The second issue of the now sequential ongoing B.P.R.D. is here, and it’s following hot on the heels of the blow out insanity of issue #100. Will things stop looking so damn dark for our heroes, just for a little bit?
Here’s a hint: probably not.
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
Chaos erupts as the B.P.R.D.’s forces are weakened by the crazed Russian scientist and his cult of followers. Meanwhile, the Zinco experiment at the Bureau headquarters reaches a dangerous and unexpected conclusion.
Brian: It isn’t often to find an issue where just about everything goes wrong for just about everyone, but here we are! ‘Return of the Master’ Part 4 ends with Lazar stronger than ever (and feasting on the death of his own people), Rasputin’s rebirth not quite going to plan, Fenix on the run, Johann nervous, and Kate still broken up over Abe. Hopefully, David, you are doing better than our pals at the Bureau.
David: Sorry, I just got done reading that issue and that’s pretty much the only way I could react. What a crazy and awesome issue. Rasputin arriving back in Black Flame form?! Crazy Ragnarok style event with Lazar and the B.P.R.D. away team in Scotland?! Abe’s return being teased but not really?! Fenix on the run?! Johann and Kate’s touching interaction?! Pan-de-effing-monium! Crazy Pants McGee for sure. Yeah, that issue was straight up nuts. The only thing it was missing was Varvara and Ashley Strode, and we would have had a perfect 10!
But yeah, that was really, really crazy. Let’s talk the last page first. How about that?
Brian: The last page was one of those classic “well, duh” moments that only appear to be logical and probable after the fact. Just a few months ago, we were talking about the Black Flame as part of “Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand” and “The Devil’s Engine,” and suggested the character making a big comeback, and then we totally forget about it and are shocked when that is how Rasputin returns. We are silly, silly, silly men, Harper.
That said, what a page to end the issue on! This issue was all movement; there is no time to stop and catch your breath, and when the book ends and you have a second to catch your breath, you want it to keep going!
David: Yeah, it really was pretty obvious, but that’s what they’re supposed to do as storytellers, right? Present things so when we get to that point, we think “HOW DID WE NOT FIGURE THAT OUT?!” They handled it perfectly.
And I agree. It was all progressive movement, and it was pretty damn action-packed. I really loved it. I want to take a quick aside though to ask a question on your thoughts of the architecture of the series coming up. Do you think that we’ll just jump from arc to arc, or there will be little one-off issues in-between? And do we know if something like, say, Exorcism came up again, if it would exist in the numbered series or in its own mini? These questions haunt me.
Brian: You’re talking to the guy who recently boiled down his iTunes genres from over 100 to 25, for a “cleaner” interface, so I understand obsessing over this junk.
I think – think, not know – that “B.P.R.D.” is the book of the modern day adventures, with continued minis from the past. Just like how “Hellboy in Hell” are the modern Hellboy tales. So, I would think that the adventures of Ashley Strode would be contained in the main “B.P.R.D.” book. But what the hell do I know?
David: Yeah, it was just a quick aside. I was curious to your thoughts.
But back on point! I have to say, I like how everything feels like it’s coming apart at the seams, and in a room there was the core of Kate (“Katherine”), Johann and Abe. That was my favorite scene in the book. It was like, as long as these three are there, things might turn out okay. I really feel like the next issue – which is the close of the arc, right? – ends with Abe waking up. I can’t wait. But that scene was really powerful, and I loved Kate saying she wished Abe was there right then, and how Johann was apologetic and really owning up to what he did in The Long Death. What scene stood out the most for you?
Brian: See, it is interesting that you and I were most affected by the same scene, because we were both affected by it for such different reasons.
To me, that scene was our goodbye to the core of “B.P.R.D.” I think that is the last time you’ll see all three of those characters alive and together. And, believe it or not, I think Kate is the one who is going to bite the dust.
COME AT ME, HARPER!
David: Oh, I think that too. I really couldn’t agree with you more. I think that’s why it was powerful, because Kate is the one in the center who still feels in touch with her emotions. That scene revolved around her and felt like, to a degree, a goodbye. I think what we said works hand in hand though – “as long as they’re together, everything will be okay” and “last time you’ll see all three of those characters alive and together” – it’s powerful because of the way those ideas play together. Everything is not going to be okay, but if Abe comes back, maybe things can start moving in that direction.
