Pick of the Week
What did the
Artist: Cameron Stewart
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Viktor Kalvachev
Size: 32 pages
The B.P.R.D. is a big organization, and the stories surrounding it are even more massive. To be honest with you, and I am a dyed in the wool B.P.R.D. fan, I’m starting to lose track. There are currently, and I have to check the exact number, a bunch of B.P.R.D. mini-series going on at the moment. One is about an agent trapped in a truck with a girl who shot Abe, while they’re attacked by giant monsters. Another one wrapped up where we went back to see Liz Sherman as a pre-teen. We’ve still got to figure out what’s happening to Abe Sapien, and there might be another one I missed. Then there’s this one, with the full title of B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Exorcism #2 (of 2).
The thing is this. Even though I can’t seem to keep track of the names of the different titles, and I get the idea that they’re sticking with this Hell on Earth thing even though it’s as cumbersome as the world it describes, yet that has no effect on the fact that every single one of these books is cresting at the top of available quality on today’s comic store shelves. Every single one. I have honestly never read an issue from this series that wasn’t at least “really good”, and I’ve read a lot of them. The talent working on these books, under the watchful umbrella of Mike Mignola is a little bit absurd. When the insanely talented Guy Davis stepped down, it opened the floodgates for guys who are really good at drawing B.P.R.D. books, from Tyler Crook to James Harren, and the writer and artist of this fun little two parter, Cameron Stewart.
I’ve always liked Cameron Stewart’s art work. It’s very clean, and he’s a strong storyteller. When I saw his name on the last issue, I paused, because, while I’ve got no qualms with the work, it didn’t seem like a great fit. That was dumb. Stewart switched this up here a little bit, and gave a bit of a scratchy, brushy edge to the lines. He put some angularity to the faces, and it looks very different from the last time I saw his work in Batman Inc. His storytelling is still there, but, along with Dave Stewart’s galvanizing colors, it fits right in to the Bureau’s unique feel. Plus, he wrote the story, along with showrunner Mignola, of course. Impressive.
The thing that’s fun about this series is that they will occasionally shift the focus, and find the stories of the many agents involved with the B.P.R.D., which is the case here. The story centers on Agent Ashley Strode, who got her ass handed to her by a demon-possessed boy in the first issue. She’s young, she’s a girl, and she’s in over her head. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a girl, but that’s in her head, and it’s a thing. She meets up with Ota Benga, a very old, incredible hardcore African priest, who’s also an asset of the Bureau. He’s old school, and hung with Bruttenholm back in the day. He’s so old because he’s also the vessel for a trapped demon, who’s keeping him alive, while constantly battling Ota Benga from the inside. In this issue, they take on the demon. In terms of an exorcism, it’s not really anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s done so well, and so crisply, that I found it very engaging regardless. You can’t help but root for the the overmatched Agent, and you certainly find an awe for Ota Benga, whose appearance belies an incredible power. I absolutely love the way the elderly, wizened version of him looks, with the heavy white brows, and stooped posture. He’s just lived more years than anyone ever should, and he bears it with dignity. That all comes across in the drawn rendition more than in any of the words. Stewart is clearly very gifted in terms of having his characters acting, as well as being pretty good at drawing a hideous possessed goat. It’s all about balance.
One thing I love about almost all B.P.R.D. issues is that there’s never a sense of rushing to get a story in. Since they’re all planned out in two or four issue arcs, or whatever they need, they get to play out exactly as they need to. There’s no wrapping up things because the next storyline is coming up. So with this mini, we get exactly the number of issues we need. In this case, it’s two, and having spent the last decade or so, with most of the industry shooting for six issue trades, I’ve really enjoyed short arcs lately, and this is a perfect example of that.
Since there’s not really such thing as a bad B.P.R.D. issue, it’s shouldn’t come as a surprise that I went with this issue as Pick of the Week, but it never seems to line up, and often suffers from being so consistently good that there’s just not much to say. Yet I’m glad I get the chance to spotlight something that almost every pro I’ve ever talked to singles out as the most consistently well done series in comics, as it has been for years. Don’t let the history or the titles confuse you. Get in. Join the Bureau.
Stewart did draw B.P.R.D. once before a while back.