In Review: B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know #11

The end is coming and I can't look away. Fantastic.

The covers: Two covers this month with both featuring artwork by Mike Mignola and colors by Dave Stewart. The Regular cover has the most famous trio of the B.P.R.D. Hellboy is in the foreground, his oversized right arm slightly cocked as if ready for battle. Behind him is Abe who sports a slight snarl at the same unseen enemy Hellboy sees. Behind them is Liz with a tremendous plume of fire billowing out of her left side, engulfing much of that side of the illustration. Her right hand hangs at her side in a fist, showing she is defiant of their foe. Broken statues surround them, with one of the lions form the library next to her and Alma Mater shown below and behind Abe. The colors on this are great, with Liz dominating the image because of her flame and Abe’s glowing eyes popping. The Variant cover is a close-up the three outside the New York Public Library. Hellboy is in the foreground, a cigarette in his mouth. Behind him is a pile of human bones and Abe. Behind him is Liz, who has a wall of flame emerging from her to make the underwater hero stand out. She has her left hand on her hip showing she’s ready to fight any foe. To her right is a low crescent moon and one of the iconic statues that sits outside the establishment. Everything looks fantastic and the colors are just dark enough to create the evening without making things so dim as to lose the artwork. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: Mike Mignola and Scott Allie start this issue by flashing back to Guriev, Kazakhstan in November of 1912. This tale tells the history of the child Varvara and how she came to be possessed by a demon, leading to the return of Rasputin. It’s a fantastic story, even if the reader knows how things will play out for the poor child, and readers of the B.P.R.D. have been aware of this demon child who’s plagued the B.P.R.D. and its members for years. In the present things have gone substantially worse. Rasputin is calling the Ogdru Jahad to Earth, forcing the heroes to beat a hasty retreat…but to where? Before the issue ends a familiar hero and villain will perish, with much of the world, and least what’s left of, soon to be destroyed as well. The only ray of light comes on 15 when a character recalls a message said long ago. Everything is racing to the conclusion of this saga and everything is not set in stone. The end is coming and I can’t look away. Fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The art: Two different artists on this issue with Christopher Mitten on Pages 1 – 11 and Laurence Campbell doing 12 – 22. Oftentimes when two artists are on a book the work doesn’t seem unified, but that’s happily not the case here, as Mitten is the artist exclusively on the Varvara origin and Campbell is responsible for the hell on Earth. Both do an exceptional job. The setting in Guriev starts this issue, transporting the reader into the past in a foreign land as a father and daughter prepare for someone’s arrival. The smile in the fifth panel instantly puts the reader at ease, until the girl’s name is stated. The anger shown in the seventh panel on the second page is fantastic, as is the inhuman visage in the fourth panel on Page 3. The exit in the panel that follows this panel looks terrific. Page 4 contains the most sympathetic visuals scenes in this series’ short run, with a character in pain, the family saddened, and a desperate decision reached. Even without the text it would be easy to discern the characters’ emotions. Page 6 is beautiful, which only sets the reader up for a surprise. The actions on 9 are horrifying and end with a fantastic reaction. The first panel set in the present is vertical panel showing Rasputin to be of monstrous size yelling to the skies as cosmic energy swirls about. Abe and Hellboy look minuscule in the foreground as they look upon this villain. Other creatures arrive, some transform, and heroes have to escape this monster’s wrath. The last page is the latest gut punch of a hero’s end. This book looks fantastic. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: The default colors for Russia in the 1800s and early 1900s would be browns, tans, yellows, and a lot of blacks. Dave Stewart uses those colors to set Guriev, but notice also the use of burnt red on Page 3 to draw focus to an important character. Oranges come into play on 7 for the windows on a house at night, but these same colors have been used in the past for unholy and unsavory characters; a subtle reminder for veteran readers. Reds arrive on 9 for a horrific action and orange explodes at the bottom of the page for an outburst. A harsh red appears on 11 to inform readers of a transition. A vivid green is used for an emblem on a character and to outline his dialogue balloons. Notice how orange returns for an outburst on 12 — nice parallelism. Since the world is going into its death throes, the colors are muted, though Hellboy’s eye and Fenix’s sweater are bright on the page. Also bright are the sounds, with several standing out on 16. The lack of colors in the final panel is a brilliant way to focus on this moment in time. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins creates the text of this issue, which comprises scene settings, dialogue, weakened speech, laughter, sounds, and reborn Rasputin’s proclamations. It may seem like a little thing, but by differing the scene settings from the dialogue, Robins is providing a visual clue for the reader to realize that they are having a location described, rather than listening to a character speak. The weakened speech is neat, for being smaller than normal spoken speech and providing another visual clue for the reader; this time to show that someone’s words are not as strong as others. The sounds are large for the all the destruction that’s occurring, but even they look tiny compared to Rasputin’s speech. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A child’s turn to demon is shown and Rasputin’s return heralds the end of the world. Or does it? A very cool origin story with the beginning of the ending truly starting make this story one that a reader fervently speeds through. Even with the world beginning its last gasp, the deaths of two characters will hit fans hard. The visuals are, as always, tremendous, with an origin looking believable and creating tears, while the destruction in the present will bring a reader to their knees. This is a WOW! issue in a WOW! series. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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