Even after the insanity of “Abe month,” we still have a full month of Mignolaversity to get to – after last week’s “Sledgehammer ’44” and before next week’s “Vampire #2,” we have “B.P.R.D.” proper, with one of our favorite artists and some great characters in the forefront. Let’s get to it!
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg
Paranormal activity in Russia heats up as demons from Hell participate in the battle against the zombie director of the Russian occult sciences service in order to free a high-ranking devil imprisoned on Earth.
Brian: Well, David, just as soon as we got to enjoy some wonderful Peter Snejbjerg art, we are reaching the end of his arc, as “A Cold Day in Hell” wraps up. As a gigantic fan of the first issue of this arc, how did you feel about its conclusion?
David: I looooooooved it. Loved it loved it loved it. Super badass. Really fun read. Does a great job with the characters and art and yada yada yada. But before we get into the meat – and I want to hear what you thought first – I wanted to tackle something that confused the heck out of me. One second, Iosif was “dead.” Next second, he was up, and that part felt unexplained. Did I miss something?
Brian: The only explanation I could muster was that perhaps Varvara was somehow paralyzing him, since the broadcast was out, and that once the broadcast was back on, her powers were neutralized and he was back in control. Iosif mentions how her minions “waited for me” – so once he got there, they did something to eliminate his threat.
But you’re right, it was a weird jump from “dead” to fine.
David: Yeah, it’s just a weird gap in storytelling. “Dead” to fine with no explanation in-between. It was jarring and really took me out of the experience. But generally, I dug it. What did you think overall?
Brian: Except for the exact sequence you mentioned, I adored just about every detail of this issue. Snejbjerg’s art, in particular, really speaks to me, and he and Dave Stewart combined to make a really, really beautiful comic. His Iosif in particular has a complexity and majesty to it that really speaks to the character. He is still a scared up Frankenstein’s monster in a containment suit, but Snejbjerg draws him in such a way that you get a glimpse at the “real” man he once was.
Sometimes I marvel at “B.P.R.D.” for having arcs like this; imagine if after we reviewed “Russia” someone told us about an Iosif-centric story with Giarocco as the second lead – we would never have believed that such an arc would be possible, even just a year and change ago. Characters grow and adapt quickly and become central before our very eyes.
David: Snejbjerg really is a gifted guy, and you’re right, his Iosif is particularly great. Makes sense given the fact he was the artist on his first appearance, though. That said, his characters throughout were very expressive and well done. I loved his little demons, and I particularly loved what he did with the pilot. His pilot was a very fully realized guy visually, and I loved the way he reacted to everything going on (quick aside: my only other issue with his comic was the shortsightedness of Giarocco taking the pilot with her…if he died, everyone back at the plane was effectively dead, as they said only this man could fly that plane).
As for the second part, I’d say I would have been surprised by something like this, but things like Russia and The Long Death – the two arcs that introduced Iosif and Giarocco to current, main thread only readers – featured so many little shout outs to previous stories themselves (namely, the latter had Daryl the freaking Wendigo in it) that they really underlined that anyone can become important in this series eventually. Nothing can be tossed away with words like “that was a pointless arc” or anything of that sort. No offense to Marvel or DC, but we’re so used to arcs being disposable in so many ways that this type of thing from B.P.R.D. is surprising ways, but it should be the norm. It is the norm for this, which is at least part of the reason why this book is so special.Continued below
Back to Giarocco and Iosif…do you think these two continue working together in the future? Or does Giarocco go back to Team America?
Brian: FUCK YEAH!
Sorry, saw “Team America” written and had to go for it.
I think she goes back to the US, but I think she remains a link to the Russians, as she has clearly been moved and impressed by Iosif, and will be an advocate back in the States. I also think that we are nearing the end of nations and governments and are going to be seeing the world uniting to stay alive, which means that the divisions between Iosif and Giarocco will be melting away, and we may find them working together sooner than later.
David: Yeah, I think between her and Johann, it’s going to get interesting seeing team-ups between the two sides. And I agree we’re likely to start seeing less of lines between countries and governments, as things are just too crazy to really worry about things like that.
Next question: do you see the tape that they use against Varvara playing a bigger role later? I can’t help but think of that in context with Mike Romeo’s idea as to how Hellboy’s story ends.
Brian: For those who didn’t listen to our “B.P.R.Dudes” podcast last month, Mike firmly believes that Hellboy’s story will end exactly as has been prophesied – with him leading the army of Hell to Earth. And if the chant can keep any Hell-born threat at bay, that chant is unbelievably important. Whether it can be recreated outside of that memory card/broadcast is a mystery, but if it is, the B.P.R.D. needs to be broadcasting that from multiple towers all the time.
Varvara is such an interesting character, as has been shown over and over again, and one that seems to be gaining import and face time as the series continues. As her biggest fan, what do you see as being next for our favorite petite monstrosity.
David: Honestly, it’s hard to tell. She’s in a glass tube and is very limited in what she can do. I think she’ll keep trying to figure ways out of that tube, but my question always has been this: is she really bad? Like, we know she’s a demon, but she was always trying to do good things (ish) with Professor Bruttenholm. And sure, she liked killing people, but has she ever really shown herself as being all about bringing the Ogdru Hem’s reign to life? I am willing to admit her motivations are foggy to even me, super fan #1.
Brian: We’ve seen that demons don’t necessarily all need to be bad (like, you know, Hellboy), but I think her sending zombies to kill Iosif isn’t exactly a great vote of confidence for the “Free Varvara” movement you’re trying to spearhead.
David: Well, there we go again…do we know that Iosif is “good?” Remember the ending of Russia, where he has people mow down all of Varvara’s people in that house. The narrative is always driven by whose perspective is the guide for said narrative, and if Iosif is the one portraying it, of course he’s good and Varvara is bad. But what if that isn’t the case?
Brian: I’m not sold on Iosif being a (Russian equivalent of a) Boy Scout, but I think that his actions have, in part, shown that he is more on the “good” side of the equation than the other. Rescuing Giarocco and co., for one, is a sign that he has the good of the Bureau/the world in mind. Whether or not that is based, at least in part, on self-preservation is debatable, but I think if we’re handing out good or bad tags, it is things like that making me label him good.
Although, at this point, anyone who isn’t bringing about destruction of the Earth is sort of good, right? All other arguments now seem pretty petty.
David: Well, Iosif easily could be using the rescue of Giarocco as a way to curry favor with Kate. We know after Russia, she did not trust him. This is a way to get on her good side. And once again, we don’t know that Iosif isn’t about the world ending. We know he’s effectively immortal, and know at least in a way, Russia made him that way and left him at the bottom of the ocean. What if the only way he could earn eternal rest is by the apocalypse coming?Continued below
The Russian contingent aren’t like the American side, where motivation is pretty transparent. B.P.R.D. = good. Zinco = bad. Russians? Not sure over there.
Either way, I love any of the looks we get to that side of the world because the motivations are so unclear. It’s another damn good issue, with two small, strange flaws taking it down just a little bit. Do you have anything else to add?
Brian: Not really; I’m ready to grade this, and I do so with an 8.5. What say you?
David: I can dig that. Let’s say it’s 8.5’s all around. Next week, we’re back with Vampire #2! Get excited, people!
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy!