Like any comic book enthusiast worth his salt, I enjoy Mike Mignola's Hellboy stories and, by extension, his B.P.R.D. tales. Not long ago, I collected them regularly as well, but it got to a strange point where every time I read a new issue, I couldn't remember what had happened previously and it started becoming sort of forgettable each time out, so I thought I'd let it go for a while. Maybe it reads a lot better in trade form, but it wasn't clicking for me like it used to. Today, though, I saw my favorite guy, the bubbleheaded spirit Johann Kraus, on the cover of B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth – The Long Death #1 of 3. Seeing as how it was a #1, even though these Mignola series are in perennial mini-arc numbers like that, I figured it might be worth a flip through to see what's what.
Then I saw some truly freaky nightmare stuff happening to Mr. Kraus, and I thought to myself 'well, hell. I gotta buy this.'
I'm not sure what's been going on lately, but it's safe to assume 'creepy monsters being creepy,' and there's plenty of that in this issue. Kraus, who is a disembodied ectoplasmic projection in a containment suit, has a horrible nightmare of disturbingly ugly and fleshy monster proportions erupting out of his suit. When he wakes up, his major revelation is "I was sleeping!" Which is amusing when he tries to tell other people. It's a significant development because, normally, disembodied ectoplasmic projections don't sleep. As an academic, he is obviously more fascinated with sleeping than he is with the freaky dreamscape.
Soon after, he's sent on a mission to British Columbia to investigate disappearances with a platoon of troops, since apparently, Abe Sapien's in a coma and Liz Sherman is in hiding, and something awful's apparently happened to Ben Daimio – Wikipedia says he's a were-jaguar now. … Of course he is. The B.P.R.D. now seems to be down to just Kraus and the half-zombie wheelchair crone in charge who I dimly recall but whose name and history I forget. I'm sure it involved an old folk tale and skeevy monsters.
On the way there, we see Kraus talking to a soldier named Giarocco, who is a combination of a doting young mother and, as we see at the end of the issue, an unbelievable badass. Kraus goes off to futz around with the cold trail of Abe Sapien's earlier involvement with the area, while she watches over the platoon, which promptly gets attacked in their sleep by a superfreaky red monster who suddenly, instantly and copiously turns the cabin into a gunfire-soaked bloodbath of extremely gory proportions. We're talking crazy blobs of eyeballs and flailing intestines here. Absolutely gruesome, but stunningly effective, making Giarocco's hard-boiled stand against the thing that much more powerful.
Mignola and co-writer John Arcudi have certainly recaptured my attention with the explosive action and madness of this issue, and I might have to backtrack to figure out what's been going on of late. Kraus is his usual intellectual yet dopey self, but obviously Something Is Up. Artist James Harren does an excellent job of capturing the familiar old Mignola artistic style without aping it directly – in fact, he's throwing in a much different sort of flair with the psycho monster eyeball action in the nightmare sequence and the heavily-detailed carnage.
Shit's going down in the Mignolaverse. Hellboy's dead (he's still dead, right?) and most of the B.P.R.D.is down and out. And I'm back on board to find out what's next.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.3/10