The latest story arc find the B.P.R.D. in disarray as it confronts disaster on a global scale while internal strife tears it apart. Is the team in any shape to deal with Hell on Earth or will the B.P.R.D. crumple under the stress?
Story by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover Art by Guy Davis with Dave Stewart
“Pump bullets into that monster all night. Where’ll that get us?”
Previously on BPRD: Chaos reigns, as monstrous creatures tread the earth, volcanoes immolate million of souls and the overstretched Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense crew falls prey to personal obsessions and petty squabbles. Abe Sapien travels the mysteriously depopulated frozen forests of British Columbia to reunite with a former team member, while enigmatic mummy Panya plays pranks on a dangerously obsessed Johann.
AK-47S ARE NOT THE REMEDY FOR TENTACLE BEASTS
Let’s start with the good. If you’ve been reading B.P.R.D., you’re familiar with the work of Guy Davis. For my money, there is no artist other than Mike Mignola himself that is better suited to draw the Hellboy universe. Davis’s slashing, angular lines give an rough quality to the work that matches the pulpy atmosphere. Dave Stewart’s muted color scheme pairs well with Davis’s fat pencil lines to give the backgrounds depth and texture. Davis was born to draw monsters, and it is in his depictions of the otherworldly beasts that populate the Mignola-verse that his talent is really shown.
This issue is mostly given over to an extended fight scene which allows Davis to have some fun. A hideously drooling tentacle beast of indeterminate origin threatens Abe Sapien and the newly-beardy Captain Daimio, so they fight back the only way they know how: with copious AK-47s. The monster is all tentacles and teeth, and its weird curving limbs juxtapose nicely with the surrounding trees. The fight is a showcase for Davis and Stewart’s talents, as our heroes battle a monster in the flickering light of a campfire with nothing but bullets and their bravery. It looks great.
In terms of plot, this issue is rather light. It partially explains some mysteries introduced earlier on the series, and advances the burgeoning conflict between wizened mummy Panya and the disembodied Johann Krauss. Some more B.P.R.D. bureaucratic maneuvering occurs, but the fight is the real focus. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi deserve credit for creating a mystery around the origin of the monster that gets creepier with each reveal.
IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO LET THE REDSHIRTS HANDLE THE IMPORTANT STUFF?
What doesn’t work for the “Hell on Earth: New World” arc is the book’s fundamental disconnect from its title. The reader is informed that, in global terms, the human race is in quite a great deal of trouble. Unfortunately, this all takes place in the margins. Monitor screens in B.P.R.D. headquarters show gigantic monsters rampaging across the globe and epic disasters that have slain millions. Interviews with angry and terrified citizens are briefly shown, as the secondary members of the B.P.R.D. scurry from hotspot to hotspot. But the bulk of the story is focused either on Abe Sapien reuniting with Ben Daimio to fight a monster of the week, or Johann Krauss engaging in some histrionics with Panya. The stakes on everything outside the purview of the protagonists are so high that it diminishes their adventures by comparison. In a normal B.P.R.D. story, hunting down a possessed teammate or figuring out what depopulated a small town would be a perfectly acceptable undertaking. But when millions are dying elsewhere, why isn’t the focus on that? Why is Abe Sapien tramping around in the woods while the world burns around him?
The story is also somewhat incomprehensible. The book unapologetically reintroduces characters with no context or explanation. If you don’t know who Ben Daimio or Panya is, this book isn’t for you. As a fan (albeit a more casual reader as of late), I was confused by who was doing what exactly. A new reader would be totally lost, with no context for knowing the why a wendigo-man jumped into the fight or just who that half-jawed, ponytailed survivalist is.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World #4 of 5 provides more of Guy Davis’s great artwork, paired with a creepy baby monster story, but ultimately falls short of the mark. This book is necessary only for Mignola-verse diehards; all others need not apply. This issue has four AK-47s, two fractured skulls, one humans vs. tentacle monster firefight, one wendigo vs. tentacle monster smackdown, and one baby Cthulhu in swaddling clothes. It expresses 3 beeps, 2 blams, 1 shikt, 1 shakt, 1 wham, 1 whack, 1 crunch and 1 cra-aack. 3 out of 5 stars.