B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism (#1 – 2, B.P.R.D. #95, 97) – Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart

4 out of 5

An origin story of sorts for agent Ashley Strode’s evolution into a B.P.R.D. badass, ‘Exorcism’ was also meant to be Cameron Stewart’s intro into the Mignolaverse, but delays and other commitments eventually ended up leading to Strode being adapted by other writers or used for other titles.

Building off of the character outline started in War on Frogs, Stewart gives us a tight two issue run which first sees Strode bungling her role in an exorcism – engaging the demon – then goaded into connecting with Ota Benga, a priest, to take on the source of the demon’s power on the spirit plane.

Issue 1 paints Ashley in a most realistic, engaging fashion, chatty but doubting of her abilities outside of a scuffle, and touches base with enough external B.P.R.D. details to make this tale appropriately seem like it’s just one thing going on in the mess of Hell on Earth scenarios (which other B.P.R.D. titles aren’t always good enough at doing); issue 2’s ethereal battle has a wonderfully other-wordly sense of exploration to it, as well as a quality concluding scuffle.  Stewart is working very much in his own style here, maybe a bit more fine-lined, matched well by the ever-capable Dave Stewart’s colors for really giving Cameron’s lines a sense of depth.

Some of the elements on the edge of the story – the beginning flubbed exorcism that starts the whole thing; flashbacks to Ota’s past – feel somewhat besides the main thrust of the story; these are pages that maybe could have been used for some more exploratory business in issue two, but I get Cameron balancing the issues between setup and payoff.

An exciting start for a character that I wish we could’ve seen Stewart remain with for other series.