In Review: B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know #8

I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. This is a killer book.

The cover: I’m always impressed with how the Mignolaverse books continually have frightening or creepy covers. One would think that they’ve run out of nightmarish images to put on their books, but Max Fiumara and Dave Stewart have demonstrated with this frontpiece that that’s not the case. Demon disguised as a little girl, Varvara rubs her hands lovingly over the sickly green glass jar that contains the head of Nazi Herman von Klempt. The bloody deed of separating the unwilling person’s head from its body is evidenced by the blood around von Klempt’s neck, the table, and on Varvara’s hands. Behind them, watching in silence, is the ominous Karl Kroenen. The three are within a Gothic ruin, as shown by the ceiling and windows. This cover is fantastic and just oozes with disturbing evil. Overall grade: A+

The story: A woman asleep in a car at a gas station wakes up with a start speaking directions. She vaguely remembers what she was dreaming, which is a small figure before some monstrous shapes. Her husband asks where and she replies, “New York.” This is followed by an obscene rock structure in the water outside the ruined city. Mike Mignola and Scott Allie’s tale then moves to Midtown New York where Balam and another demon confront Varvara for revealing them to their enemies, the B.P.R.D., last issue. They also state she was unaware that Hellboy has returned to Earth. One demon goes so far as to speak Vavara’s true name — Yomyael. Watching from a safe distance are von Klempt and Kroenen, anxious to see where this conversation goes. Vavara holds the dagger before her accusers and states, “I saved you…Bound you to the earth, to the air. And the tool with which I freed you? You fear Hellboy — but with this he slew Satan and plunged Hell into chaos. With this I freed you…With this I command you.” The story moves again, this time to the B.P.R.D. where Carla wakes up with the vague memory of seeing three people and one saying, “Soon. I shall see you all.” As the typical chaos is on the screens in the HQ, Abe and Hellboy have a quiet conversation concerning something surprising. The remainder of the issue focuses on other characters who have been having dreams, what they mean, and the heroes learning how the Behemoth was defeated. This is information long time readers have known, but the B.P.R.D. wasn’t aware of this information. With it they make a major decision. Pages 17 – 19 show that Varvara is proceeding further with her plans, with one long time character crossing her for the last time. The penultimate page has some of the strongest, most painful dialogue ever uttered by Hellboy. The cliffhanger is awesome. This is a killer issue. Overall grade: A+

The art: Sebastián Fiumara continues to render the real and unreal superbly. The book opens with the realistic setting of a gas station/convenience store (Yikes! Look at the prices for gas!), but then the supernatural takes over with the hazy memory of a dream that ends with something wholly wrong outside New York. Look at the emotions Fiumara gives the woman: she starts shocked as she comes out of her dream, but becomes resolved when she sees the clearer image in her mind. These emotions sell the reality of the situation. The horrific appears next in Midtown as a family wanders the streets surrounded by the undead and then turns to the demons confronting Vavara. I like the detail of Balam eating while his cohort cofronts the tiny hellion. The look on her face in the third panel is priceless. The same can be said of the fourth panel on Page 3 which also has no text. It’s a complete acknowledgement of her confidence in her power. Carla has the same vague nightmare on 4, but note how the same hazy imagery is used in the large panel at the bottom of the page, as if Earth has become a dream-like existence. In B.P.R.D. headquarters I like how Abe and Hellboy are apart from the others and the latter’s silent response to Abe in the final panel. The image on the cellphone is outstanding and the reaction from a character excellent. There is also an outstanding reaction from a character at the bottom of Page 9, and those also in the panel react appropriately to that character’s reaction. The Russian soldier who’s recovering from his wounds is never clearly seen by the reader: he’s immense, scared, and always in the shadows — much like the information that he’s bringing into the light. The three flashback panels on 14 are fantastic. If a reader has been waiting for a hero panel, the bottom of 16 gives it and then some. The death on 18 is brutal and the creations on 19 devilishly deviant. The final panel of the book is an awesome cliffhanger. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors really add to the art of this book. Dave Stewart wisely uses colors on the first page that one would expect to see at a gas station, but when the nightmare appears it’s given a violet and white otherworldly flare. When the woman focuses on what’s in the water it’s given an orange and red splash against a white background that mirrors blood on a bandage. Vavara’s eyes are baby blue until she’s crossed and then they’re given an unholy yellow within orange. Hellboy continues to be a focus for any panel he’s in, with his burnt red skin. His eyes are also a focus with one a glaring yellow and the other an empty ebony orb. When the hero pose is struck on 16 note how Stewart doesn’t given them a clear or bright backdrop, instead using shades of gray to show that their actions will not be neat. When the heroes arrive at their destination on the final page the sky is orange and red; truly, Hell on Earth. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins provides the text of this book which includes scene settings, dialogue, transmissions, whispered dialogue, yells, and sounds. Everything Robins does for this book is easy to read and that includes the whispered dialogue. I like that it’s small enough for the reader to realize the speech is in quiet tones, but it’s still large enough to be read. If anything, it draws the reader closer to the book to get the full impact of what’s being said. Most of the yells come from Carla who is not having a good day, but there are other words yelled and their size tells the reader how extreme each utterance is. The sounds at the end of the book are a perfect match for the creatures creating them. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The heroes learn the history of their adversary as they inch closer to a final showdown. The story is terrifically tense and the visuals are real and terrifying. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and was always worried something terrible would happen to someone I cared for. A fantastic book. 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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