Monday, March 3, 2014

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master TPB

How many years has this series been going on now? 20? 25?

You have to admit, the fact that Mike Mignola has been chronicling the end of the world for this long is pretty darn impressive. Mignola and his co-writer John Arcudi aren’t afraid to upset the apple cart, either. At this point, the BPRD cast is almost unrecognizable. Only Johann, the ectoplasmic man, is left out of the squad of freaks that first appeared in Hellboy. Abe Sapien is floating in a healing tank. Liz Sherman is off the grid. Hellboy is in Hell. Roger the Homunculus is dead. Heck, even Captain Daimyo isn’t with us anymore after succumbing to his jaguar curse.

And the world needs the BPRD. Huge, Cthulhu-type monsters are sitting idle all over the world, spawning new clutches of monsters all the time. England is in ruins and in the midst of an evacuation. Things are frigging DIRE. Factor in the fact that there are still villains hanging around from the first Hellboy series, and things are bad. And this book is called Return of the Master. If you think that means the good guys are getting reinforcements, you haven’t been reading Hellboy.

I won’t spoil, but this trade includes the return of TWO of the Hellboy universe’s greatest villains. Honestly, the good guys don’t have a chance. And they know it. But what makes them heroes is that they keep fighting.

The fight is in the hands of new field agents like Carla Giarocco and Director Nichayko, the undead head of the Russian BPRD. Kate Corrigan is still in charge, and her confident leadership gives the heroes a chance, but it is getting tough to see a happy ending.

This book is full of insane battles. Human agents competently fighting monsters, ghosts, and creatures way beyond them. It’s tremendously entertaining seeing them trying to use high explosives and snipers against undead ogres. Part of the strength of this book is that even though I’m certain I’m not remembering everything I’m supposed to in the overarching plot, there is enough action front and center to make this a riveting comic.

I miss Guy Davis’ art something fierce, but Tyler Crook is doing a great job easing the transition. His simple line work can ably switch between the drab offices of the BPRD and the undead tendons on the monsters. Dave Stewart’s colors plant this firmly in the world of BPRD too; and that is coming from someone who rarely gives colorists the respect they are due.

This is my #2 comic (after G.I. Joe). Someday, when I have to purge some of my long boxes, I guarantee BPRD is going to make it to the last cut. This is an EXCELLENT comic. 

(But please, Mignola, at least bring back Abe Sapien! The heroes really do need some help!)

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