Either Christmas came early, or Hanukkah came late this year, because we are getting two issues of “B.P.R.D.” goodness this week. We have a lot to say, so let’s jump right in!
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Max Fiumara
Monsters are killing civilians in the Utah desert, leading Professor Bruttenholm to recall the last time a government operation cracked open reality to unleash something from another world: Project Ragna Rok.
Brian: No rest for Mignolaversity! Fresh off of our interview with the crew and “Hellboy in Hell” #1, we are back with a double shot of B.P.R.D. goodness. Let’s start with “1948:” this series has the unfortunate distinction of being released alongside “Return of the Master.” I say unfortunate, because it doesn’t get the same spotlight it would get if paired with a lesser series. But my goodness, this is another really solid issue. What’s your initial impression, David?
David: Yeah, this is really rad all around, even if we still don’t REALLY know where it’s going. What works about it is all of the character work. Sometimes I forget how great it is to have Bruttenholm back, if only for a bit, but this really reminds me of that. His interactions with Dr. Rieu and the…opportunistic Sergeant Yessler are superb throughout.
That said, the best part about this issue continues to be the parts with Li’l Hellboy. That part with the hat? Awesomesauce. There’s just phenomenal character work throughout, so it is hard to be down about not really knowing how this ties in the 1947/Vampire architecture. Did I miss something there?
Brian: I would totally read a Lil’ Hellboy spinoff – perhaps like Tiny Titans? Awww yeah, Bitty Paranormal Research and Development
I agree with just about everything you said. This book has been a page turner with great art, but it is still hard to be 3 issues in and still have so many questions about what exactly we’re reading, plot wise.
David: Especially when you consider things like the fact this is supposed to fit perfectly in-between the puzzle pieces of 1947 and Vampire. Besides Simon Anders, there hasn’t been much of a connection there.
But it’s hard to deny that this in itself is a really great issue, and I love the development of the idea that these are creatures coming from another dimension. Not only that, but Arcudi really excels at Bruttenholm as a character, and I love the playful interactions between Rieu and him. It’s really great stuff, and I find Rieu to be really fascinating as an almost co-lead. I think, because it’s kind of an open sandbox, Arcudi might even feel more free here than he does on the other B.P.R.D. books.
And man, Max Fiumara did some really great stuff on this book. He’s a really pitch perfect fit for the book, I think for a lot of the same reason he was so great on Four Eyes – he does other eras well. I also love how gestural the characters are – reading the book and seeing the changes between how Rieu carried herself in business situations vs. when she was in the bar waiting for Bruttenholm…it’s like a whole different person. There’s a real dichotomy there that I’m not sure every artist would be able to capture…or am I crazy?
Brian: Rieu and Bruttenholm are a lot of fun in this – they almost give off an Indiana Jones/Elsa vibe from the first forty minutes of The Last Crusade. And I agree about Arcudi’s hands being untied from the continuity of the main B.P.R.D. story (especially in light of our conversation with him, where he reveals he often times has to write out of order, so everything is even more structured).
Fiumara is absolutely owning this book. I was going to point out the Rieu body language in particular as well; it is tricky to pull off having one character look two totally different ways in a single issue while still keeping structural consistency with the character, and that is exactly what Fiumara does here. His art is realistic, with just a hint of funhouse mirror, which I absolutely adore. Between Fiumara in the ’40s and Tonci Zonjic in the ’30s, Mignola + co. have really found their go to folks for books set in the past. And while that is great, I’d love to see either guy take on some modern day stuff, just to see how they stretch out in that setting as well.
Let’s talk inter-dimensional monsters for a minute. That is the first piece of this series that seemed like it could have a true impact on the modern day B.P.R.D. While we’ve certainly had our share of monsters in these pages, am I forgetting something, or is this the first real inter-dimensional business?
David: Well, aren’t they all inter-dimensional? I mean, as pointed out in this issue, Hellboy is akin to these creatures. And in terms of the history of the story, obviously the Ogdru Hem and things of that sort aren’t exactly from around here. I think this is the first known case of it outside of Hellboy, chronologically speaking, so in that regard it could tie into the story in the present. It could plant seeds that could play back in way later, but I’m not sure if that’s what we’re doing here.
Brian, I think it’s about time I said it: I’m not sure how this plays in to what is happening or even plays out in these five issues, but I’ll just keep enjoying this for what it is. I definitely wish I could see more connective tissue between this and other B.P.R.D. efforts, but I don’t really yet. It is damn good stuff though.
Brian: I agree, this has been a hell (pardon the pun) of a ride so far, and I’m interested to see where it winds up, especially if it winds up typing into “Vampire.” What do you give it, grade wise?
David: I’ll give it a solid 8.5. It’s a really enjoyable book. Nothing I would say that really blew me away, but I am really, really enjoying it. What about you?
