In Review: Rise of the Black Flame #5

Suspenseful storytelling and epic visuals lead to the birth of one of the most evil characters created.

The cover: The Black Flame looks upon the reader. He is an ebony skull with piercing red eyes and a flaming head of darkness. This is cover from Laurence Campbell and Dave Stewart sets just the right tone. I knew this was a good cover when my fifteen year old daughter told me to turn it over because she didn’t like the way it was looking at her. Overall grade: A+

The story: This is the payoff that readers have been waiting for and Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson deliver the goods with several solid surprises. No time is wasted with this issue as the heroes have made their way to the temple where the Cult of the Black Flame is about to perform the sacrifice to release the entity into this world. Sandhu, Diestel, and la Fleur peer down to where the ceremony is to take place. There are more villains than Diestel had hoped for, but he and Sandhu propose to go down and stop the proceedings, after all they have guns while the cultists have only blades. La Fleur says she’ll look for the other girls, “Assuming any of them are still alive.” As they part ways, the writers return to Jewell and the girl who escaped the cultists last issue. The adventurer tries to calm the girl who states, “No one is safe. The bad men told me. The darkness is coming for us all. If not today, then soon.” This rightfully frightens Jewell and the reader. Then the story returns to the heroes trying to stop the cultists. Given the title of this series, one would expect a certain ending to this tale, but darned if I wasn’t on pins and needles hoping that one of the protagonists would survive this encounter. The discovery on Page 5 only complicates things, and 8 contains a jaw dropper of a revelation.  The actions by one of the heroes on 11 and 12 is overdue, but a reader knows that it’s too neat a solution to the problem, and it is. The final dialogue on 14 gives a brief hint of how badly the situation has hit the fan, but the individual that explains what has happened propels one character’s journey into a living hell to bring hell to Earth. I was especially glad to get an epilogue for the survivors, giving me hope that they will have future stories told, and the final page is brilliantly ominous. This was the perfect conclusion to this “rise.” Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Christopher Mitten is the latest artist I’ve been introduced to in a Mignoverse series and I can’t praise him highly enough. The opening image on the first page would make Indiana Jones eager to investigate. The size of this structure is reinforced with the second panel showing the protagonists so small in its interiors. The second page has a small panel inserted within a splash that shows the cult and its leaders against a epic setting that contains enormous statuary. When the focus turns to the leads’ plans, the backgrounds wisely disappear to remind the reader of the human element of this fantastic tale. Once the plans are agreed upon, the detailed setting returns, foreshadowing the ancient world that the heroes are going to do battle with. The fire before the two characters on Page 4 is introduced as a fairly large blaze, but as the girl speaks to Jewell the flames die out, much like the hope she has for her friends. 8 has an image that made me stop and scan the entire illustration to be sure that I hadn’t missed something, something that might attack the heroes. Their reactions to what follows on 9 and 10 are frantic, yet understandable. 11 and 12 has the action level high and graphic, and I couldn’t help but cheer at what was long overdue on 12, but even I was startled at the way the one individual looked on 13. This individual’s smile atop 14 left me waiting for the other shoe to drop, and, boy, did it! 15 – 17 contain some superb supernatural imagery that is both mesmerizing and terrifying. I felt my entire house go silent on 18 and 19 as the images perfectly matched the dialogue, though there was nothing heavenly about them. And that final panel on the last page had me shaking my head at the chaos I knew was to come in that character’s future and his final fate. Mitten must come back to illustrate another tale hatched from the mad mind of Mike Mignola. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Colors are extremely key to this issue, not only for the Black Flame, but for all that proceeds his first appearance. The dead, flat greens that comprise the structure that houses the cult give their panels an overwhelming sensation of something very wrong. The heroes’ skin and clothes seem illuminated against such a dreadful color, making them stand out, like easy targets, within this location. Dave Stewart makes every characters’ eyes resonate with emotion for coloring them so that they draw the reader’s focus instantly. There is a lot of red in this book, for obvious reasons, and when it appears it is as jarring as the actual use of such crimson is in real life. There is also a great use of yellow in the book for action sequences, making such violence explode a thousand fold on the page. But it is the use of black on the title character and his sad blue eyes that are what a reader will remember. Stewart, again, has shown himself to be at home in the supernatural world. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, yells, sounds, and a setting are what Clem Robins brings to this table of terror and it’s oh so delicious. At first it seems that this final issue will only contain dialogue, but then the chaos erupts, leading to yells and sounds that accentuate the horror of what’s occurring. Pages 16 and 17 have the best combination of sounds, dialogue, and yells as the Black Flame is born. I really like the mixing of yells and dialogue from the Flame on 17. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Suspenseful storytelling and epic visuals lead to the birth of one of the most evil characters created. An outstanding read for those who what their chills served in an exotic setting. 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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