If you’ve been reading the “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” titles, you’ll know that there are two different “tracks” of comics, for lack of a better description. One track contains all the various one-offs and side-stories that are a lot of fun and often quite excellent, but don’t tie into the main narrative. Then there’s the other track, where books like “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine” reside. It’s there that Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Tyler Crook wrap up Devon and Fenix’s ill-fated train ride to bring Fenix to B.P.R.D. HQ and where the next big storyline is brewing nicely.
By teaming up Devon and Fenix, Mignola and Arcudi have found the perfect duo for this comic. Not only are they both newcomers to being main characters in the “B.P.R.D.” comics in general, but they share a common theme: Devon doesn’t trust Abe Sapien, and in a surprise move last year, Fenix shot Abe. We start getting to the bottom of why Fenix shot Abe, as well as being given some more clarification on just how her psychic powers work. There’s by no means a simple route that doles out plot information and in many ways, it raises as many questions as it answers.
Arcudi and Mignola placed the protagonists in a bad situation in the previous issue — in a derailed box car with a massive monster breaking in to eat them and two more monsters waiting on deck — and it’s nice to see that they don’t give their characters an easy way out. There are no tricks or out of the ordinary ways for the duo to escape here; it’s just good old-fashioned bravery and ingenuity. Devon has always seemed like the least-capable member of the Bureau, so it’s refreshing to see him have to not only drive their escape but do such a good job at it.
Crook’s art just gets better every month. He and colorist Dave Stewart make the train car look dark and moody, and every little shift in Devon and Fenix’s status — a monster cutting through the top, the three huddling behind debris and objects dropping into the car — feels like it has a real impact. As horrifying as some of the moments are thanks to Crook, what I really love is how he takes care of the smaller moments, like reactions from Fenix’s dog throughout the entire saga. The best part, though, is the look of fear on Fenix’s face when Devon asks her why she shot Abe Sapien. That silent moment conveys so much of the story that it should seal Crook as the new definitive “B.P.R.D.” artist quite nicely.
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine” #3 has a strong wrap-up to this story, even as groundwork is laid for “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Return of the Master.” (Let’s just say that things don’t look good for our heroes.) With the shift from “B.P.R.D.” to “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth,” I’ve been a little afraid that people are taking these comics for granted, or perhaps tuning them out. That would be a shame; they’re as good as ever, if not even more so.