*Review written by contributor Lido Giovacchini
And now the latest installment of the long and storied “Lido vs. Mignola” bought I’ve been continuing in these reviews. In case you haven’t been following my work the long and short of it is that I’ve reviewed a large number of Mignola comics and ended up coming down hard on nearly all of them due to the overly dense and self absorbed complexity of Mignola’s universe and the needlessly dark and hopeless turn his stories have taken towards the actions of his main characters. Thankfully B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Lake of Fire or issue 110 just to be extra confusing is a nice step forward away from a lot of these problems…for the most part.
In case the title confused you I’ll explain: currently in the Mignolaverse there’s a sort of saga or event going on that goes all the way back to 2008, short version of the story is that through trying to save the world the heroes of the B.P.R.D. (an organization that fights the paranormal with their own human and monster agents) accidentally ended up forcing a huge amount of weird Cthulu type monsters out of the earth and now they’re attacking our world. Thankfully most of that is recapped on the inside cover with the only real gap of referring to characters like The Black Flame (a crazed business man in a flame power suit seeking to destroy the world) or Liz Sherman (Pyro-kinetic B.P.R.D. agent) simply by name and not description like I just did. This saga has been a mixed bag overall for B.P.R.D., on the one hand it’s allowed a lot of more minor characters like human agents and Johan (the team’s ghostly medium) to step up and gain a bigger focus but on the other hand it’s created a sort of sense of futility for the characters. As I mentioned this is a story that’s been running basically sense 2008 (even earlier if you count all the tie-in Easter eggs) and in that time things have only ever gone from bad to worse for the characters. This constant knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory leaves you wondering what the point of still reading is when it feels like anything the characters achieve will be quickly wiped away. It honestly reminds me a lot of Walking Dead a book I quit reading for similar reasons.
The nicest thing about Lake of Fire is that its story is almost completely removed from previous continuity in a need to know fashion. By that I mean even though we are seeing things that were established in previous books like this cult that formed near the Salton Sea from Abe Sapien you don’t need to know about that previous appearance to understand what’s happening. The story here is split into 4 parts (kinda, there’s also a needless 2 page scene at the beginning about how hopeless everything is and how the only new life to be found is the Cthulu monsters and how humanity should just give up already cause we don’t want the book to get too optimistic.) The first part follows classic series alum Liz Sherman one of the original B.P.R.D. characters, a Pyro-Kinetic agent who has been missing from the books for a long time and might be the key to saving the world. This is her first return to the series in a long time and it’s nice to have her back, her parts of the story mainly focus on her stay in a hospital in Utah (I assume though it’s never established.) At the same time we find out how yet another major city has been wiped out but unlike the others no one can get inside so the US armed forces are requesting the B.P.R.D. go into the now desolate New York to recon the situation. Meanwhile we also see more of Fenix the annoying psychic girl character, she doesn’t do much of note. And finally a new character named Dr. Clyburn who looks like if Herbert West had a bowl cut. I don’t make that Herbert West Re-Animator comment lightly either his whole deal is that he’s developed a formula to bring things back from the dead.
If there was a problem to be found in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #110 it’s the overly dark tone and the somewhat cluttered story telling, specifically Fenix’s story doesn’t really need to be told as she’s contributed nothing of value to the story or universe thus far and there’s no indication of that changing. Other then that though this is a pretty solid set-up issue for the story to come that draws you in with some interesting mysteries and makes you want to see where this is all going and how it will play out. The artwork is solid with only a few minor flubs here and there and a few missing backgrounds but ultimately there’s a lot to recommend in this book, it gets away from the weighed down continuity heavy stories of the past and doesn’t feel nearly as dark as could have though still comes off dark and hopeless with more scenes devoted to that then are truly necessary. If you’ve been feeling burnt out on B.P.R.D. or are looking to get into the series I actually recommend this book as a good jumping on point for new readers and a pretty solid fresh start for old fans like me getting tired of having to dig out all our old B.P.R.D. back issues every time a new issue is released, consider this one recommended.