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    Mignolaversity: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master #1 [Review]

    By and | August 29th, 2012
    Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments
    Logo by Tim Daniel

    Welcome to the beginning of the end, folks! Before “B.P.R.D.” becomes your favorite ongoing, we have two more issues of the final miniseries to attend to.

    Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
    Illustrated by Tyler Crook

    In the Scottish Highlands, a rogue scientist who escaped the bloody massacre in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia assembles a paranormal cult bent on world destruction. Can the B.P.R.D. hunt down this group in time, or will demons be released into a world already teetering on the edge of apocalypse?

    Brian: Here we are, at the start of the last B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth miniseries – in fact, because #3 transitions it into the “new” ongoing, we’ve already seen the last B.P.R.D. mini! And this issue certainly feels like a more focused beginning, tying in elements from “The Long Death,” “The Devil’s Engine,” and “Russia.” What did you think of the first issue?

    David: Oh yeah. This feels right. This feels like a return to where B.P.R.D. has been previously, as we both agree that it has been in a mini-slump this year, to a degree. At least more up and down than usual. But this one has all of the plot threads moving together and building to something huge it feels. More so than many of the other recent minis, it feels like this is one cohesive world again, and I love how the world feels even more dangerous than ever: Fenix is in, Zinco is digging its nails in through Johann, Iosif is doing creepy shit, and this Master guy is just straight badassery. Yeah, it feels like evil is coming, and our heroes are unsuspecting.

    The only thing it is missing I feel? ASHLEY STRODE. What’s your take, my friend?

    Brian: I agree, this feels like a really good place for the series to be, especially considering its new ongoing status. This feels like a real focusing of the disparate elements of the past few years, into one streamlined approach which, I think, this series needed. As much as I love the mosaic-approach, with the story moving towards its end-point, it needed a kick in the pants.

    I, too, miss Strode, but I could see her being a bigger part in coming months. I doubt a mini would have been dedicated to her character if that is all they wanted to do with her.

    So, let’s talk specifics: “The Master” – I think the general consensus was that this was going to be Rasputin, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. What are your initial thoughts about Dr. Lazar/the Master?

    David: You know I didn’t have any expectations for who the Master might be. Rasputin makes sense but often this is a series that can do a lot with titles and the expectations they create.

    Dr. Lazar is very interesting though. His introduction was intense, and I really like how his mere presence validates and expands on the close of “Russia.” Obviously we do not know much about him yet, but his connection to the Ogdru Hem is obvious, thus there is an at least tangential connection to Rasputin. I wouldn’t say we are out of the Rasputin woods, with Lazar and Zinco involved. What do you think of the continued Fenix/Devon connection? I still hate their guts, but they are far more fascinating in the context of the rest of the team, and the Panya/Fenix pairing is inspired.

    Brian: I think the Fenix/Devon pairing makes total sense in this context; in addition, I think that this is a fun angle to play within the B.P.R.D. as a whole – the duo keeping a secret within this large bureaucracy intent on keeping secrets. Their motivations are interesting, and it sets up some interesting stories for the future.

    Let’s move over toward the art side. Tyler Crook is back again, and he continues to impress, and he does a great job giving Dave Stewart a lot to work with (the shots of Johann peering the tank, in particular, were moving and were colored perfectly). Although we’ve been a little down on the B.P.R.D. story lately, the art has been uniformly great.

    Continued below

    David: Yeah, agreed on the art being uniformly great. I mean, I hate to make this comparison because of the nature of both of these projects, but we do the Before Watchmen reviews together and the one thing you know you can always count on for both is the art. Crook’s art here was exceptional, from the horrific sequence in the airport to the aforementioned scene with Johann to peering into the tank, all the way to little things like Panya’s face when she greets Fenix or Iosif’s looks as he gleefully dances around Varvara. His character acting is tremendous.

