“All this because of one woman’s grief,” the amphibious B.P.R.D. leader asks a colleague after they’ve dispatched something horrible in the woods of British Columbia. The answer, according to this precise and finely crafted issue, is "yes" with an even more terrible implication for the cast and the characters of this world: the battle they wage now is no longer simply against the things that go bump in the night but against afflictions of the very spirit. Indeed, as this issue unfolds, it seems that the typically dysfunctional cast seems more poisoned and more—well, afflicted, than normal as they confront more aggressive and outlandish enemies. It seems the end times might be near, and those with the strength to fight might no longer have the spirit to do so.
The first seven pages or so of the book are nearly wordless report on the grief of one woman and the means by which it unleashed hell. Abe’s colleague—and now something of a fugitive—Ben Daimio suspects that this kind of thing will happen more often, and that a militarized responses to the forces of darkness might not be enough. The case at hand, involving a woman whose desire for a child gave birth to monsters, shows the easy, horrible human cost of the conflict. This poor woman became no less a monster than the creature formed in her womb, simply through the perversion of her love and grief.
It’s the unfurlingof this world and its tragedies that writers John Arcudi and Mike Mignola get precisely right. Each beat in this issue feels right, true, and earned by virtue of occurring in a world where the darkness is getting closer and closer at hand, and these characters many of us have followed for years are starting to wear down in the midst of the struggle. The true strength of the book is that it’s not simply about the supernatural mysteries and battles that plague the cast but that we’re more invested in how the cast reacts to their trials. Abe has an uncharacteristic explosion of anger this issue, and another character contemplates what I think will be a murder and none of it feels false—it feels as though both are on a slippery slope, whether they see it or not, laid out by the very skilled writers.
Art is handled by Guy Davis whose style is interesting, with flashes of brilliance. The way he renders that mostly wordless block of pages at the start of the book—let me call attention to one bit in particular that’s cinematic in a way that’s not distractingly so: the “camera” of the panel draws in close on Ben’s eye, figures shifting and coalescing in the pupil. Something is horrible in there that finally resolves itself into a memory. The next few pages are a chronicle of grief and a suggestion of the terrible thing that comes from it. That the ever-talented Dave Stewart provides the muted, sometimes grim colors is appropriate.
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