“B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” is back and apparently so is Hellboy… Be warned, this is a spoiler heavy review. If you haven’t read the issue yet, go out and get it. There’s stuff in here you won’t want to experience secondhand.
Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Illustrated by Sebastián Fiumara
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
Hellboy is back on Earth, and the B.P.R.D. struggles to understand his unwillingness to hunt the demon threatening to turn the Earth into a literal Hell.
Mark Tweedale: Given the events of #5 in December, one could be forgiven for thinking this issue was going to be big… but surprisingly I came away from it with the overall impression that this was a rather quiet issue, which turned out to be kind of perfect for me.
“B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” is not just the continuation of “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth,” it’s also the continuation of “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible,” and that really came across in the first arc. Tonally, it lands somewhere in the middle of both those titles. Going into the second arc it’s pretty clear it’s also the continuation of “Hellboy in Hell,” which is radically different in tone to both “Hell on Earth” and “Dark and Terrible,” and yet it fits surprisingly well here.
Let’s face it, Hellboy has gone to Hell and gone through some shit. You don’t go through something like that and then come back to Earth and act like nothing has happened. He’s clearly still carrying Hell around with him. Bringing the “Hellboy in Hell” tone to “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” ultimately becomes a device to separate Hellboy from the other characters, sticking him on an island even in crowded scenes. This stuff, especially Fiumara’s first few pages, ended up being my favorite stuff in the issue.
Christopher Lewis: Fiumara’s first few pages were my favorite part of issue too. I loved his use of repeated panels with differing tone to show Hellboy’s and then the B.P.R.D.’s perspective regarding “the return.” Specifically, at the beginning he presented the team with shadowed faces and squiggly-lined dialogue, and in the middle of all this is Hellboy depicted in a well lit area and in perfect focus. This is Hellboy’s perspective of reality, and like you said he is definitely not OK after being in Hell.
Then the shift to the B.P.R.D.’s perspective occurs, and Fiumara shows Hellboy a little out of focus and the team is well lit and clear. This tonal shift is so drastic that it displays the impact of Hellboy’s return on team. They are jarred and not sure what to think of Hellboy’s behavior. The art tells the story here, so Fiumara really out did himself.
Mark: I was actually pretty surprised that in an issue that featured surprise pages from Mike Mignola (which were, as you’d expect, amazing), the following sequence with Fiumara’s pages ended up being the bit I liked the most.
Chris: Agreed, and don’t get me wrong, Mike Mignola’s pages were awesome. There was nothing better than the shock and amazement of opening this comic and seeing that the first page was drawn by Mignola. Especially since I thought he said he wasn’t going to draw comics anymore. Regardless, seeing his art and him drawing Hellboy again in comics was a phenomenal surprise.
Mark: Yeah, I opened this book with an audible gasp. Those opening pages from Mignola hang over the entire issue. I never thought I’d see Roger again except in flashbacks, and I never wanted to, but they pulled this moment off without trashing the goodbye to Roger in “The Universal Machine.”
After all, Hellboy left the B.P.R.D. because they put a bomb in Roger, and he didn’t know that Roger had died, so this moment sort of felt like those two characters saying goodbye to each other.
Chris: I was really happy with the Roger moment too. Keeping his reunion with Hellboy short and sweet was perfect to not step on Roger’s finale.Continued below
One thing that surprised me was finding out Hellboy had been living in that house since the end of “Hellboy in Hell.” Based on how ambiguous the ending was with those shapes, I had felt something more grandiose had happened to him. Honestly, learning he just stayed in the house feels very simple and kinda diminishes the mystery of “Hellboy in Hell’s” ending for me.
Mark: Interesting. I didn’t feel anything grandiose had happened, he’d simply felt at peace… able to rest at last. The opening felt perfect for me, like Hellboy had woken up from a dream to find Hell in an autumn state, the glowing shapes from the “Hellboy in Hell” #10 finale have become dull stone lying among the leaves.
It was great to see Sir Edward there and directly address the task Hellboy had yet to do. Again, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever see what Sir Edward attempted to do during “Hellboy in Hell.” (After “Koshchei the Deathless,” I’d certainly love to see Ben Stenbeck tackle Sir Edward’s latter years.)
Chris: A series called “Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder in Hell” would be a fun read if it ever came to fruition.
Mark: YES. Yes, it would.
Chris: Regarding the tasks, I was surprised to hear Grey say that the first of Hellboy’s remaining two tasks was something he tried to take on, but couldn’t as it always had to be Hellboy. I am curious if this first task is something that Hellboy is going to do now that he is back on Earth, or something that happened between the time Grey returned to Hellboy with Roger and Hellboy ending up in Roger’s coffin.
Mark: I assume the latter. It certainly seemed like his actions in “Hellboy in Hell” #10 could be considered the first act; he wiped out the ruling class of Hell completely.
Slightly off topic, but I have to mention Sebastián Fiumara’s art, especially when referencing Mignola’s work in “Hellboy in Hell.” There was a panel recreating a moment from “Hellboy in Hell” #8 and my jaw hit the floor when I saw it.
God, that panel is fantastic! This should come as no surprise to anyone that read “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible,” which frequently referenced other series, even modifying its art style to callback specific moments, but looking at Fiumara’s work here, I can’t help but feel how familiar he’s become with the Hellboy Universe over the last five years. It’s not that he draws it well, it’s that it feels incredibly natural.
Chris: Yeah, Fiumara nailed that panel. It was also nice to see him draw Abe again.
