by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi (writers), Guy Davis (art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

The Story: New giant monsters abound, Liz disappears (again), and the UN makes it’s stance on the frogs, and the BPRD, clear.

What’s Good: As a conclusion to a multi-year epic, this issue is more focused on opening the door for what’s to come than it is on closing the door on the past.  This leaves the series in a very interesting place.  The Mignola-verse finds itself in a very ugly place that’s primed for some seriously epic battles.  On a more intimate level, every single character is also left in a new position, either physically or mentally.  For instance, Devon has gained a newfound fear of Abe, while Panya is told that she may one day walk again.  These are little things and certainly nothing compared to where Abe, Liz, and the BPRD itself are left at the end of King of Fear, but they show Arcudi and Mignola’s dedication.

As usual, Mignola and Arcudi’s script, despite all of these new developments, finds room for the little character moments.  With the world in dire straits, it’s comforting to see these characters happier than they’ve been in a long time.  While everything’s gone to hell, there’s a sense of positivity and hope that’s refreshing.  It’s a nice touch, how despite things being worse than they’ve ever been, our characters are also more empowered and optimistic.  There’s a sense that now that they’ve hit rock bottom, they’re ready to start climbing.

On art, Guy Davis is the beast that he always is.  His new, admittedly phallic, monstrosity is one of his most impressive creations yet, terrifying in scope.  Also, despite his more cartoonish style, his faces are as bang-on.

What’s Not So Good: With last month’s issue ending on a cliffhanger, Mignola and Arcudi choose to write this issue in the most puzzling and frustrating manner possible.  Essentially, they’ve opted to skip an issue’s worth of material.

Instead of showing what happened directly after the blast and the subsequent struggles ahead, this issue begins with all of our characters recovering in hospitals and meeting with the UN to discuss the aftermath of last month’s issue and the various events we never fully got to see.

Worse still, they are literally whisked to safety.  They’re recovering in a hospital because, apparently, they were just teleported out.  How convenient.  I’ve never seen a case where an issue ends on a cliffhanger of our characters being put in mortal danger, only for the next issue not to even bother showing how they got to safety and for the explanation to be such a cop-out.  Forget all that stuff about Abe, that’s not even mentioned.  And that last page last month is apparently all we’re going to get about the Black Flame.

Naturally, this makes for lot of telling without the slightest bit of showing.  But that’s if you’re lucky.  Often, the events we didn’t get to see aren’t discussed in any detail at all and we’re left scratching our heads.  Why have countries disappeared to volcanic explosions?  What’s with the new monster?  Maybe these are mysteries we are meant to explore in the next arc, but they’re not new.  They’re just remnants of this arc that are unintelligible.  Introducing new elements for the next arc does not mean leaving behind unexplained elements of the arc prior.  This isn’t the fresh start that was advertised.

Conclusion: Great art and a great script still make for frustration.  Go figure.

Grade: C –

-Alex Evans