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Saturday, March 23, 2013

B.P.R.D. The Devil's Engine & The Long Death. Mike Mignola, John Arcudi (Writers), Tyler Crook, James Harren (Art), Dave Stewart (Colours), Clem Robins (Letters). Dark Horse Books (2012)

This book has two long stories, The Devil's Engine which is enjoyable and The Long Death which is excellent. In the Devil's Engine a B.P.R.D Agent, Andrew Devon and a physic crust punk, Fenix are taking a train back to Denver. Fenix had shot Abe Sapien in a previous episode and was turning her self into the B.P.R.D., Agent Devon had witnessed the shooting and done nothing to prevent it and this event forms an uneasy knot between them. Fenix has a premonition about danger on the train which turns out be to accurate and herself and Devon face a long journey back to Denver when they encounter some very large and very, very hungry monsters. The action is well staged and the interaction between the cast in nicely judged. The climax is smart and effective. In the Long Death Johann Kraus leads a team to investigate an incident in the Northwest woods. Johann has an agenda he does not share with the rest of the team which leads to significant trouble and then to a superbly staged double confrontation and conclusion.
What marks the difference between the two stories is the strong sense that the second story matters, it has deep roots in the continuity of the B.P.R.D series, it tackles a trailing plot line in a powerful and effective fashion. Even as doors are closed more are opened, the cast behave in unheroic but very characteristic  ways, make terrible mistakes and struggle credibly to deal with the extraordinary events that surround them. On the other hand in the Devil's Train the neither Fenix nor Devon have the same depth of time in the continuity, they take a starring role very late in the series without their being sufficient evidence anywhere why the reader should care. It is highly unlikely that any reader is coming to this volume cold, the extensive cast have been around for quite a while and the rather abrupt positioning of two relative unknowns center stage is odd. The second thread in the story is a door opening exercise typical of the series, it looses some impact because it is not surrounded by a story that could lend it more significance or tension.
The art by Tyler Crook on The Devil's Engine is superb, Devon and Fenix are given the chance to move through a lot of different situations and emotions and be believable in them all. The deeply nasty monsters are creepy and and never look as thought they have been forced into the surroundings. The action is vivid as are the reactions.
James Harren's art on The Long Death is outstanding moving from a gripping opening to two extended fight scenes which are messy, brutal beat downs , which considering who is involved is exactly what they should be. The snowy Northwest woods forms a great back drop, it never overshadows the cast it just puts them in perspective as the monsters circle about them. With a larger cast there is a opportunity for small slivers of interplay that are one of the joys of the series as minor characters get to make a mark.
Dave Stewart colours both stories with his usual level of astounding craft and subtle brilliance, in particular the second , mostly silent fight in the Long Death, the colours make the action flow  and give the details the order they should have. Clem Robins uses letters with understated care and energy to give the cast deeper tone and provides sound effects that anchor the moment.
The Devil's Engine is a good story, The Long Death makes this a comic worth getting.

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