B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #116
By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, James Harren & Dave Stewart
Reign of the Black Flame continues this month with part 2, and so far this arc has been everything we had hoped for. The Mignolaverse is currently celebrating 20 years of Hellboy, and everything is really coming together in the current story of B.P.R.D. At least since the beginning of Hell on Earth, issue #116 may be one of the best books in the current series. If you’ve been following the Mignolaverse, then this is sure to be a wild ride for you!
Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have proven time and time again that they are masters of the slow burn story, and are incredibly capable of writing enormous plots that inch their way to the endpoint over a long period of time while still remaining thoroughly interesting throughout. This method makes the real payoff moments that much sweeter. B.P.R.D. #116 not only moved the story forward in a number of incredibly effective ways, it was also full of top-notch action and excitement. Furthermore, after so many issues and stories there is still apparently room for intriguing character development that is pulled off with excellent and subtle precision.
The role that ZINCO is playing in Hell on Earth is becoming much more apparent as issue #116 showed what they have been up to in quite a bit of detail. This aspect of the book had a lot of impact and even after everything we’ve been through, it still managed to surprise. It was also great to see some of the earliest villains from the days of Seed of Destruction making a prominent appearance this month, further emphasizing the lofty continuity behind the Hellboy universe. A deeper explanation of Fenix’s abilities received another intriguing hint, Liz is back and at the top of her game, one of the New York teams found some new allies, and much more. This book was jam-packed with fantastic story and excitement from start to finish and was a particularly satisfying installment. One of the absolute highlights though, was Agent Howards springing into action on a number of occasions; something fans have been rabid for since the Abyss of Time arc so many months ago. These scenes were absolutely phenomenal and the insane fury and bloodlust of the vastly changed Howards was a huge treat to witness.
As for the visuals, a better artist could not have been chosen for Reign of the Black Flame. This is a highly anticipated segment in the B.P.R.D. saga, so it’s only appropriate to have James Harren on board. This guy is, in my personal opinion, probably the top artist working in the Mignolaverse aside from Mignola himself. His illustrations in the latest installment are equally astonishing as the story, with a tremendous degree of detail in both character and background designs. The creatures are creative and grotesque, and the characters have a strong sense of realism while simultaneously being very stylized and unique looking. The action – and there’s a lot this month – is highly dynamic and cinematic and really helps to pull the reader into the book while also enabling the action to easily flow from panel to panel. Again, everything featuring the wildly frenzied assaults of Agent Howards looks amazing and even provoked a few chuckles of disbelief! Finally, the all too brief glimpse we got of the Black Flame himself was just terrific; he is going to look the best we’ve seen in the coming issues.
Too many Mignolaverse reviews have gone by without stating it frankly: Dave Stewart is a genius. He deserves any praise received and much more, being one of the absolute top colorists in the industry. Aside from the plethora of titles he has worked on elsewhere, he remains a consistent feature in the Hellboy universe providing his talent to practically every book. In B.P.R.D. #116, the beautiful visuals of Harren are only made more gorgeous and realistic thanks to Stewart’s color work. Every panel feels even more lifelike and dynamic, detailed and deep.
Fellow B.P.R.D. fanatics, make sure you’re keeping up with the current story arc. Both issues have been astonishing so far, and the latest installment was among the very best from this series. Story progression, character development, action, mystery and horror, this book has it all. Mignola and company are on a roll and B.P.R.D. #116 shows that there is no sign of stopping or slowing.