    I feel like there is a lot of potential ground to cover here as far as character actions are concerned, but do you think it’s interesting that, in lieu of Johann who freaked out during The Long Death and got himself suspended, they used Giarocco, the agent who kind of kept things together during that debacle? I liked seeing her again. That was a nice touch, and it makes me wonder what role she’ll play. There is a lot going on here.

    Brian: The more I see of Crook’s work, the happier I am that he is the new main B.P.R.D. guy. If only Marvel and DC had the eye for artists that Mignola has, more books would look this great.

    To say a lot is going on here is almost an understatement. This really does feel like the place where everything starts coming together, and I needed to pause a few times throughout just to jog my memory about where we last left all these various characters. Giarocco is an interesting character to put front and center here, although I fear that her talking to her husband on the phone is a sign that she’s going to die, like how on Top Chef whenever a contestant calls home it usually means they’re toast.

    So where do you see this story going from here?

    David: It’s kind of hard to tell, but with five issues to work with and this building to the big changeover, I think pretty huge things. I think this is going to be when things get even darker. I think Zinco is going to blow up and we’ll see the return of Rasputin, I think Giarocco will go down, but I do think this is when Abe finally comes back as well. I think a lot of major dominoes will fall, with some good but most bad. Based on our talk with Scott Allie, that seems like the likely direction. What are your thoughts?

    Brian: Yeah, this seems to be to be the perfect time to move things along in a big way. I see Abe returning and at least a few of our favorites meeting up with Hellboy, if you catch my drift.

    I guess this is a good place to talk about the decision to go to an ongoing. We briefly touched on this last week, but how do you see this changing the B.P.R.D. landscape long term?

    David: I do want to say that I think this is where Hellboy is somehow gets brought back into the picture. They’ll be in the U.K. Shit is going wonky. Feels like the right time.

    I think things are going to get even worse and I think that it is entirely possible the foundation of the series is changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if after this, the B.P.R.D. is no longer like the one we know now. I could see them going from reactive to proactive. I could see them on the run. I could see all kinds of things. It’s really hard to tell, honestly. I feel like you might have insight given that you actually were aware of this change over. Do you have any guesses? I feel like there has to be a story based reason for changing the numbering for them to have done that.

    Brian: Insight? From me? I would hope you know me better than that.

    I think that, as has been hinted at a few times, the “Hell on Earth” story is beginning to focus itself and wind down, and so the story was naturally becoming more narrow. In addition, I think the last year or two has really been the coming out party for B.P.R.D., in terms of comics media coverage (us included, I guess), so maybe this is an attempt to capitalize on that a little bit. Personally, I’m of two minds about it – part of me welcomes the consistency of a monthly book and the ease of new fans jumping on, as opposed as appearing glazed over at the “B.P.R.D.” section of their local shop, utterly bewildered by the amount of #1s. But I also love the unpredictable nature of the various minis, and while the “main” story is the one that usually pleases me the most, I hope jaunts like “Exorcism!” don’t get shuffled out of the ongoing narrative. Does that make sense?

    Continued below

    David: Yeah it does, although I think we approached the question from two different angles. You are talking about the architecture and the nature of the story, I looked at the narrative itself. I think it will probably be the same except for different numbering. Either that or going forward we’re going to have a strict focus on stories like this one that kind of touch on all of the elements to keep parts moving forward. It’s really hard to tell. Just like this mini-series itself, the world of B.P.R.D. going forward is one of great uncertainty. But also, if this mini is any indication, one of great quality. So, for you, what would you give this mini? I feel like our conversation has been revitalized by this upheaval, so it is hard not to call it a success.

    Brian: This issue had so much to enjoy: old and new characters playing together, lots of forward progress with a fair dose of looking back, and some truly creepy shit. My only fear is that Mignola and co. are biting off a lot here; let’s hope they don’t choke on it. I’ll give this first issue an 8.0. You?

    David: Same score I was thinking. I’ll give it another 8.0, for an average of 8.0. A nice little step. Looking forward to what is next.

    Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy

    //TAGS | Mignolaversity

    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).


    David Harper

    David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).


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