Comic Picks By The Glick

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth vol. 6: The Return of the Master

August 29, 2013

There were a lot of great moments in “Hellboy:  The Storm and The Fury,” and one of my favorites was a brief bit near the end of the second half.  It was all of two panels, as we saw images of Abe, Liz and Roger with narration indicating that it was going to be up to them to use the time Hellboy was buying here to ensure that the spirit of man will survive into the next world.  Make no mistake, in the world of “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D” the apocalypse is at hand and there’s no turning back the clock to make things all better.  I may have been hoping that was the case even after this series adopted the “Hell on Earth” subtitle, but after reading this volume the weight behind that moment becomes particularly clear.

Things start off with the survivor from the raid at the end of “Russia” arriving and raising hell in Scotland.  A B.P.R.D. team is dispatched to deal with that trouble while Kate winds up dealing with multiple problems on the homefront.  Abe’s still in a coma, Devon has arrived at the base with Fenix and the latter is NOT fitting in with the crew, and Kate herself is negotiating with the Zinco corporation to see if they’d be willing to utilize some of their new drugs to help re-grow Johann’s old body.  Of all of these plots, Abe’s situation is the only one to not take a turn for the worse and that’s because he’s still in his coma at the end of the volume!

Described like that, it may sound like this volume is a depressing read, but that’s not really the case.  Mike Mignola and John Arcudi keep the action moving at an impressive pace from the opening monster attack in Scotland, to the worldwide outbreak of supernatural terror at the end.  It’s not thrown at the reader full-bore from start to finish as there are numerous dialogue-driven sequences where important revelations and character developments are teased out.  The slow revelation of who Lazar really is, Nichayko’s monologues with the captive vampire girl, Fenix’s antagonism with everyone around her and Panya specifically, Zinco’s maneuvering to get Johann’s body…

Okay that last one doesn’t really thrill as much.  While I realize that the B.P.R.D. hasn’t had enough direct dealings with the company to realize that they are Evil (yes, the capitalization is intentional), but it has been obvious to us ever since they were introduced that it doesn’t make the acceptance of this plot point any easier.  I can only hope that once they find out what has been done with Johann’s body that this will lead into a full-on assault against the company.

Even with this issue, this volume advances the main plot significantly and serves as a real gamechanger with the return of one of the series’ most notable villains and the “things always get worse” climax.  There’s also the return of another villain… but even though the means of his resurgence and appearance are impressive, he hasn’t really done a whole lot in this series beyond being either a means to bigger plans or a veritable font of exposition.  Maybe this latest makeover will represent a change.  I would’ve loved to have seen more here, except that things end rather abruptly with the arrival of the calvary and a sketchbook.  The fact that there is a sketchbook doesn’t really bother me -- it’s full of great designs and commentary from artist Tyler Crook and others -- but it’s the exact same problem I had when I was reading “Incorruptible” and “Irredeemable.”  All of the extra pages at the end have you thinking that there’s more of the story here than there actually is.

At least we know that the next volume will be arriving in the not too distant future of January.  That’s a good thing as “The Return of the Master” has the series firing on all cylinders and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the end of the world as the B.P.R.D. knows it.

Jason Glick

(Of course, it was kind of odd that the image in “The Storm and The Fury” only showed those three.  One is in a coma, Liz likely wishes she was after this volume and Roger is dead.  Though I took it to mean that they represent the B.P.R.D. in this fight… none of them are actually affiliated with the group right now.  It could be a symbolic gesture, or maybe Fegredo really wanted to draw Roger and Mignola obliged him, or foreshadowing that the homunculus isn’t as dead as we had thought.  Also, the solicitation text for Abe’s solo series indicates that he’s currently on the run, and there’s all this talk about him playing an important role in the ongoing apocalypse here.  You know, this bit of foreshadowing is more troubling than reassuring now that I think about it.

Oh, and if anyone was expecting any of the setup from “The Pickens County Horror and Others” to be paid off here?  Just keep waiting.)

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