In Review: B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know #7

Both sides have devils, but which is more powerful?

The cover: The demon disguised as a little girl, Varvara, leaps at exorcist and B.P.R.D. member Ashley Strode, whose flaming sword is expelling a tremendous amount of energy. The demon wields the dagger than killed Satan. Increasing the ferocity of this illustration by Max Fiumara and Dave Stewart is that the monstrous demon Balam is back and has a raised fist to bring down on the hapless human. WOW! What a cover! What a confrontation! I love everything about this. It this issue is half as good as this cover I’ll be more than satisfied. Overall grade: A+

The story: In Yamsay, Oregon, in front of a familiar looking small cabin, Varvara carves runes into the ground while saying. “I invoke thee and move thee and stir thee up. Shake loose thy chains of the Seal of Solomon, ye great and powerful King of Hell — Balam.” The monstrosity appears and Varvara states that she is its new lord. Meanwhile in South Dakota, sixty-seven corpses have been found. Miraculously one survivor is located, looking ominously “like the Revenants down south.” Agent Ashley Strode is there and wants this person taken with them so she may perform an “Exorcism in a lab.” Back at the base, Hellboy continues to seem absent from the proceedings, which makes Liz concenred. Abe and Agent Ted Howards also return to base, but not before another agent is given an interesting farewell. This tale by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie moves the story forward to a confrontation with Varvara, but allows the characters to connect and change. One of the highlights of the book is a meal among Abe, Hellboy, and Liz. The tense scene in the book is when Ashley conducts her exorcism which has her presence revealed to several antagonists. It’s with the appearance of another character at this gathering that things get interesting. How the exorcism ends is a stunner, with the final words on the page frightening and quite possibly true. The penultimate page reveals some dissension among a group, while the final page has someone noticing another. Every page of this book, of this series, has me anxious to see what happens next. Overall grade: A

The art: Sebastián Fiumara’s visuals are the perfect mix of reality and nightmare. The opening page begins with two panels of a desolate wooded locale complete with ruined wooden cabins. The little girl Varvara is barely seen in the second panel. What’s she’s doing is revealed in the third panel, showing the knife’s blade making indecipherable runes in the dirt. The demon’s face is revealed in the final panel, with no irises and cracks around her eyes, holding the knife threateningly. Wow! The demon Balam appears at the top of the second page, dwarfing the demon, though the child stands firm with its knife held out at the creature. This is a terrific contrast to the B.P.R.D. agents in hazmat suits among the corpses: it’s the ancient world colliding with the modern world on one page. The survivor’s face on Page 4 is a shocker. Hellboy’s visage is a reassuring one throughout the book, because — Hey, he’s back! But his lack of emotion will create concern on the reader’s face just as it does so on Liz’s. Ashley Strode is amazing in every panel she appears. It’s been some time since an agent looked this confident in what they were doing, so it’s nice to see her believing in herself and her skills (Though I admit to thinking that if anyone is to fall hard in later issues, it will the most confident one). The partial double-paged splash on 14 and 15 is awesome for what’s revealed to the agent and the reaction by the character in the top right corner on 16 is gloriously terrible. The visual reactions by characters on 16 ups the tension tremendously. The action on 17 was perfect and shocking. Only two characters are noticeably unphased by what’s occurred — a visual tell. The last three panels on 21 are also excellent visual tells, while the last page is epic goodness. I love the look of this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors of this book increase the intensity of each panel and page. Dave Stewart opens the book in the dark woods, yet it’s no so dark that the visuals by Fiumara disappear. By giving Varvara mustard colored eyes, the reader instantly knows that this is no normal child. Balam’s appearance has reds dominating the page, seemingly dwarfing Varvara, but she remains a strong presence with her blonde locks and white dress. The eyes of the survivor on 4 are also a tell that this is not a normal human being. Hellboy is an eye catcher on every page he appears because of his dark crimson coloring, though Liz also stands out with her fiery hair and eyes. Red is also a key color on a child who features strongly when Abe and Ted are picked up. Ashley’s flaming sword becomes the focus when she begins her exorcism: its brightness would scare not only the demonic, but the living. Frosty blues and a sickly green identified the characters on the penultimate page before I even looked at the art. Stewart is aces. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins crates dialogue, scene settings, computer text, a whisper, distant dialogue, possessed speech, sounds, and yells. I’ve always enjoyed Robins’s work, but I was really impressed with the distant dialogue present in one panel. It’s a great way to show characters speaking that are far from the reader; it pulls the reader closer into the story. The possessed speech is also really neat. Composed of wavering letters, the dialogue seems as though it’s coming from somewhere not meant for man. Overall grade: A

The final line: Varvara gathers her army with one member of the B.P.R.D. terrifying the inhuman horde. I’m loving the pace, the slow reveals, the shocks, the actions, and the visuals of this book. The exorcism scene is incredible, yet the quiet demeanor of Hellboy is just as riveting. Both sides have devils, but which is more powerful? Out-flippin’-standing! 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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