Edited by Kaitlin Campos
It’s entirely possible that I’ve finally burned through all my hatred for Mike Mignola’s current run of books. As an avid reader before becoming a reviewer(to the point where I once gave a B.P.R.D. comic a positive review), I took it upon myself to review pretty much everything he’s produced since joining this site, and in that time I could charitably refer to his output as mixed. There have been some quality works like Hellboy in Hell #5 or Hellboy and The Midnight Circus, or, of course, his Lord Baltimore comics, but for every good book that comes my way, there’s a terrible one, usually in the form of the twin thorns in my side of B.P.R.D. and Abe Sapien.
But, hey, the most recent Abe Sapien comic was a charmingly retro throwback to a lot of the things I liked about Hellboy and the Mignola-verse when I first started reading it so maybe B.P.R.D. #114 won’t be all that bad. In case you’ve never heard of Mike Mignola or Hellboy and that entire last paragraph was just rambling gibberish to you, I’ll quickly fill you in: Hellboy is a demon brought to Earth by the Nazis and raised by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (or B.P.R.D.). Over the course of his highly successful multimedia career, Hellboy gained a large supporting cast who eventually broke off into their own comic series, which I am looking at today.
Recently, the entire universe of Hellboy and his many supporting characters has been swept up in a gargantuan, all-consuming narrative concerning a sort of slow-motion apocalypse; I haven’t enjoyed it. Overall, it’s produced murky stories that are too mired in the broader series mythology to be enjoyed on a single issue basis (as I mentioned way back in my review of B.P.R.D. Vampires #5), while also denying the characters any sense of legitimate success, because every victory they secure is followed up by violent defeat, to the point where once-popular fan favorites like Abe Sapien have given up on trying to save people or fight monsters for pretentious and cynical reasons.
The ongoing story of B.P.R.D. Lake of Fire concerns former B.P.R.D. mainstay Liz Sherman, a pyro-kinetic woman who has the additional amazing abilities to drop out of the series unexpectedly without explanation and to remain stagnant as a character for the entirety of her existence. The series has followed her stay at a hospital in Denver, where a mad scientist doctor has taken over the word to mutate patients (a plot that seems pretty transparently transposed from some of Mignola’s own Lord Baltimore work). There has been additional B-plot following an annoying psychic punk chick named Fenix (because poor literacy is kewl), who the book treats with significance, but who does nothing of importance aside from destroying the source of hope for people who have offered her nothing but kindness.
Additionally, we occasionally check-in with the B.P.R.D. headquarters to see how the center can’t hold along with events you won’t understand unless you read a ton of other B.P.R.D. comics. As you’d probably imagine, none of this is summarized anywhere in the comic proper, but that really isn’t much surprise as this is the final issue of the story arc. No one is using this as a jumping-on point.
B.P.R.D. #114 sees the conclusion to the dual Liz and Fenix arcs, with Liz leading a SWAT raid on the mad scientist and reclaiming her pyro-kinetic abilities (as her sole defining character trait is being afraid of not controlling her own powers, because that never gets old or overdone), while Fenix has returned from being a jerk to people so as to once again insert herself into the plot, though presumably as less of a brat than she’s been in the rest of the series.
Overall, B.P.R.D. #114 really isn’t that bad, but it’s not that good either. It’s ultimately just kind of nothing. It washes over you in a malaise of angst, character stagnation, and despondent cranky cynicism. I suppose there’s some significance in Liz once again feeling control over her powers, but we’ve gone through this dance a billion times in this series before— Liz fears her powers, Liz accepts her powers, and before you know it, she fears them again and it’s hard to see why this acceptance will be any more lasting than before. More than anything, though, her steadfast refusal to act before this point and how removed she’s been from the series as a whole has really eliminated any kind of investment I might’ve once had for this character.
The artwork is decent, if overly stylized, with the artist falling back on very cartoony, near-emoticon facial designs, and there are enough gradient and speed line backgrounds to be overused. This review was a mistake; I honestly hope to find something new to say about Mignola’s work, but I really don’t know what I can add that I haven’t thoroughly expounded upon previously. The story is dank and joyless, with no deeper meaning to justify its own unpleasantness, the characters are generally ciphers who worship inaction more than Spawn (you know it’s true), and the whole enterprise just feels empty, even after all the work I’ll have put in reading the book, re-reading it, and writing and formatting this review, I feel zero personal connection to this comic beyond just a dull throbbing pain where my sensation of fun and enjoyment for this series used to be. Not recommended.