By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, James Harren & Dave Stewart
Reign of the Black Flame continues this month in B.P.R.D. #117, and I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a new issue from this title. The thrills keep on rolling in the latest installment, which was one of the more action-packed B.P.R.D. books lately.
Now that the two major field teams of B.P.R.D. and S.S.S. agents have made it through the incredibly treacherous landscape of Hell on Earth New York, it’s time to hit Zinco Corp! Once again, Mignola and Arcudi have my personal favorite new character, Agent Howards, on full display as he unleashes his savage fury on unsuspecting obstacles in the path of his team. This team dynamic may have been relatively fractured for a while, but the dynamic is back and better than ever as the newer character additions have really found their place and everybody is working well together again. It also helps that Mignola and Arcudi write some fantastic characters with very interesting backstories; Howards, Iosif and Fenix being the main three new additions. This particular book was really an all-out action issue for the most part though. However, the entire book was perfectly paced and still managed to really roll the story forward amidst the chaos. There were even some moments in B.P.R.D. #117 that led the way for seemingly new avenues; the Black Flame’s floor in the Zinco tower seems to open up into the cosmos?! What?I As always, there are tie-ins to past arcs that fit in terrifically, while the ending gave us another shocking and suspenseful cliffhanger. How these gentlemen have kept this series so damn consistently amazing and engaging for so long is a mystery for the ages.
As mentioned, there were some scenes in B.P.R.D. #117 that were wild even in the already wacky context of this series. Personal favorite Mignolaverse artist, James Harren, continues to provide some astonishing visuals for his run on the Reign of the Black Flame arc. The more cosmic elements really look amazing and offer an intriguing glimpse of where this story has yet to venture. In particular, the Black Flame himself appears in these scenes and it’s our first full shot of his new form since first invading the large B.P.R.D. clone back in Return of the Master. Needless to say, he looks absolutely stunning. Harren’s design of this character’s new form is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. Everything about him screams power and fear. Once again though, all of the characters look perfect in this issue with excellent attention to detail and interesting designs throughout every panel. Long-time Mignolaverse colorist Dave Stewart also remains at the top of his game. Everything looks very vibrant and deep with the added color detail, and the more cosmic panels in particular just leap off of the page.
So far, the Reign of the Black Flame arc has been among the very best in all of the B.P.R.D.’s long history. Issue #117 was jam-packed with more action than typically expected but Mignola and Arcudi don’t neglect the overall story for a moment. This is a really special arc, and the team dynamic is back in full force again with some fantastic new additions to the series. “You sense the depths below you, but what swims there you don’t know.” Well put, Mr. Black Flame, well put.