Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: Laurence Campbell
Release Date: 18th November, 2015
So the Black Flame is back, that’s a thing. Naturally, the B.P.R.D.’s response is to send their two heaviest hitters to take him out, along with one of their strangest allies to date. There’s something about the steampunk Cyborg that I adore as a character. From the design – looking very much like a deformed Kinder Egg – to his Super Weapon being somewhat of a Deux Ex, it makes it all the better that he’s kind of a dick. Mignola and Arcudi have always had a knack for making instantly relatable characters, and he seems to be no exception. Can we start calling his gun a Soul Cannon while we’re at it? I feel like it works.
As I was saying, Mignola and Arcudi have a knack for character development, and this issue has it in spades. From something so simple as a dog guarding its owner, to Director Nichayko’s reminder that at the end of the day, it’s all about saving lives, the characters are undoubtedly the most important part of all of this.
Laurence Campbell’s art generally looks like something straight out of a post-war Pulp novel, and it continues to shine here. With dark, muted tones and monster design reminiscent of a Lovecraftian nightmare, his visuals and the story are a match made in Heaven, especially when combined with the colourist powerhouse that is Dave Stewart. Something has to be said for the unconventional panel structure used here as well. With the odd floating panel being used, it gives the impression of big splash pages without compromising story development, and really manages to help the book flow. From a design perspective, it definitely was a smart choice.
There’s more than a few interesting developments in the issue, the aforementioned “Soul Cannon” being one of them. Is this the beginning of a more barbaric approach for the B.P.R.D.? If they truly are all about saving lives, then surely the souls of the dearly departed are included in this, but at the same time, can The Black Flame be defeated without sacrifices being made? It’s still odd seeing Kraus in the Sledgehammer Armour, but a welcome addition all the same, moving him from “paranormal sidekick” material all the way up to a physical “tank”.
The only downside to the book is a familiar one, in that it’s all about setting up the next issue, and poses just as many questions as it answers. As past experience has taught us, it’s always worth the wait, but in single issue format, it can be frustrating to say the least.