Plague of Frogs 4 brings the first tranche of B.P.R.D. stories to a close. The series started with hesitant solo steps for Hellboy’s back-up cast, and gradually develops into something with its own mythology via the addition of new characters and purposeful investigations. Here it comes to a pause with what might otherwise be termed an apocalypse were it not for the fact that far worse follows in Hell on Earth. This combines what originally saw print in paperback as The Warning, The Black Goddess and King of Fear.

More so than usual they form a continued story bringing B.P.R.D. members to a crisis, especially Liz Sherman. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi weave their pulp adventurer Lobster Johnston into the continuity via recurring menace Memnan Saa who battled him in the 1940s as Martin Saa. Saa in hindsight is a far more interesting creation than might at first be assumed, not least because he’s aware of the bigger picture the B.P.R.D. as yet know nothing about, and as he reveals his background and purpose the seeds of Hell on Earth are sown.

The superlative art of Guy Davis achieved the recognition of an Eisner Award during this sequence, and it’s well earned. With Johann having no facial features he’s characterised by gesture and posture, whereas the entirely the opposite is required for Panya, confined to a bed. His designs for Memnan Saa both past and present are extremely creepy, and when some expansive action moments are required he delivers them also. He really is an amazing all-rounder.

While investigating the mysterious re-emergence of Lobster Johnson and the breeding places of the frog creatures, the B.P.R.D. uncover an even more terrifying threat, and the conceptual density of the series is once again inflated. Everything is resolved very satisfactorily in story terms, if not for the B.P.R.D. themselves, who undergo quite the transformative dark night of the soul before the end. It’s another horror masterclass.

As ever, these large collections end with a generous selection of process pages as the creators explain their thoughts and their designs. In this format B.P.R.D. continues with Hell on Earth 1.