ADVANCE REVIEW! B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Devil's Engine #1 will go on sale Wednesday, April 16, 2012.
First off, let's all just take a minute to appreciate that cover. Is that not awesome? Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart delivered up one of B.P.R.D.'s all-time best covers featuring a giant Frankenstein's monster/Hellboy amalgamation reaching over an exploding volcano. That cover looks like some of the best of '70s/'80s Heavy Metal album covers back when people still gave a damn about that sort of thing. No wonder Dark Horse has been using that as a promo image for their whole Hell on Earth line.
The most-recent Hell on Earth miniseries have felt like unconnected vignettes. Titles like The Long Death and The Picken's Country Horror have been fun, but that haven't really given the sense of the post-Demonic-apocalypse world that gives us the name Hell on Earth. Not here. The Devil's Engine gets the story back on the rails and heading towards the final destination.
The Devil's Engine is a sequel (next chapter in?) to B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth – Gods. The psychic homeless girl Fenix is being transported by agent Andrew Devon to somewhere they can put her abilities to use. Agent Devon isn't really sold on Fenix though; he thinks of her as just some crazy girl off her medication muttering about "bad feelings." It isn't going to take much to convince him that he should listen to what she says.
Bringing back Fenix and agent Devon is going to be an interesting mix. Neither of them are likable characters — Fenix and Devon are Class A jerks. They are suspicious and ill-tempered, untrusting and untrustworthy. But they have a secret that binds them. Fenix shot Abe Sapien for reasons yet unknown. Devon liked to protect her, for reasons yet unknown. The two make for an odd buddy paring, and as a reader it is hard not to cheer for the monsters hoping one of them will get taken out. But the storytelling possibilities for this mismatched duo on a road trip are exciting enough that I want to see it though to the end.
The artist in this issue is Tyler Cook, who makes a good replacement for Guy Davis. Cook's artwork is more distinct, less scratchier than Davis', but his characters are their world is still recognizable. Fenix and Devon both look like Fenix and Devon. Cook also has a way with nuanced facial expressions. There are quite a few panels that are just Fenix's confusion over her own sense of foreboding, and her frustration at being unable to explain why she knows what she knows.
There isn't any real clue on where The Devil's Engine is going. Devon only has three issues to get Fenix to Colorado, and at this stage, I would say the odds are bad that both of them make it there alive. Hopefully they will grow up a bit; annoying, selfish characters can be fun for a bit but start to grate if they stay that way too long. I assume Fenix at least has a role to play in the upcoming events, but I don't see how she can get away with shooting Abe Sapien.
Guess I will just have to wait and see how it plays out!
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack's reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.