In Review: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #133

Those familiar with Sledgehammer will want things to speed up, but all other readers will find this just fine.

The cover: Johann Kraus’ image is reflected in the head of a broken Sledgehammer. Laurence Campbell has created this deceptively simple cover that seems to hint at several things for both characters, but I’m hoping it means the iron giant will be reassembled and join the B.P.R.D.’s battles against monsters. Overall grade: A

The story: Bastogne, Belgium. January 1, 1945. Lieutenant Gatiss reports to Major Norrel to begin the routine equipment removal. The Major shows the young soldier what’s been under guard for the last four days in the wilderness: the broken remains of Sledgehammer. Gatiss has no idea where the pieces of the hero are to go. In the present day at B.P.R.D. Headquarters in Colorado, Johann has spread out all the pieces of Sledgehammer, sparking a wisecrack from Kate about him having time for a hobby. “No, Katherine. This is quite serious work. I think this armor can replace my containment suit.” In the previous three issues of this series, Johann lost a suit, so he’s now wearing a more fragile replacement. There’s one more replacement suit, should the one he’s wearing be damaged. Naturally, he wants to be in something more secure. Kate questions the assembled pieces ability to contain him. “I think it will. If I can repair it –” he says. “– I think it will do fine.” I am thrilled beyond measure to see Sledgehammer integrated into the present. I loved his two limited series and hoped to see more of him, so this is like a dream come true. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi nicely go back and forth between past and present to show how the suit came into existence, who occupies it, and what that person has been up to since his death (Pages 14 and 15), and how Johann is going about reassembling it. This leads to a fantastic surprise ending that left me on the edge of my seat, but I didn’t love this tale because so much time is spent on Sledgehammer’s backstory. If a reader followed the five issues from this character’s run, this will be very familiar. I thrilled to that series, so I poured over it many times. Too many times in fact, so that much of this issue had me treading into overly familiar territory. I realize it’s necessary for Mignola and Arcudi to bring B.P.R.D. readers up to speed, but I think those pages could have been condensed. The information on this character is more important than the size of the artwork to illustrate it, so less pages could have been devoted to his past. Seventy-five percent of this issue was fun. Overall grade: B-

The art: Julian Totino Tedesco is a good addition to this book as interior artist. His scenes set in 1945 look perfect. The first two pages establish the time and setting wonderfully without it having to be stated. Page 2 has a good debris field for Sledgehammer, and the look on Gatiss’ face at the bottom is good. The transition between the present to the past on Pages 4 and 5 is great, which expand on the latter page excellently in the second panel: it harkens to Frankenstein. The over the top flashback panel on 6 is great. The layout and look is great. The power shown at the bottom of 7 is outstanding and appropriately graphic. There’s another excellent transition in time on 10. Two pages are devoted to troubles in Colorado, reminding readers that bigger things are happening outside of Johann’s quest. I really liked the top and bottom of Page 12. Both are beautiful illustrations, but are composed of completely opposite imagery. 14 and 15 echo the classic Deadman series illustrated by Neal Adams. The bottom of 17 is a great dramatic moment, that blows up on the following page. I love Kate’s pose on Page 19; it shows she’s willing to get up close and personal to see what’s wrong. The final page is like the arrival of a god, but not the god anyone expected. Mr. Tedesco, I hope you stay for quite a while. Overall grade: A 

The colors: This year’s Eisner Award winner for coloring, Dave Stewart, does a great job on this book. The coloring of the first two pages will place readers squarely in the environment’s temperature. They are nicely countered by the warm colors at the top of Page 3. In background free panels Stewart puts a blended wash of colors, like watercolors, to fill the space. This can be found on Page 4, panel two; Page 5, panels one and three through five; and 10, panels two and three. This makes the setting more organic than the mono-colored shades of most comics. The bottom of Page 12 has the brightest colors of the book, and they’re that way for a very legitimate reason. It has terrific oranges and yellows. 14 and 15 have excellent violets. The issue ends with wonderful pale blues announcing the arrival of hope. Looking at this book shows why Stewart won that award. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins creates scene settings, dialogue, a few sounds, and some yelled dialogue. Nicely done in every way. Overall grade: A

The final line: Those familiar with Sledgehammer will want things to speed up, but all other readers will find this just fine. 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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