Is everyone tired of me raving about BPRD yet? I hope not, because every time I read a trade, I’m reminded that this is one of my favorite books on the stands. What is even more amazing is that while I like the main characters in this trade, none of my favorites are here. Abe Sapien and Hellboy are gone, and I like everywoman Kate Corrigan. Johan and Andrew Devon are the leads in this collection, and they do just fine carrying the load. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi can make anyone the lead now; that is how riveting this overarching plot has become.
The Devil’s Engine follows Devon and the psychic Fenix as they attempt to get out of the American Southwest. That’s it. They don’t actually get anywhere; they don’t even interact with that many other characters. This is simply a study in how hard it is to get by in the new monster-filled world of the BPRD. With planes attracting too much attention, everyone travels by train or car. But those aren’t safe either, with earthquakes and gigantic bat-monsters complicating things. Devon gets to show off some of his special agent “Defense” training, even though he always focused more on the “Research.” Fenix’s powers are frustrating for Devon, but it’s a nice touch because that frustration carries through to the reader. What good are special powers if they don’t actually help you that much?
I also love the ongoing developments at Zinco. While the CEO seems like a nice guy, he’s obsessed with bringing back the Black Flame, a dangerous villain from earlier collections. While he never seems threatening, the obvious terror in his associates hints at an interesting dark side. He’s turning out to be a strong villain.
Tyler Crook clearly studied Guy Davis’ body of work with the BPRD. It’s not that everything looks exactly the same, but the tone, of the action, the clothes, the faces; everything looks like it inhabits the same world as when Davis did his wonderful work on the series.
The Long Death gives Johann even more time in the spotlight. He’s really carrying the series these days. It is a good thing he got his new tough-guy body from Russia or he wouldn’t be much of an action lead. This story finally resolves the Captain Daimo/Wendigo subplot that has gone on for years. I’m a tad saddened because I know I’m forgetting important history in this conflict, I am certain the story is even sadder and more dramatic than I realize.
That said, James Harren makes sure that the action keeps the story pumping. This thing is full of terrible, horrific monsters and they all make an impression. How anyone could stay in the BPRD after seeing the Jaguar beast staring into your campsite I’ll never know. Harren is a bit cartoony, which works better with Johann and the monsters than it does with the humans. There is never any doubt about the emotion the characters display, but sometimes the faces are a bit too much. But man, that action. Top notch monster fights, people! Doesn’t everyone want to see an undead moose fight a jaguar god?