A review of the newest BPRD trade!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Between tracking down the vagrant followers of a prescient teen pursued by crablike beasts and dealing with a redneck priest who preaches by way of human mutilation to a trailer park populated by a cult of hillbillies, the B.P.R.D. certainly have their hands full. Can a fractured team wage a winnable war or are they fighting a battle of attrition? B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods and Monsters continues the series Comics Alliance calls "one of the best books on the stands." Collects B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods #1-#3 and B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters #1-#2.
Meanwhile over at Dark Horse, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis were quietly building a fictional universe steeped in the supernatural. And then they shoved it off the cliff with a near apocalypse. B.P.R.D.: Gods & Monsters is the second volume in what happens next ("The Hell on Earth" subtitle identifies the post-"War on Frogs" books.) For those who haven't been following the B.P.R.D., there are fourteen previous volumes that (mostly) tell the story of near invasion by demonic frog creatures first seen all the way back in the first Hellboy story. I say "mostly" because there are also two flashback collections (1946 & 1947) that aren't strictly part of the story, and the first couple volumes collect the original one-shots, which can be a bit... uneven when read all at once. So start at volume 3 if you just want the demon-frog stuff.
One cool thing about the pre-apocalypse War on Frogs story was how it built slowly, with separate incidents that over time stitched into a world-threatening narrative. These new "Hell on Earth" stories seem designed to do the same thing. Volume 2 collects two separate mini-series, the three-part "Gods" and the two-part "Monsters," both of which are quite good. "Gods" features a more-or-less straight continuation of the main narrative, as B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien leads a team into a devastated Texas (there's a volcano in Houston) to locate a young psychic guiding a band of nomadic refugees. The conclusion has a major event that lingers on into later stories, and the psychic, Fenix, will probably also have a major role later.
"Monsters" catches up with ex- B.P.R.D. agent Liz Sherman, who was at least present (if not responsible) for the chain of events that led to the elimination of the Frog threat and resulting devastation of the world. The story here would seem to be one of a domestic disturbance in the trailer park where Liz is laying low, but it's not that simple. The characterization in these two issues alone is worth the price of admission, although it's a great read all the way through. Mignola and Arcudi have built their own distinct world; it's a fascinating place populated with great and bizarre characters, and one where I really want to see what happens next.
The art for most of the various B.P.R.D. mini-series has been by Guy Davis, whose rough pencils and slightly animated style bring a great (and fitting) atmosphere to the stories. Sadly, "Gods" is his last series, but new regular artist Tyler Crook does a great job of picking up where Davis left off. Davis has a very distinct style, and Crook's work is similar to it without being a copy. He's a good choice for the series.
Bottom Line: While B.P.R.D. has been around for a while, this new collection offers enough to fantasy/pulp/horror fans to get on board with this new storyline without needing to go back to the start. This collection will give new readers a good taste of the series' flavor.
Review by: BD Montgomery, Outhouse Contributor