I introduced myself to this world with issue #140 and had no trouble enjoying the ride. The character and her powers were interesting, but more importantly the detective work was spot on–it was fun to see Ashley Strode track down clues. Last issue ended with her getting a bit closer to a very bad evil, so we’ll see what’s inside the house. Is it good?
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #141 (Dark Horse Comics)
Let’s say you’re going to start reading with this issue. What does Dark Horse say in their official summary?
Missing children and rumors of devil worship have led BPRD exorcist Ashley Strode to a rural near ghost town, where not everyone is ready to banish the town’s demons.
Why does this book matter?
The summary doesn’t tell you that children have been missing and Ashley has arrived at the location of the disappearances. Writers Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart and Chris Roberson do one thing very very well which sets this book apart from most, and that’s pacing. The story might seem slow at a quick glance, but its pace actually draws you into the story much more than a breakneck action fest. You have time to care about Ashley, but also piece things together visually. Artist Mike Norton drew issue #140 as if it were a storyboard with an ability that made for a visually stimulating story even though much of it isn’t action. That’s a rare thing.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue boils down to Ashley investigating the house that we saw in the cliffhanger last month and completing a major part of her detective work. I’ll leave it at that, but my point is you get a good amount of events though it’s only one scene. Ashley encounters something paranormal and I think the writers have managed to make the entity fascinatingly tragic. It’s also pretty horrific. The story reads like a really good 20 minutes or so of a standalone TV show. You get in, enjoy the ride and the mystery being revealed, then get out. It’s economical in its pace as it grips you at every turn.
Here we go.
Norton continues to do an excellent job with the art. I can’t say enough how compelling he makes a scene–for instance, one in which Ashley breaks down a door–yet it’s so darn simple. It’s his use of angles and blocking that keep you guessing and make the action easy to follow. Coming from a screenwriting background I see a lot of what I learned on display here. In another scene the page is made up of seven panels. In the first we see over Ashley’s shoulder at a staircase littered with junk, falling apart. In another we see the POV of the top of the stairs, the next we move in closer on the stuff on the stairs. The first gives us an idea of what she’s seeing, the second conveys Ashley as alone (is there a threat up here?) but also curious and the third gives us an idea there isn’t much on these stairs worth inspecting but also that it’s a dead end. She carries on looking and the page ends with a cliffhanger of its own as she says, “The Hell…” and see’s something we can’t. The next page reveals what it is and it’s very peculiar. While this page is simple and doesn’t contain awesome action or reveals, it goes to show how good storytelling can make anything interesting.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Overall this is nearly perfect save for the cliffhanger. I wasn’t sold on Ashely’s new discovery in part because it feels like one of those video game endings where you think you’re done but you’re not. I’m definitely interested to see what happens next, but there wasn’t any groundwork done to make this turn of events feel natural and earned.
This episode of Hoarders was brought to you by serial killers.
Is It Good?
This might be the best book you aren’t reading right now. Visually stimulating at every turn, this is a type of story you don’t want to ever unglue your eyes from.
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