ADVANCE REVIEW! B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death #2 will go on sale Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
The second issue of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death keeps the story personal. There may be monsters roaming the woods — as there are in all good B.P.R.D. comics — but these monsters are personal demons, both literally and figuratively.
For Johann Kraus, his demon is called failure. In the first issue, Kraus abandoned his team to go on a hunt for his old friend Captain Daimio, who Kraus feared had transformed into the legendary flesh-eating wendigo. While he was out on his personal mission, his team was attacked by a mysterious red monster that decimated the troops and left only one alive.
Now, that sole survivor accuses Kraus of failure of leadership, and wants Kraus to hold himself accountable for those deaths. Maybe they would have all died anyways had Kraus been there, but that is a maybe they will never get to know.
Arcudi and Mignola are doing a good thing with this installment in the B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth miniseries. (I love that format, by the way. I love reading a series of themed miniseries over an ongoing book). By taking the series personal, they dig down deep and humanize all of these crazy supernatural heroes. It is hard to find the humanity in a faceless bag of ether inside a containment suit, and a surefire way is to show the consequences of his failure. After all, not every member of the B.P.R.D. is a mystical powerhouse. And these red shirts are the ones that take the fall.
Artist James Harren has gotten some attention lately after it was announced that he would take over for Becky Cloonan on the popular Conan the Barbarian ongoing series. Harren has a real eye for panel work and body language. I loved the opening scene, with Kraus slumped over in a chair in a hospital. When a character's face is a giant fishbowl it is hard to put expression into that, but Harren accomplishes just that through the slump of Kraus's shoulders I love the way Harren handles the horror as well. He adds some panels that are extreme close-ups that are almost in the Blair Witch Project vein showing wide, round eyes that are much more terrifying than anything those eyes could be looking at.
And Harren doesn't shy away from the gore. Anyone who doesn't want to see a moose get ripped to shreds, entrails strewn around the forest, then get back up and come charging, entrains and all, had better stay away from James Harren's work.
Me, I loved it.
Next issue finishes up The Long Death, and will bring us to the next mini-series, continuing the long march to the climax of Hellboy in Hell. At least I think so, based on the teaser material. Eventually the focus is going to have to swing away and the B.P.R.D. is going to have to tackle the big picture once again if they don't want to see the Earth entirely over run. But for the time being, I am really enjoying these quieter, more personal stories.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.