In Review: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #140

A wonderfully spooky read that hints at horrors to come. Always recommended.

The covers: AWOL B.P.R.D. agent Ashley Strode has her supernatural sword to take on any horrors she encounters on the Regular cover. Something that only she can see takes her aback, leaving the reader wondering just what it is that has the unflappable agent shocked. Excellent cover by Duncan Fegredo doing a great job in establishing the lead character and her weapon, showing the trepidation on her face. Dave Stewart has also done a solid job on this, making that sword radiate with unnatural heat, with some nice lighting on her clothes and face. There’s also a Variant cover by David Mack that showcases Liz Sherman, her shirt covered in text that is similar to the Lord’s Prayer. She seems to be in a daze, as five symbols spiral around her head, with the final symbol, that of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, ending up over her heart. Eerie image. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B+

The story: This is a great leaping in point for new readers as this tale by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson focuses exclusively on Ashley Strode in Oregon, fighting the good fight. “The Exorcist” opens in central Oregon with a young boy sitting near a road until a toy car bumps up against his shoe. He looks up to see where the car came from and spies a house behind some trees. “Okay,” he says as he walks to the residence. If only he had noticed the blood red fingerprint on the car before he left. A turn of the page transports the readers to Eugene, where Ashley is racing after man, yelling at him to stop, and firing her gun to emphasize her point. The man runs into a building and she follows, leaping from one building to another, finally cornering the man in a room. The walls are covered in blood red mystical runes. “I just wanted information, Trent,” she says. “This is way out of line.” Trent has poured gasoline all over himself as he speaks words that Ashley doesn’t know. The man sets himself on fire to escape Strode, but she has an unnatural way to maintain his existence. The next three pages show the abilities of the agent and the foe she’s facing. It’s pretty heavy stuff, but she’s not going to knell before such a creature. After their encounter has ended, she finds a clue. A close friend of Hannah moves her on with her quest, leading her to investigate why so many children, such as the one from the opening page, are missing. Every clue she finds will have readers realizing she’s going down a very dark path, whose way is blocked by human agents. A good beginning for this Strode tale and I want more. Overall grade: A

The art: This series has had a wide roster of artists and each always brings an incredible sense of reality to their work that slowly reveals a horrific underbelly. Mike Norton fits that mold quite well. The first page is like a moment out of any Midwestern story; a boy alone gets curious. That horrible underbelly is revealed in the bloody fingerprint that escaped his notice. Pages 2 and 3 are a solid series of action panels showing Ashley pursuing Trent. It’s as good as anything I’ve seen on Law and Order, with her making all the correct choices, until she arrives in the man’s room. Talk about your unexpected visuals! A hell hole of a room covered in geometric patterns and runes, which are also covering the body of shirtless Trent. It was good to see that Norton shows that Ashley is surprised by this turn, with her eyes wide with fright at what Trent may do. Another character appears on Page 5, but I can’t discuss this individual in any detail without spoiling the story. Simply put, Norton makes this scene rock! I was also pleased to see Ashley and Hannah’s current home, and how the agent’s quest is consuming a wall. Considering what’s occurring around the world, it was undeniably spooky to watch Ashley as she makes her investigation, going through a town that seems normal, until one looks closely at a wall. The closing action scene is very different from that of the opening, but just as impressive. I’m now hoping to see more of Norton’s work in the future. Overall grade: A

The colors: Dave Stewart contributes to the story’s mood considerably with his coloring skills. The first page has the coloring one would expect from the pictures of Boy’s Life or The Saturday Evening Post, but the blood red smear on the toy car perverts the setting. The dull interiors of the buildings that Ashley is racing through increase their abandoned stature. When Trent reveals his escape plan, the red on the walls and on the gas can on the floor create an instant focus. The flame from the lighter introduces a powerful change in the story with oranges, ultimately returning to the burnt reds of the writing and the gas can. When Ashley looks closely at a photograph, it’s lack of colors makes the moment not only dated, but ominous. Bright oranges reappear during the final action sequence, turning to a spittle of color for the final page’s ominous ending. Anyone who says colorists don’t do much hasn’t encountered Dave Stewart’s work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, yells, sounds, handbill text, notation under a photograph, and telephone texts are created by Clem Robins. A nice bit of variety in this outing for Robins, with his sounds consistently impressive and a rare cellphone text. Overall grade: A

The final line: “The Exorcist” shows Strode continuing to fight the good fight, but is she prepared for Yamsay? A wonderfully spooky read that hints at horrors to come. Always 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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