Don’t look behind you…

Publisher: Image Shadowline
Written, Illustrated & Covers by Brian Haberlin
Coloured by Geirrod Van Dyke
Lettered by Francis Takenaga

If you’re looking for some answers about the conspiracy, what’s up with those scarab things and why Virgil was framed for murder this is the issue where you are going to start to get answers. There’s also revelations about what has happened to certain characters and why things are not as they appear. It was satisfying to get some answers while still leaving things on a cliff-hanger. Nothing is resolved but the plot is pointing to what the resolution might be. Or I could be completely wrong because this book is still taking me by surprise in all the best ways.

At the end of the last issue we met the first Hellcop. We learn he’s a very different person to Virgil. The early Hellcops were scientists, explorers. What they didn’t realise was that they were also conquerors. The big revelation is that this hell world has a ton of natural resources that the US government decided to exploit and that’s what they have been doing ever since. It’s something we can relate to as we look at how the exploitation and capitalism of the 80’s directly affects the world we have today, where profit is king and powerful countries exploit poorer ones with no consequences.

The poor Senator had no idea. We do at least now have an idea how he got there as the scarab charm worn by his doppelgänger is in fact an artefact that can be used to swap places with another soul. I have to say the Senator is a character I really like because he is a bit of an audience surrogate. He’s not familiar with this world or anything that’s happened so he’s learning along with us what the real ugly truth is. Virgil is less happy about these revelations but at the same time can’t really ignore them, especially when he is shown proof.

Speaking of proof, back on the other side Taj is searching for her own. She’s detected the other side of the exploitation highway, following energy readings to parts of the complex that shouldn’t have them. Her curiosity and ingenuity make her a pretty good scientific detective. I also liked her use of laxatives as she has ever more creative ways to stifle Wil’s attempts to fix the code.

It’s good to have that side of things, that it isn’t just Virgil on his own but that he has an ally just as determined as he is and with Taj she’s looking at the big picture over why Virgil was framed. It does, however, lead her into danger and the cliff-hanger directly involved her. I hope she makes it out because Taj is one of those good, solid, strong female characters.

Other female characters also appear. There is a moment involving one that is sort of Virgil’s emotional core this issue. I won’t give spoilers but let’s just say that little glowing ball is more than a little glowing ball and there’s a reason it’s saved Virgil’s life several times.

The designs are great as usual. This issue there’s a very cute three headed puppy called Edgar. Picture a French bulldog but with, well, three heads. That’s quite a bit of drool Virgil has to deal with. It’s nice to see a twist on something quite mundane – hermit guy has a beloved pet – and give it that hellscape feel with the three heads. Shades of a puppy Cerberus. There’s also some nice background details with machines, or part of mechanisms, in the background suggesting the origin of the guy who lives there.

We also see the parademons and again the design is great. That demon insect vibe works really well. I have to say that the blue mark on the first hellcop, Briggs did give me Avatar: The Last Airbender Vibes. That might just be me but it did. The rest of his character design evokes that crazy mountain vibe with the waistcoat like pelt coat and the skull on a staff he carries round.

I would say Hellcop #4 certainly unveils a lot of the hidden plot. The danger remains ever present and the characters must look to the past and the present to move forward. Overall with tension, character revelations, plot advancement plus a three headed dog this is a very satisfying read.

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