B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #134
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #134
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #134 seems to bring a close to the Hammer and Johann arc as he finally manages to merge with the armored suit. But with monsters at the B.P.R.D.’s doorstep, will Johann be in time?
The issue starts off by showing some monsters attacking state troopers with tension in the B.P.R.D. command center. Meanwhile, Johann is locked in some kind of mystic mind battle for control of the Hammer suit. This in turn takes us back to the Battle of the Bulge as Johann, the ghosts of the past and Patrick Redding flicker between worlds. We see the Hammer in action as it fights the germans and their tanks. We see the suit as it blown to smithereens. On top of that, we get glimpses of Redding’s mental baggage. In the end, though, Johann is the one whose victorious. He gets the suit and saves the day.
However that brings me to one of my first complaints with this issue, the monsters at the gate. In the previous issue, we got a small glimpse of some monsters attacking Boulder, CO. In the opening of this issue, the monsters are attacking some cops. The next time we see the monsters, an Agent Callas is fighting them in what looks to be a city. They’re trying to determine if they should evacuate the compound and then Johann with his fancy armor suit appears and starts annihilating the monsters en masse. The problem is that the threat of the monsters is very jarring and jumpy. It’s not a well built up threat. There’s not a lot of context to show how dangerous they are. It isn’t until the end of the battle that we even see how many of them there were. They’re there, they’re attacking, but there’s not enough done to make them scary or to establish the right amount of tension. Instead, I found myself just reading along and waiting to see what would happen next. There was no edge of the seat anticipation, and I didn’t care about anyone living or dying. There was absolutely no vested characters at stake. The only character for the reader to care about is Johann, and he’s pretty much invincible.
The artwork’s not bad. They do some ambitious things in the panels to pull off a spectral threeway attack between everyone vying for control of the armored suit. It leads to some cool images of Johann’s actual form. I thought that aspect was pretty cool. There are visual cues to show the eyes of the mask, the smoke image of Johann, the unhappy spirit of Redding, some creepy ghost faces and perhaps one or two other spirits all fighting for existence. With those aside, the best work is with the flashback panels. The weakest part of the artwork is the monsters. They’re kind of bland and not very interesting. To really pull them off, the artist would need to invest a lot more time in giving them more detail. As is, it’s not bad and it works well enough.
I’m not sure sure where B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth will head next, but #134 sets Johann up for a new stage in his character story. That said, the story really struggled in this issue with pacing. It felt a little rushed to get Johann in the suit and focused too heavily on the flashbacks, thus stealing away time from the looming monsters. The threat needed to be built up more in order to add some punch to the story. In the end, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #134 isn’t too bad, but isn’t great either. It sticks somewhere in the middle and leaves room for future issues to aim higher.