiful scene in the mountains. He makes it so calm and serene, it’s the perfect set up for the destruction of the headquarters on 2 and the horror that appears next to Fenix and ultimately before her. In the best of horror transitions, the terror is stopped to show where Fenix really is, and Campbell pulls back his point of view in the second panel on Page 3 to give readers the full layout of the land. The pages with the American fleet look realistic, as does Iosif’s bellowing at a subordinate, added with the hint of a final option appearing behind him. What McWhirter, Liz, and Johann encounter in the ocean looks great, and shows that Guillermo Del Toro doesn’t have exclusive license to underwater horrors. As scary as Page 9 was, 10 and 11 have the most unsettling images because they’re not explained by the story. They will definitely induce shivers. Panya was going to be the scene stealer for this issue, given one smile she gives to an individual that is dripping with delicious sarcasm. However, the final page is the visual home run of the book, as a cliffhanger should be, because it’s absolutely impossible to top the visual presence of “that” character. The visuals on this book are equally wonderful and terrible. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Like Campbell, colorist Dave Stewart really makes the opening page look beautiful. Green valleys and pink mountains are never seen in this book, but this has them and it puts the reader completely at ease until the turn of the page has the melted metal colors blending in with the mountain. The Black Flame as the little girl is bathed in a superbly eerie blue. The third page has the antiseptic colors one would find in a hospital room, with the flame above the Ogdru Jahad being the only spark of bright color on the page. Iosif’s helmet has a wonderfully disgusting yellow tint. The destruction of the monsters is done with bright colors, which demonstrate the level of strength needed in the blast to take them down. I loved the bright orange lights on McWhirter, making him look wholly alien. However, it’s the cobalt used in one character’s dialogue balloons at the end of the story that stick in my head because they’re always used for “his” speech. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins brings dialogue, transmissions, sounds, and yells to life in his hellish landscape. I’m so glad that Robins gets to put italics into characters’ speech so that a reader can better hear the emphasis in their speech, and those final sounds are big and bold enough to rock a city. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Every page brings the reader hope and hell. An incredible story with amazing artwork that shows humanity trying to survive the end of civilization. Recommended. 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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