Brian: I’d give it an 8. It’s funny, with Mignolaverse books, an 8 feels like a slap in the face, but in my normal review duties, an 8 is a rare and beautiful thing! NEXT!
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
Hell on Earth reaches its apex as massive devastation covers the globe and horrific monsters spew forth from the ground.
* Hell on Earth is here!
David: Brian, this is the end of the Return of the Master and…you know, shit goes down. What did you think of this crazyfest from Arcudi, Mignola and Crook?
Brian: It is amazing how a book can simultaneously feel so bleak and, at the very end there, so hopeful. That last panel was the most hopeful this book has been in some time, and while the book didn’t have as cataclysmic results as I expected, in terms of our main characters, the world as a whole is far more fucked up than I expected.
Oh, and Liz is back.
What did you think?
David: I thought it was awesome. The funny thing is I had been thinking Abe was going to be revived at the end of this, but I was wrong: Liz was going to come back. She’s been the wild card out of the deck for a while, and her return should have been expected, but as per usual it wasn’t.
And yeah, the ending was hopeful in the grand scheme of things. Things are horrible – I mean, the world is in tatters and flames, but Giarocco made it, Liz might be back, and no one of true import died. So yay to that, right?
I have to say, the moment of the issue for me was either when Leopold was screaming “WHAT’S HAPPENING?!??!!” and The Black Flame looks over and says “Everything.” and then all hell breaks loose, or when Varvara laughs at Iosif. Both were so freaking badass. Man, I loved this issue. Did you have a favorite moment?
Brian: The Leopold moment was my favorite. It was just so indicative of how nuts things have gotten, and the Black Flame’s reaction was so pitch perfect. I literally laughed out loud when I read that. I also really like the sequence with Fenix hitchhiking – Fenix is not my favorite character, but something about seeing her out there ok was nice.
Beyond that, I was mainly taken by a real sense of “Wow – there is no going back whatsoever here. The world is, basically, done as we know it. When we spoke with the Mignolaverse architects earlier this month, they mentioned how bleak and unfixable things are, but I didn’t see it going this bleak. I mean, entire cities (even my beloved New York) were destroyed in one panel – this wasn’t a “wow, that was a crazy fight that leveled San Diego!” type destruction. There ain’t no rebuilding this, chief.
This is probably the biggest scale we’ve seen from Tyler Crook thus far on his run and, as usual, dude did a great job. I especially loved the way he showed the guy on monitor duty just straight up failing apart. Anything stand out to you?
David: I’d definitely mention the monitor duty guy as a highlight moment, but there were just so many. He does a WICKED Black Flame. I mean, that character could in theory look silly. But he doesn’t with Crook drawing him.
But everything is going wrong. That’s the crazy thing about the issue, when you think of it. The best thing that happened was Lazar was taken out, but, realistically, that was like saying “oh man, I’m glad that rabid dog was taken out. Too bad he was replaced with a T-Rex on steroids.” Everything is getting destroyed, and it’s like the world the B.P.R.D. will now exist in isn’t at all like the world we know. It’s going to be a disconnected, destroyed version of our real world that realistically will have fractured communications and economics. We talked to the team about this book and how they wanted to focus on humanity a little bit…well, this would be an interesting time to do so because frankly, they’re all kind of fucked.
It’s weird. The scope and scale of this issue really kind of puts it almost into a class entirely on its own. What can you really compare this to in comics?
Brian: I really can’t think of any other book that took this sharp of a left turn at this point in its history. This isn’t like the world is burning in the penultimate issue; Arcudi mentioned to us that they are plotted well into 2014. We’re talking years of a world that is fundamentally broken, taken with the fact that it doesn’t seem like the creative team has any desire to fix it.
So, for a book that has been so steeped in the “real” world, do you think a fundamental shift in the world in which the story operates will mean big changes for the comic? Or will things basically continue as is?
David: I don’t think so, and the reason why is this book is something that will always be fundamentally based on its characters. Sure, bigger things happen, but it doesn’t matter if it’s frogs or mega-Chthulu nightmares or whatever, we’re always going to be looking at what’s happening in the world through the prism of the characters of the B.P.R.D. So in that regard, I think things will basically be the way they are, except they’ll be a little on the run and a little on the offensive now that all hell is breaking loose. What do you think?
Brian: I think it will change in one pretty fundamental way. The book has always been, to some degree, about how to “save the world” from the threat du jour. Well, when the world has gone to pot, what is there to do? The book goes from prevention to survival, and I think that could be an interesting shift.
David: For me, this has been the arc of the year for the book. It’s taken a lot of the plot points to the next level, and escalated the story exponentially. For those reasons and more, I’m going to give this a mammoth grade for a B.P.R.D. book – 9.5 out of 10.
Brian: You’re not going to get an argument from me. 9.5 it is.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – Buy, you fools!
On a final note, we would like to thank you guys for all the support and encouragement we’ve received from doing this column over the course of 2012. We hope you’ve enjoyed it, and stick with us for 2013!