I’m not good with keeping up with things. When noted dilettante Danny Djelosevic asked me to review a two-issue miniseries about the B.P.R.D. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to discuss how hot Ron Perlman is. Seriously, he played Vincent from Beauty and the Beast and Hellboy. And have you seen Sons of Anarchy?
Anyway, I was sadly informed that they actually killed Hellboy off in the comics a while back so he would most likely not be making any sort of appearance in B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Exorcism. Further Hellboy research (read: "Google") tells me that he died like a year ago. See what I mean about keeping up with stuff? I stop following Hellboy for what feels like half a minute and nobody tells me that there was this huge war involving frogs and stuff. Abe Sapien is out of commission? I can’t even. I’m only writing this because Danny promised I could go to SDCC in 2013 on Comics Bulletin’s dime and that I’d be able to sucker punch Olivia Munn.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: uhhhh?)
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Exorcism functions as a way for us to learn more about the young and relatively inexperienced field agent Ashley Strode in a story dealing with demonic exorcism. I’m not going to bother about detailing the plot too much because that's boring and you will either be annoyed that I talked about the good parts or just plain uninterested. Seriously, it’s like reading a review for perfume. Just go and smell the damn stuff and decide if you like it or not. That said, I thought Exorcism was quite good; I have to admit at first I was a little disappointed that this miniseries was focused on a single human agent — I'm a fan of the enhanced agents and was hoping for an introduction to someone a little more monster than man. I also like it when a group with unique talents has to work together for some sort of common goal — one of the reasons why I'm a fan of the B.P.R.D. in general.
However, Ashley’s journey is interesting enough to make up for any lack of enhanced abilities, even though she's green and clearly unsure of her strengths as an agent — something I would normally find really irritating. I tend to like my female protagonists to be badass from the start and already mixing it up. In Exorcism, Ashley is tasked with assisting removing a demon from a young boy, a mission complicated by a trip to release yet another demon in Africa. We learn that former agent Ota Benga (last seen in B.P.R.D. 1947) has used himself as a vessel to contain a demon. Yeah, that’s pretty fucking badass.
Ashley and Ota have to journey to a spiritual plane of existence to free the demon contained within him in exchange for the young boy Ashley encountered being freed from his possession. At one point Ota reveals that having the demon imprisoned inside of him has given him resilience and strength beyond his years, which means there's room in the B.P.R.D. universe for a few more tales of Benga's past adventures.
This leads me to the only element I found myself missing — I know this story essentially serves as an introduction to Ashley coming into her own as well as an origin story for Ota, but I think it would have served the reader to get a tiny peek into what either the incapacitated Abe Sapien or the resigned Liz Sherman were up to — maybe some sort of reference could be made once they're in the weird spirit plane. I know that there are a ton of B.P.R.D. comics that come out each month that probably deal with what is going on with them, but I have already taken my evening Valium so I should probably either be downloading all of them in a haze or ordering more things for my Aerogarden off of Amazon.
Anyway, Exorcism brings it in both story and visual execution. The artwork is pretty much flawless – excellence in panel placement is something I have come to expect in anything Hellboy-related, and Cameron Stewart does not disappoint. In particular, his demons are badass, original-looking creatures that don’t borrow from any stock clichés. I always read quickly for the engaging story and then pour over the impeccable character design and image composition. In particular Stewart does a great job depicting both the young Ota and his present-day iteration. Setting and establishing shots — something I think a lot of otherwise good comics tend to lack — are seamlessly integrated, and I really appreciate the care that Stewart obviously takes to establish movement through space and time. Take a look at when Ashley and Ota are transitioning to the spirit plane — see how the panels work differently than the ones in either America or Africa? The layout gives you the feeing that time has already slowed down or is working differently because powerful magic is at work. That’s great visual storytelling. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but when you see the demon that has been imprisoned inside Ota you will not be disappointed.
In the end, I am most excited to read more stories focusing on Ashley. I like her and I want her to succeed or maybe be exposed to some sort of black magic that makes her grow tentacles. It is unclear what effect her actions in t
he spirit plane will have on her, but we do get the sense that a torch is being past from Ota to her, which is touching and a little bit cheesy. Personally, I’m hoping for her to have Ota’s biracial, demon babies but that might just be the benzos talking. This is just the beginning of her journey and I am excited to see what will happen next. I’m tired — writing this better get me some free swag.
Francesca Lyn is a professional student who is sick of being shown where the manga section is without being asked and prefers to watch movies where Liam Neeson saves somebody. Despite wearing black-framed glasses and being the recipient of a liberal arts degree, she does not care for the work of Chris Ware and thought Blankets was "just okay." She often tweets incomprehensible things at @francescalyn and annoys the four people that follow her on tumblr at meme-patrol.tumblr.com. She and her friend Jillian started a feminist science fiction reading group that can be found at integratedcircuit.tumblr.com.