ADVANCE REVIEW! B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death #3 will go on sale Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
The first two issues of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death were all about the people. Mignola and Arcudi were spending time exploring the expendables, the normally nameless redshirts that are the first to get skewered and eaten when the monster appears. Time was spent exploring their fears, their lives, their hopes.
This final issue is all about the monsters.
Having been essentially defeated by the were-jaguar, Johann Krauss and his B.P.R.D. field team can only pin their hopes on another monster. Krauss, who as usual has been keeping too many secrets and showing too little trust in his field team, knows that this incarnation of the Wendigo is not a kill-crazed hunter as usual, but a decent-hearted family man who has been inflicted by the curse. This Wendigo has refused to kill, which is the only way to free oneself of the curse. Krauss hopes to draw the Wendigo into combat with the were-jaguar and hopefully put an end to this sad chapter.
For the entire series, The Long Death has been a melancholy piece. There are no great heroics here, no redeeming battles; just failure and its consequences. Mignola and Arcudi have done excellent work digging into the dynamics of what humans must feel like working along something like Johann Krauss. One of my favorite moments of issue three is two agents sitting in the dirt discussing the afterlife and how the mere presence of Johann Krauss is reassuring; he is walking proof that death is not the end.
Little scenes like this remind me of Shakespeare's Henry V, where we get to hear the foot soldiers discussing the morality of their campaign, and wonder if their souls can be at risk for following their duty. Or if doing bad things in a noble cause can be forgiven.
I have been impressed with James Harren's art since issue one, and in this final issue he really gets to let loose. The yeti vs. were-jaguar battle is spectacular. I love how he gives both of the monsters distinct personalities even in the midst of a pitched battle. And the guy can draw serious monsters. I don't know if he is working off of Mignola character designs or not, but both his yeti and his were-jaguar are terrifying, all gangly limbs and gapping maws. Seeing his art here makes me eager to see what he can do with Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast when he takes over for Becky Cloonan at issue #4
King of Colors Dave Stewart spins Harren's art into something mythical during the battle. He makes his own yin-yang of violence with the white Wendigo against the red were-jaguar. There are some very nice subtleties going on, like when the Wendigo's pure white flesh takes on a pinkish hue when he bites down on the were-jaguar, as if absorbing some of its rage.
I have been enjoying these little B.P.R.D. interludes in the Hell on Earth series. I know that Dark Horse is building up for the Big Event that is coming soon and that these stories amount to little more than appetizers. But as an appetizer, The Long Death is completely delicious and utterly filling.
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.