B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 9): The Reign of the Black Flame: The return of the Fire Starter

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Reign of the Black Flame by Mike Mignola and othersB.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 9): The Reign of the Black Flame by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters). 

At the end of last issue, Liz regains her powers and returns to the B.P.R.D., and Fenix, too, returns to the base. Both of them are in time to join the teams going into New York, so this issue starts with them on the ground, on a fact-finding mission. Kate Corrigan gave them orders to assess the threats in New York and, if possible, reduce those threats. Theirs is not a rescue mission, though that doesn’t seem a possibility anyway, since they don’t seem to be able to find anybody left in New York as they make their way in on foot.

There’s a secondary team coming in through New Jersey, and they are working with the Russians, so Iosif is leading that mission. Without Fenix, they are unable to avoid dangerous situations, and they keep encountering monsters that they have to fight off. In one of those battles, they discover that one of Iosif’s men, a strong man name Leonid, may have special powers. Of course, they also have Howards, the man with the magical sword, so they have some edge in upcoming battles.

But both teams eventually run into trouble. Zinco has control of the area, and both teams are in danger of both Zinco and scavengers. When Johann leaves his post, the first team meets some surprise resistance in New York. And they finally hear rumors of the Black Flame and his rule in the devastated city. They continue on their path, but with contact down, they are unable to communicate with anybody outside the group. However, they do catch a Zinco employee and seem to be able to get some inside information when they question him. Both groups continue to push forward and encounter monsters and Zinco military forces.

This is a great volume. We get a lot of action, and Liz finally confronts the Black Flame, realizing who he is. We get an extra amount of pyrotechnics. There are tons of monsters, reminding us that the Hellboy Universe is a horrific one. There’s even a bleak look at a suicide forest that people in New York gravitated towards after they found escape impossible and life not worth living in these apocalyptic times. Also, the Ogdru Jahad is mentioned again as the ultimate force against which they are all fighting and to whom the Black Flame pledges his allegiance.

Although this is only volume nine of fifteen (before the final three volumes that end the Hellboy series for good), it feels like a lot happens. We are getting closer to the end, and Zinco receives some severe blows to its power as Iosif confronts Marsten, the head of Zinco. But the real star of this show is Liz, the Fire Starter, who is at full power and a wonder to watch in battle. As always, this volume must be read in sequence; it doesn’t stand on its own, but it’s an excellent volume in the series. And James Harren’s art really shines here, particularly in the scenes with the Fire Starter. There’s no doubt that it’s another five-star book from Mignola and company.


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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