The newest B.P.R.D. arc focuses on the strange bag of ectoplasmic gas that is Johann Kraus. With a confrontation looming in the frozen north, how will the corporeally-challenged medium handle his newfound responsibilities as a B.P.R.D. leader?
B.P.R.D. HELL ON EARTH: THE LONG DEATH #1 (of 3)
Story by: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Art by: James Harren
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Letters by: Clem Robins
Cover art by: Duncan Fegredo with David Stewart
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Previously, in B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: While helping the Russian equivalent of the B.P.R.D. fight off one of several apocalyptic monsters plaguing the globe, ectoplasmic entity Johann Kraus received an improved containment suit. Meanwhile, agent Abe Sapien is comatose, Dr. Corrigan is in Britain and the old mummy Panya is being creepy again.
The insistence on treating each story arc of B.P.R.D. as a miniseries sometimes doesn’t play out too well. The Long Death follows immediately after the Russia miniseries, but also demands a familiarity with the New World storyline involving Captain Daimio’s Sasketchewan sojourn. If you’ve got those stories under your belt, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy this issue. And if you’re not, check ‘em out – B.P.R.D. is consistently enjoyable, if you know what’s going on.
LONG DEATH, SHORT SERIES
The Long Death starts out promisingly with an enjoyably stomach-churning sequence with Johann Kraus at the center. It seems that this arc will be about Kraus finally confronting Ben Daimio for destroying Kraus’s host body way back in the Killing Ground series. Kraus’s new suit seems to allow him a more human-like living situation, as he gleefully celebrates having a horrible nightmare for being proof that he can finally sleep. Mignola and Arcudi work a tight plot this issue, with the action moving quickly to propel Johann out into the field and into an explosive ending. There is a story beat that’s a little too war movie cliche where one of the tactical team members reveals she is a new mother, but the script manages to wring enough emotion from the moment to earn it. This is taut storytelling, perhaps a little too brisk, but it entertains with nary a dull moment.
BRUTALLY AWESOME ART
I did not catch James Harren’s work on Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, but based on what he did with this issue, I think I am going to have to track it down. Harren’s artwork elevates the narrative from merely good to something else entirely. His style is a little more solid than that employed by B.P.R.D. regulars like Guy Davis and Tyler Crook – it’s less sketchy and slashy, more rounded and cartoony. There’s more detail and his characters’ faces are more expressive, and Harren expresses a good sense of motion throughout. Most impressively, in this issue, Harren produces some truly nightmarish images. It’s bloody, gory stuff, and Harren draws it well. I am a huge Guy Davis fan, and with this issue, James Harren proved he can fill some big shoes. I’m excited to see what he’ll bring to the next few issues.
HELL ON EARTH, HEAVEN ON THE PAGE
The Dark Horse’s B.P.R.D. line consistently puts out some of the best stuff in comics, and it fills a horror-themed comics niche that few of the other big publishers were doing well (up until Animal Man and Swamp Thing). Right now isn’t the most forgiving time for new readers storyline-wise, but it is definitely worth it to catch up to what is going on presently in the Hellboy universe. The Long Death is a strong start to what promises to be another great arc, and it’s a chance to see fiery new talent James Harren at work. B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: The Long Death #1 earns itself a grand four out of five stars.