Over the past year, “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” has been a bit scattered. With so many different characters and storylines, it’s done a good job of showing multiple views of the insanity that’s going on across the planet, but not so good a job of providing a concise focus for the series as a whole. With “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #111, though, the “Lake of Fire” storyline is engineered by John Arcudi, Mike Mignola, and Tyler Crook to rectify that situation.
It’s nice to see a lot of the secondary characters of “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” all in the same place once again this month. They’re not all quite back together, but there’s certainly a pulling back towards center phenomenon happening here. There’s also a slightly stronger feel that “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” is building towards something. It’s that renewed direction that ultimately makes this issue a winner.
Arcudi and Mignola are still juggling a few different threads. While most members of the B.P.R.D. are now back at the main base, Fenix has headed to her hometown, while the recently surfaced Liz Sherman’s recovery in a Utah hospital is entering dangerous territory. The flashbacks to Fenix’s childhood this month add some interesting new dimensions to the character; not only where she came from, but also getting a larger look into how her psychic powers function. It’s not as simple as one might think, and a lot of credit goes to how Crook draws them in action. The body hanging in the sky at a strange angle feels deliberately wrong and dangerous, almost otherworldly with its defiance of physics and how the sort of vapor trail zooms off in a diagonal. As for Liz Sherman, her long absence from the title has made her return momentous in its own right, but I appreciate that Arcudi and Mignola don’t coast on it to give that thread some power. Liz’s playing with the candle is a big “uh oh” moment in “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #111, and the trip into the hospital basement suddenly places Liz in an extremely dangerous storyline. It’s got just the right pacing, that slow drawing up of horror until it’s too late to back out and everything is starting to get unleashed.
Once again, it doesn’t hurt that Crook is drawing the comic. He’s got a skill at drawing the particularly terrifying looking, and that comes into play well here. The surprises locked up in the basement look unearthly and twisted; he’s able to take a realistic base and then just warp it enough that once again, it feels “wrong.” That’s exactly what the script demands, and Crook knows how to alter things just enough that you can still recognize where they started, while still feeling out of place. That said, I love that the little scenes — Liz taking a covert drag on a cigarette, or B.P.R.D. agents vying for good food in the cafeteria — still feel very natural and recognizable. It would be easy to make everything a little off-base, but Crook is just as good at giving us reality so that the scary moments are that much more so.
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #111 feels like the series is heading in a good direction; plots are building and the danger is increasing. With three more parts in “Lake of Fire” to go (to say nothing of whatever comes next), I feel like anything could happen courtesy Arcudi, Mignola, and Crook. Whatever that destination, I’m eagerly awaiting our arrival. “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” brings the creepiness every month, and this issue is no exception.