With all of the extra "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" mini-series and one-shots lately, the one downside has been that some characters have gotten lost in the shuffle, patiently waiting their turn to take center stage. In the case of the one-time-skeptic agent Andrew Devon and the vagabond psychic Fenix, the wait feels like it's been quite a while. Fortunately, they're taking the spotlight in "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil's Engine."
Mike Mignola and John Arcudi place the pair on a train ride out of New Mexico, with airplanes steering clear of the region thanks to the ash and worse in the air from the belching volcanos. It's a logical reason to put them on the slower, more precarious form of transport and it doesn't feel forced. Maybe it's the great visuals from Tyler Crook, but from the very first page there's an unease in the air, too; the clouds of ash and soot in the air, the muddy red/brown hue of the sky and the way that Fenix is getting more and more jittery with each passing moment. It's a great way to set the scene almost immediately, and by the time the train starts moving, the audience is just as uncomfortable as Fenix.
One small quibble I have with the writing is the one appearance of thought balloons about halfway through. It feels out of place with the rest of the comic (which doesn't use them) and while my guess is that Andrew's thought is supposed to justify his actions, instead it just makes him feel unbelievably patronizing and a little sexist. I get that Andrew is supposed to be the guy who questions things on the team, but his disbelief of Fenix's abilities is about as easy to swallow as Scully in "The X Files" not believing in aliens after getting abducted by them herself.
Still, that one moment aside, the book is a lot of fun. We've got a nasty organization plotting things off to one side, and when the disaster that Fenix is sensing does strike, Crook's art packs a lot of punch. The moments leading up to them are tense and exciting, the crush of people and the frantic movements of the characters ratcheting up the sense of dread, and then once it happens... well, Crook can sure draw a disaster moment. We don't need the shocked looks on the faces of the characters to come to that conclusion ourselves. Crook's settling in quite nicely as Guy Davis' replacement for the "B.P.R.D." family and this issue closes the deal.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil's Engine" #1 is another strong "B.P.R.D." comic in general, but it also feels like a good a place as any to check out the series if you aren't already. "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" is a tense little horror comic, and this new installment lives up to that reputation. Good stuff.