There will be blood, my friend.
Brian: I know it is to be somewhat expected, but it is still somewhat disarming to think of “B.P.R.D.” without Kate. That is what sets the Mignola books apart, for me, from just about every other long-running series: the ability to just do whatever serves the story best, regardless of how popular/difficult/limiting that decision may be.
This issue is seriously one of the more claustrophobic comics I’ve read in quite some time – the walls are collapsing in on everyone, and the only way out appears to be to through even more destruction.
I’m interested on your take on the relationship between Lazar and Zinco – is there one? Or is this just like Spider-Man 3, where there happens to be two big bad guys attacking at the same time?
David: Well, we mentioned this before and one of our readers said that there was never an implied connection between Lazar and Zinco…but I still say there is! I mean, we know that Lazar escaped from a group in B.P.R.D. Russia wiped out by Iosif because of their Rasputin connection. We know Zinco is all about the return of Rasputin. I even insist that there was a scene that openly connected the two. I feel like there has to be one.
And how dare you even bring Spider-Man 3 into this conversation.
Brian: If there is a connection, what do you see it entailing? We’re one issue away from the conclusion of this story, and even if they are somehow working together, I really don’t see how to wrap up the story and reveal the connection in 22 pages.
David: As it always is in B.P.R.D., they don’t need to do that here. There’s always more to come. It’s a steadily flowing river more often than it is crashing rapids. I think it will be like your Spider-Man 3 reference, but B.P.R.D. sorting that there is a connection will be a thread that is missing for a bit. What better way to get them would there be than to feign that they are separate forces, but secretly coordinated? We’ll see. I might be buying too much into that, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
So, Tyler Crook. Still super fan #1 over there?
Brian: Let me know if you need any more tin foil for making your hats over there, crack pot.
But to answer your question, how could you not be a Crook super fan after reading this issue? His facial expressions, especially on the Zinco folks post-resurrection, are simply stunning. Throw in the aforementioned heart-wrenching scene with Kate, Abe and Johann, and this may be the most visually touching B.P.R.D. story in quite some time.
That’s not to mention his quite good horror touches, either.
David: I wear my tin foil hat with pride!
Yeah, he did a great job. I think the only thing that threw me off was his young (for her) looking Panya early on, but besides that, he crushed it. That two page spread of the attacking monsters was spectacular. There was just a whole lot to love here man.
Alright, ready for grades, or do you have something to add?
Brian: Well, I wanted to run a hypothetical by you. So, we’re knee deep in Marvel NOW! and the New 52 right now, with mixed results on both fronts. And with the proposed “End” coming for this book at some point, it got me wondering: if there was a total creative shake up on these books, how would that affect your love for/desire to read them? Would you want to read “Hellboy” not involving Mike Mignola?
David: Well, this is going to be controversial, but you sort of know the answer already: I’ve always been more of a B.P.R.D. guy, and in that regard, more of a John Arcudi/Guy Davis type. I like Mignola a lot, but I feel like his ideas are great and his actual execution is better when tempered by someone else. Even when it comes to Hellboy, I preferred the stuff with Fegredo/Corben’s art. So maybe it’s like Star Wars, where I could get behind a world where it isn’t the person who created it doing it anymore, but maybe guiding it. Yeah, I could do that. What about you?
Brian: I try not to be too precious about stuff like this, but it almost seems blasphemous to me. Now, maybe at one point, the idea of reading “Fantastic Four” without Kirby was unthinkable, but I don’t know if I could read one of the Mignolaverse titles without one of the cornerstones of the world on board, either writing or drawing. I’m not sure – I doubt this is a problem we’ll have to deal with for a long time, if at all, but it is a curious one.
Ok, on to grades. I give this a rock-solid 9.0. What about you?
David: I think we’ve had enough people touch on his characters to know that these could exist pretty well without Mignola explicitly working on them. That said, he’s important to have as an architect, for sure.
I’ll second that and give it a 9.0. That was a rocking, action packed issue with a lot of big moments. Can’t ask for much more from a B.P.R.D. comic really.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy