B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth 5

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth 5
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 5 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - ‎ 978-1-50672-432-4
  • Volume No.: 5
  • Release date: 2019
  • UPC: 9781506724324
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Action Thriller, Horror

The publication order of the B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth trades doesn’t entirely match the content of these bulkier collections, but shifting the order allows for a far smoother concentration on the bigger picture as Hell on Earth winds to a close. Co-writer John Arcudi’s introduction supplies the perspective of just what a ride it’s been, fulsome in his praise of the artists who’ve accompanied him and Mike Mignola on their journey.

As that journey ends, the key B.P.R.D. member proves to be disembodied ghost Johann Kraus who undergoes yet another transformation early on, now looking not far removed from the Iron Giant. It’s against a background of the monsters now actively targeting the B.P.R.D. premises and the emergence of something even more terrifying, seen on Laurence Campbell’s sample spread.

Hell on Earth 5 is a visual treat, but then that applies to almost any volume with the B.P.R.D. title. Campbell is the star turn, illustrating all of the final ten chapters, where the usual tension on which the series thrives is accompanied by widescreen action that nonetheless allows plenty of time for small character touches. These aren’t always Campbell’s strength, but he brings home the emotional impact phenomenally well here, and given the apocalypse is heading toward Colorado you’d surely want Campbell to draw it. That’s not to slight Peter Snejbjerg and Julián Totino Tedesco, artists on the two shorter stories originally collected in paperback as Metamorphosis. Both are near flawless storytellers, and deliver a great blend of drama and action. When considering the art, the massive contribution made by colourist Dave Stewart must also be noted. He creates atmosphere so subtly that it’ll likely pass you by, but when he wants readers to notice something there’s no mistaking where the eye is led.

End of Days and Cometh the Hour were the paperbacks originally collecting the main story, here supplemented by more process material, and although split into two books, they essentially form one continuous ten chapter finale. It’s good until the final chapters, when readers may feel the arrival of new characters hasn’t been well enough foreshadowed. Their presence also reduces the B.P.R.D. largely to bit players. Given the series themes it’s perhaps more realistic that threats arise beyond humanity’s capacity to cope with, but it’s also disappointing that only the single B.P.R.D. member eventually makes a difference.

Balanced against the desperate battle and the tragedy that plays out, though, it could be the actual ending will please more people than it disappoints. As a sequence overall Hell on Earth is monstrously ambitious and a massive success. Mignola’s imagination combined with Arcudi’s additional input results in a never predictable series that thrills, chills and astonishes. Would that there were more like it.

The B.P.R.D. saga wraps up as The Devil You Know.