And there were giants in the land…
B.P.R.D: The Devil You Know # 9
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Laurence Campbell
Cover Artists: Max Fiumara with Dave Stewart
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
What You Need to Know:
Manhattan has fallen to a demon queen in golden curls and the B.P.R.D must infiltrate the island to stop her.
What You’ll Find Out:
The story opens with a shot of the B.P.R.D helicarrier hovering in the red sky over the Hudson. A flock of demons rise above the ruins of Manhattan and fly in to attack. They are small, ineffective in and of themselves, but they throw their bodies against the sides of the machine with such enthusiasm that the side panels and the windows begin to crack.
In the center of the city, stone angels weep tears of blood. Lord Balam, he of the ram’s head, warns The Girl not to discount Hellboy. She responds that he would do well not to overestimate one who threw aside his destiny. She raises her arms and the former humans clustered in the courtyard at her feet crack their spines and metamorphose into monsters.
Back on the helicarrier, Hellboy asks if he can get out onto the hull and Liz Sherman clothes herself in flame to join him, igniting the air around their vehicle and sending bodies raining down as ash.
Hellboy and Ted join her on the flanks of the machine, smashing demons with swords and giant stone hands before an enormous flying frog-demon decides to make the fight a bit more final.
Hellboy and Ted can’t take it on, and the helicarrier is crashing, but Liz heats the air beneath it creating a thermal updraft for it to coast along until they can land it in the bloody Hudson.
The second they land, the waters give up their depths. Walking corpses rise to fight them. Hellboy and Ted are joined by Ashley who prays out loud, drawing her flaming sword from her own substance and decapitating the legions of the damned.
In the air, Liz fights the flaming frog demon, who tells her that she’s lived to see the final battle. Liz laughs that off.
Below her, the agents emerge from the helicarrier, sees the ruins of the city, and they decide to fight their way in.
Animated human corpses give way to chittering mouths on spindly legs. Above their heads, Liz is overwhelmed. Her flames doused.
Her mind flashes with the images of her friends, in photographs.
The demonic minions hold her limp body up before the face of her foe and he asks, ‘How can a mortal form contain such fire?’
Her eyes open. She says, ‘It can’t.’
She sets the sky ablaze.
Charred fragments of the demon rain down into the water. Back in her ruined throne room, The Girl informs Balam that he will have to fight Hellboy, but that his job will be easier now that she’s identified ‘the weak link in their chain’. The viewers see And Sapien reflected in the ruby lens of The Girl’s magic mirror.
In the city, Carla leads the crew to the center. Abe and Hellboy share a nice little joke about New York deteriorating under Giuliani, before a flight of demons intercede again and murder Devon, who falls to the ground, breaking his glasses with an audible crack.
The story will continue next month.
What Just Happened:
Mike Mignola’s scripts always remind me of poems by Yeats: Old mythology rising up, broken but glorious, in a world where things are busily, implacably falling apart and no center can hold for very long.
On this version of earth, Hell has fallen and the more ambitious demons are seeking to make the walking world into their replacement. Among the ever-dwindling agents who continue to fight for the (increasingly unlikely) survival of man, they either blow off steam with bravado (while feeling each death) or else they don’t seem to know why they bother to keep going.
It’s difficult to gauge the motives of The Girl. She seems to know that the world is ending, that time is winding down at last and nothing can or shall remain, so one must ask, why does she bother? What does she hope to gain if Hell is closed and the earth is failing? What’s left, for anyone?
There are small shards of hope.Not glimmers (nothing gentle lasts in this series) but hard, bright gasps of something good. When Hell died, it became a quiet little fishing town. Now that earth is dying, perhaps it, too, will finally be reborn.
But before that happens we have to watch a shrinking crew of mortals battle demons in the ruins of New York.
Luckily, the battle promises to be beautiful.
The art in this series is poetic, too. There is a lot of violence, the requisite horror, but it’s almost always quiet; images which seem to contain little impact but whose importance blossoms slowly. There’s an iconic quality, in the sense of the Byzantine religious objects, which leads to a great many of these scenes being retained and expanded upon in memory. The art isn’t, quite, of the quality of Mignola’s own work, but it’s very, very close — especially in the scenes which involve Liz fighting the frog demon or Ashley drawing fourth her blazing sword.
All things considered, this series is beautiful. It’s bleak. It’s probably the bleakest story that I’ve ever read in the Mignolaverse, but considering the subject matter that’s only natural. It’s a testament to the writing that the primary character motivations, among the good guys, continue to be based in love. As for evil, it desires what it always does, under everything: flesh to slake the hungry guts with blood; power to cause whatever pain it wants.
It’s a good book. Pick it up.
Final Thought: Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, but at least there are jokes about Guliani. Pick this one up.
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