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B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #142

by H├ęctor A on June 15, 2016

One of the effects of having a voice as compelling as Hellboy is a lot of creators will emulate it to some extent, even within the Mignolaverse. Ever since B.P.R.D. was first launched, we've seen characters (particularly Abe Sapien early on) adopt some of the same mannerisms to the detriment of the series. However, as Hell on Earth has gone on Arcudi and Mignola have introduced more characters that have distinct voices like Fenix or Ashley Strode (the titular Exorcist), or lack thereof in the case of Howards (cf. BPRD 107-109), and the title has really benefitted from this. There's usually more attention paid to the long-term plotting of Hell on Earth but the real strengths of it lie in the strong characterization and the fact that it has been one of the best drawn books out there for the entirety of its run.

 

Dave Stewart and Clem Robbins have been longtime collaborators on all of the Mignola titles and a lot of what we know as the style of these books comes from their work. Stewart's color palette is so unique and gorgeous. Even though I must've read a few hundred of his books by now, I'm always pleasantly surprised by some of the decisions he makes, something like the bright red in his depiction of Pandemonium can signal an entirely different (pre-Hellboy in Hell) time period. While Robins isn't as heralded as Stewart, he's been a part of the Mignolaverse for a long time and his attention to detail is also amazing. His lettering on action scenes is especially great, it energizes these sequences without drawing too much attention to it.

 

Replacing Cameron Stewart, Mike Norton has been really good for the entirety of this arc, his art is a great fit with Stewart's colors. The alternating faces of Balam were the first thing I noticed reading this, it's a great touch that helps differentiate a new character. The one thing I originally took issue with regarding the art in previous issues was how, going back to Exorcism, every time Ashley fights a demon we see the spirit world represented as the same cave. I think the series would benefit from different backgrounds, especially considering most of the action also takes place… in a cave.

 

Contrasting this character with Hellboy is really interesting to me. Hellboy brushed off most of the antagonists he faced and that's part of what made him so endearing to so many people. But he could afford to do that because of his power. Ashley doesn't have a paranormal origin, she's basically a government agent who has to step up and become an exorcist during the apocalypse (that's a sentence). It is more of a classic hero arc and I really welcome that. Hellboy is one of my favorite works of art in any medium ever, but I do not want to see its themes rehashed over and over again. Seeing characters that resemble everyday people more closely act can be more interesting.

 

B.P.R.D. has always had space for smaller stories but it's also always been focused on Liz, Johann and, until his own series launched, Abe. Arcudi will leave the title after Hell on Earth ends but he has done enough legwork to establish a larger cast of characters for future writers. That being said, the story itself is a bit of… a letdown? The exposition was done very cheaply and the setup for the final battle wasn't the best either, but as I said, the art is great, Ashley Strode is a compelling character on her own right and the way in which Balam's drawn makes him a decent villain.

 

The B.P.R.D. team deliver another solid book. While the story could be stronger, the art is outstanding as always in this series. We're nearing the end of the Hell on Earth cycle so there's not a lot we know about the direction this is going to take moving forward but I hope we'll be able to see Ashley again soon.

Our Score:

8/10

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