In Hell on Earth communities around the planet from large cities to small villages are destroyed by fearsome monsters, either those taking control of the population or giant creatures emerging from beneath the surface. Both were seen in Gods and Monsters, during which it was also mentioned that B.P.R.D. Chief Kate Corrigan was due in Russia, and that unfolds here.

Mike Mignola and John Arcudi move the main story forward, but via what starts as an updated form of Cold War thriller, with clever touches such as Russia’s equivalent of the B.P.R.D. knowing all about their earlier cases due to Wikileaks. Russia is experiencing the same type of disturbances as elsewhere on the planet, but has been more secretive about what’s going on, and they’re confident Johann is the solution to their particular infestation. He’s been sparingly used since the Hell on Earth relaunch, but he’s a fascinating character for always being unknowable, any emotion or reactions hidden by his form and behind his simple inflated head.

Because Guy Davis so defined B.P.R.D. any change of artist was going to be controversial, but Tyler Crook’s work on Russia is excellent, covering all the storytelling bases from quiet reflection to frenetic action. He relies heavily on the style Davis established, but exploits it well, and there are glimpses toward the end of Crook’s own inclinations sneaking through, especially on the faces. His designs are suitably sinister, which is needed for the creation of a major new character in Russia. Is he a different form of monster, or as pleasant and keen to cut through red tape as he seems?

While Kate and Johann are in Russia, Mignola and Arcudi show brief glimpses of other core cast members setting up some of what follows in The Devil’s Engine and the Long Death. The one featuring Abe Sapien seems cheap considering how ‘Monsters’ ended, but the teasing cameos otherwise seal a thrilling story setting up much for the future.

Closing strip ‘An Unmarked Grave’ is brief, a coda to the Hellboy series, and very sad in tone, which is excellently conveyed by Duncan Fegredo who makes the most of the foggy graveyard setting. The other purpose is to end Kate’s relationship. It’s hardly been a major feature, but the conclusion seems very arbitrary, although that’ll depend on what follows.

This is collected with the two previous Hell on Earth volumes in the bulkier B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth 1.