Max Fiumara’s cover for the second part of the ‘Pandemonium’ arc suggests Ashley Strode’s about to step up to a bigger role in the comic, something we here at Mignolaversity have wanted since 2012. But does it deliver? Find out in our spoiler-filled review.
Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Illustrated by Sebastián Fiumara
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
Hellboy reunites with Abe Sapien as demons gather in New York to enslave all that remains of mankind.
Hellboy rejoins the B.P.R.D. after 17 years away!
Mark Tweedale: As said above, spoilers abound in this review. You have been warned.
OK, page 11, panel 1. Man, that was a nice thing to see! Hellboy, Abe, and Liz together again—and not in some horror situation, just sitting at a table drinking coffee. It makes me smile.
Christopher Lewis: Yeah, it was so nice to see them together like that catching up. The scene had a serene comfortability about it—much needed after reading ‘Messiah,’ which had an aura of high tension.
What made me the happiest was seeing Liz smile again. After completely losing her remaining support system in ‘Cometh the Hour,’ she now has her oldest family members back and a reason to be happy again. Really, the whole scene was a joy to see on so many levels.
Mark: ‘Messiah’ and ‘Pandemonium’ both had these cathartic reunion moments and, as you say, there’s a lot of tension in these stories. These scenes give us a reprieve from the tension and puts the focus on “B.P.R.D.’s” characters. Importantly, while they give us a break from the tension, these scenes don’t break the tension; all it takes is a single line from a character to bring it all rushing back, like Hellboy’s line about still being in Hell.
I have to commend the decision to have Sebastián Fiumara and Laurence Campbell on art duties for the final “B.P.R.D.” cycle, since both have a real knack for referencing not just other Hellboy Universe stories, but the art in those stories. It adds an extra level of resonance to a reference, not just bringing up an old plot point, but the mood and emotions associated with it too. As we get deeper into “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” this aspect of their work becomes more and more important.
Chris: There is one scene that is a great example of what you are talking about. The moment I saw the following panel with Abe swimming near a cemetery I thought I was having déjà vu. Then I remembered “Abe Sapien #27: Itchyo Sapien,” and realized Fuimara had recreated one of Alise Gluškova‘s panels from that issue. What I enjoyed most about associating these two issues together was determining that this scene from “Icthyo Sapien” was about Abe remembering his dead friends, while ironical this scene from “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” was depicted right before Abe found out Hellboy was alive, so it’s a fun connection with reverse emotions evoked.
Mark: Yeah, that was well done. It immediately called back ‘Icthyo Sapien.’
Of course, it wasn’t the only call back. A big part of this issue was the demons that Varvara summoned (Balam from “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth—The Exorcist” and Bifrons from “Abe Sapien: A Darkness so Great”). I wonder if they’ll be a new demon trinity with Varvara since Beleth and Sytry have both died.
Chris: I don’t know. This seems more like Varvara being in charge of Balam and Bifrons versus her having a partnership like with Beleth and Sytry. We’ll have to wait and see.
Mark: Nice catch! Man, they’re really calling back to everything. It was short, but that little moment with Hecate from “Hellboy: The Island” was really nice to see. We’ve long known we’d see her again in the end, though I wonder what shall stir her from her tomb in Italy…
Chris: That scene seemed to be a little foreshadowing of her future return. My biggest questions are how and when will it happen. Considering I didn’t think we would see Hellboy until the end of this cycle, she could return anytime.
Mark: Definitely. By the way, that moment with Howards/Gall… Yeah, he’s totally going with Maggie.
Chris: You called it in the last review, and I am confident you’re right. I also liked how Maggie put her right hand on Liz’s head going outward, almost like a Vril blessing. While nothing is said, it was a pretty strong gesture connecting Liz’s power to the Vril and the shamans. Hopefully Liz figures out the connection.
Mark: Yeah, I’m still waiting for Liz to realize her power is about more than destruction, it’s also about creation. It’s something I thought John Arcudi was heading toward during the last legs of the “Hell on Earth” cycle, when Fenix was helping Liz with her gardening. Maybe it won’t happen, but it’s something I’d like to see before the end of it all, and it’d feel like a nice way to end Liz’s overall character arc, especially since she’s lived most of her life thinking of herself as a danger to be feared.
OK, I have to talk about Ashley Strode in this issue, because “Exorcism,” her first solo story, is one of my favorites. It was a major highlight in 2012. And I was really looking forward to “The Exorcist,” her second solo story, and while the story had a few nice moments, ultimately I felt like it fell flat on its face. Ash’s character fell apart in the third issue; the story failed to tap into the core of what drove her. She was so emotionally distanced from what had happened; when it was over, she acted like nothing had happened.
So ever since I found out she’d be showing up “The Devil You Know,” I’d been hoping we’d see a return to form. Certainly, Scott Allie seems to have a good feel for her voice, especially in the fourth issue, but her scenes in this issue cement it for me. That Ash would get so angry at seeing Balam alive again that she’d shoot the host, it feels like the sort of thing she’d do when pushed to an extreme place.
Chris: I think she knew she was in a no win situation against three major demons and had to get out of that situation quick without losing the upper hand. In the last few stories with Ashley, it was hard for her to go up against one big demon at a time, so I can’t imagine it would be easy for her to take them all on at once.
You are right on about Allie knowing her voice and her temperament. It’s very refreshing. Also… Fiumara nailed that action scene.
Mark: This arc is Fiumara’s first time drawing Ash, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at his pages. The whole sequence with her confronting Varvara straddles two worlds, and hinges on what the characters perceive—what Ash sees, what Varvara and co. sees, what Hellboy sees, and what everyone back in the hospital room sees—and Fiumara goes back and forth between these layers of perception so elegantly. Like this panel, which simultaneously shows how Hellboy’s presence bleeds into the other plane of existence, but Abe’s does not.
Chris: Yeah that was a killer panel. I stared at it for a long time because it was key to showing that Hellboy could see what Ash was seeing.
Speaking of Abe, Ashley’s gunshot seems to have stirred his memories, and I think in the next few issues we will see him remember that Fenix was the one who shot him. Hopefully it won’t be a big blow out.Continued below
Mark: Abe knows it was Fenix that shot him, but the two of them haven’t been together at the Bureau before. I think this means he’ll finally have to confront it in a way he hasn’t before. It’s worth noting, the next issue is Fiumara’s last—Laurence Campbell returns in August—and I can’t help but think there’s a very good reason Fiumara was chosen to do the first three issues of the ‘Pandemonium’ arc. I expect next issue the Abe and Fenix moment we’ve been waiting for since ‘Gods’ #3 will finally come to fruition. After all his work on “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible,” Fiumara’s the perfect choice to handle it.
Hmm, this review’s getting a little long. We should probably wrap things up.
Chris: I have to give this one a 9. Everything about this issue was amazing. The art, the connections to other stories, and most importantly seeing the family back together again. That being said, I think we should end this one with Liz’s smile. I am so happy to see her acting like herself again.
Mark: Yeah, there was a lot to talk about in this issue, but having the team back together again was definitely the highlight. This was an immensely satisfying read.
Final verdict: 9 – “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” gets better with each new issue.