Jumping into the Abe part of the story, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the cave Maggie showed Abe in South Carolina has a connection to/possibly leading to the underground paradise shown in “Frankenstein Underground.” In 1889 Tefnut Trionus, the Queen of Heliopolis, prophesied that at the end of the world man could only survive underground, so the connection would make sense given what is happening in the world. However, the only kink in that theory is that Liz burned the hollow Earth back at the end of the “Plague of Frogs” cycle, so I am not sure if that paradise exists anymore.
Mark: Maybe, but Frankenstein’s paradise was both created and protected by Vril, so I think it’d be the one place in the hollow Earth that’d be OK. I have to agree, it definitely feels like we’re moving toward a “Frankenstein Underground” connection, and I’m really excited about that. I just loved all the Abe bits, especially the way his relationship with Maggie has grown.
I get the feeling though that Howards may go with Maggie to Hyperberum (which I’m guessing is Frank’s paradise in the hollow Earth). Gall Dennar has a connection with that underground world, and Howards feels a connection to these people and the way they live a more simple life.
This issue is juggling a lot of different plotlines, but it’s this stuff with Abe, Howards, and Maggie I’m probably most invested in at the moment. I kind of feel like I know where it’s going, yet the rug could be pulled out from under my feet at any moment.Continued below
Chris: I need to ponder your Hyperberum being the underground paradise theory. It would be another great connection if you’re right.
I am actually most invested in the B.P.R.D. plotline at the moment, and not because of Hellboy’s return. My focus is on Andrew Devon and his lack of leadership. Devon continues to surprise me (and not in a good way) and I feel if something isn’t done about him then he will be the catalyst that tears the team apart. In this issue his response to Hellboy rejecting to go talk to the cult by walking away angrily with fists clenched was deplorable. A good leader would have empathy to understand that Hellboy just got dug out of Roger’s coffin, give him some time, and try a different approach later.
It’s moments like this that I find myself missing Kate the most, because she would have handled that situation better.
Mark: Devon’s… frustrating, to say the least. While he can handle the academic side of his job, he really struggles with the human aspect. That’s not to say he can’t do it—certainly in ‘The Devil’s Engine’ he showed he was capable of empathy and even courageous sacrifice—but that he often neglects that aspect of the job, even to the point of being ignorant of that aspect even existing at times. I do hope Devon finds a way out of this hole he’s dug himself into, but I’m not optimistic.
While we’re on the topic of the leadership at the Bureau, I was glad to see Director Manning again. It’s been ages… I think the last time we saw him may have been in ‘King of Fear’ at the end of the “Plague of Frogs” cycle. I’d got to the point where I thought he might’ve died off-panel (though let’s face it, he doesn’t look far off death). Manning hasn’t had much of presence in the comics since the ’90s, but I think the dialogue between him and Hellboy did a good job of showing that these two had known each other for a long time. I mean, he’d been the director of field operations since 1982, and B.P.R.D. director since 2002, and before all that he’d have been a field agent. It was scenes like this that brought home how cut off from everything Hellboy has been, and how much things have gone to hell in the meantime.
Chris: Right on. Hellboy really has no idea how bad it is. I think if he and the B.P.R.D. had any idea that Varvara was manipulating people, eating human souls, and working with Nazis, it might motivate Hellboy to get out into the field. His humanity is one of his greatest strengths.
Mark: Agreed. Speaking of Varvara, it was pretty damn depressing to see the people that were escaping New York through the tunnels from “End of Days” show up again here… dead. I mean, it fits—the New York plotline has always been pretty grim—but after following Evelyn McDonald since the end of “King of Fear,” it hits hard seeing that she’s killed herself. The last human element left in New York is gone. It echoes the Prospect Park sequence in “Reign of the Black Flame,” but while both are horrific, the Prospect Park sequence was very human, whereas this Grand Central Terminal sequence is callous, especially when Varvara’s referring to these people as vermin. This sequence is determined to strip the corpses of their humanity.
Chris: I always wondered what had happened to the Zinco people, and while I was glad to see that plotline wrapped up, I was also shocked by the end result. Additionally, I have to say that I found the moment when we first saw Evelyn McDonald to be chilling as only her silhouette was shown and the step ladder she used to hang herself was in clear view.
Let’s grade this one. I am going to give it a 8.75. Fiumara and Mignola’s art is the highlight of this issue. Fiumara’s use of artist techniques at the beginning to show Hellboy’s and then the B.P.R.D.’s perspective was outstanding, seeing Mignola draw comics again was amazing, and I was happy to see so many great plot moments that closed loose ends and also connected to the many other Mignolaverse series. Overall, this issue was satisfying on so many levels that I wish I could read it again for the first time. After the rough beginning to “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know,” this issue really has been a breath of fresh air.Continued below
Mark: I wouldn’t say so much a breath of fresh air as a chilling autumn wind kicking up leaves and memories. Hellboy’s back, but this isn’t a happy issue, and I was grateful that they gave real weight to this reveal, and they really took their time with it too. There’s literally pages of distance between Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., not just a few panels. In an issue that had so much ground to cover, and was so densely packed, it was a smart move to go slow at the beginning. There’s a dreamlike quality to both Mignola’s and Fiumara’s openings.
Yes, the art is the highlight of the issue for me too, but that’s because the script gave it the space to take the reins. The writing really shone for me, especially as it bridges the tones of three different series. There’s a lot to bring together. I’m giving this a 9.
Final verdict: 8.9 – “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” is quite simply unmissable.