Review by Frank Plowright
Liz Sherman’s presence on the cover indicates her brief solo outing in Hell on Earth 2 was no mere catch up. Although it’s not going to seem that way for some while, her return has her stepping into the leading role. It’s a vacant position as Abe Sapien is barely seen before being moved into his own series.
Hell on Earth 2 closed with a big action sequence, and so does Hell on Earth 3, actually raising the stakes for what’s the best straight action drama of the Hell on Earth series so far. However, writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have several matters to address before that’s reached, raising the tension throughout. Along the way there’s a reawakening for Liz, Fenix coming to terms with responsibility, the nearest B.P.R.D.’s come to a zombie story, and a great mystery mission set in the Russian snows.
Mignola and Arcudi continue the process of building the personalities of the human agents alongside the horrific intrusions, with Howards becoming a stepping stone between them and the super powered cast. He’s used sparingly, but to great effect. Iosef remains the most enigmatic, seemingly genuine in his good intentions in reaching out to the B.P.R.D., but also still keeping secrets.
Hell on Earth 3 opens with a mission to Chicago lead by Johann, attempting to discover what happened to the previous team sent there. Readers of the previous collection are a step ahead on that one. It’s drawn by cover artist Laurence Campbell, making his series debut, and in combination with colourist Dave Stewart providing an effective study of gloom, which is exactly the right atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why he’ll go on to draw more of the remaining Hell on Earth than anyone else. Artistic quality is high throughout, with the under-rated Peter Snejbjerg fantastic on the Russian sequence, and James Harren spectacular on the action thriller (sample right). Regular artist on the big moments Tyler Cook bows out here (sample left), although he has one last short story in Hell on Earth 4, and although no fault of his, with the collection’s weakest offering.
‘Lake of Fire’ works to begin with in exploring the doubts both Liz and Fenix are experiencing, but what they run up against is relatively mundane, and never fascinates as it should, while the story rather shudders to a close with the ordinary set-up needed for what follows. Still, ordinary by B.P.R.D. standards is still better than a whole mountain of other horror/supernatural material, so it’s hardly a deal killer.
If preferred, these stories are available in the slimmer paperback collections A Cold Day in Hell, Lake of Fire, and The Reign of the Black Flame.