Saturday, January 13, 2018

B.P.R.D. : Hell on Earth, Volume 1

  I'm a HUGE Mike Mignola fan. His work on HELLBOY is, in my opinion, some of the finest Horror fiction of all time. The man knows creepy, and can deliver it in spades, whether he is the writer, the artist, or just contributing plotlines. B.P.R.D. became the home of the "War on Frogs" plotline once HELLBOY went off on his own, and holy cow, did Mignola and B.P.R.D. co-writer John Arcudi go all in on the end of the war, they had gone so epic that it made GAME OF THRONES look like small potatoes. The war ended with the Earth itself being massively changed, and not for the better, and the B.P.R.D. being given an entirely new mandate, as well as new hands on the purse-strings. Clearly, B.P.R.D. : HELL ON EARTH would take things to a whole other level.

 Well...not so much. To be fair, after the everything-but-the-kitchen sink finale of the Frog War, there obviously needed to be a little bit of a cool-down period. You can't run full-speed forever without risking creator AND reader burnout. This volume seemed a little slow, but the back-to basics feel of the book was clearly intentional, and by the end of this collection, the pieces were all on the table and ready to be moved into position. The last page, especially, hinted at great horrors to come.

 B.P.R.D. : HELL ON EARTH, VOLUME 1 collects the first three story arcs in the HELL ON EARTH relaunch, as well as a few bonus stories:

NEW WORLD is a straightforward, old-school B.P.R.D. story that finds Abe Sapien investigating waves of disappearances that are leaving small towns deserted. Along the way, Abe runs into a couple of familiar faces, and the petty grudges among members of the Bureau reach a breaking point. Mignola and Arcudi take their time to develop new team members in this collection, and I'm sure that will pay huge dividends in the future.

 SEATTLE is a short story that was originally published as a stand-alone ashcan edition, and it serves to show the state of the world, post Frog War. Good stuff

 GODS finds Abe and company searching for a young girl who is developing a cult-like following, and MONSTERS checks in on the MIA Liz Sherman. GODS marks the end of artist Guy Davis' tenure on the book, as well as signaling a major milestone in the life of Abe Sapien. MONSTERS also welcomes new series artist Tyler Crook, who fits in quite well, and continues Abe's arc from GODS.

 RUSSIA finds Kate being sent to Russia to help with a problem with the undead, which necessitates her teaming with another familiar face from the Mignolaverse past. I love the way that even the most unimportant side character can turn out to be a huge deal in the Mike Mignola universe. This was a good, solid tale, and the last page was a mind-blower. I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here.

 The book closes out with the short story from DARK HORSE PRESENTS, ISSUE 8, entitled AN UNMARKED GRAVE, which finds Kate in England trying to track down Hellboy. Very emotional stuff, but it does rely on a knowledge of Hellboy's story, which most readers probably have. I doubt many people are reading B.P.R.D. without reading the mother ship book.

 There's also a massive sketchbook section, as well as an introduction by John Arcudi and a foreword by Mike Mignola.

 Overall, a little more of a mixed bag than I was expecting, especially in the wake of the razor-sharp War on Frogs, but you can clearly see the players being assembled and the pieces being put into play, so.....I sense further greatness on the horizon.

 B.P.R.D. : HELL ON EARTH, VOLUME 1 earns a sweet seven out of ten cute demonic children:

 Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.