B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know – Ragna Rok

Writer / Artist
B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know – Ragna Rok
B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know Ragna Rok review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50670-814-0
  • Volume No.: 3
  • Release date: 2019
  • UPC: 9781506708140
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Horror

When B.P.R.D began, the agents investigating the paranormal inhabited a world only removed from our own via some advanced technology and a few supernatural intrusions, one of whom was Hellboy. Over numerous stories, though, the planet has been devastated, first by Lovercraftian monsters, and latterly by invading demons from Hell. Ragna Rok brings the entire series to a close, and indeed the entire Hellboy saga to a close. For real this time.

Writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie open with a scene nicely drawn by Christopher Mitten explaining how it was a demon came to inhabit Varvara in the late 19th century, and who she was beforehand. It’s seemingly a rather random process, but may tie into a series Mignola has set in the past as several other moments or characters are referenced here. If not, it’s an early example of a problem blighting the final chapters.

At the end of Hell on Earth it took almost everything the B.P.R.D. had to beat one enormous monster. Another half dozen have now manifested around the Earth’s surface, and what remains of humanity is being advised to shelter underground. After that it boils down to Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien and Hellboy to see if they can save what’s left of Earth as we know it. It was underlined in Pandemonium that Mignola and his collaborators have no sentimentality when it comes to well-developed characters, which has been the case throughout the series, so there’s a gradual diminishing of the main cast. Is that better than remaining for what’s to come?

Does it need said again that between them artist Laurence Campbell and colourist Dave Stewart deliver magnificent looking devastation? The essential desperation and horror is nailed on page after page, and it’s also nice to see Mignola drawing the final dozen or so pages bringing his entire universe to an end.

However, as the finish to twenty years worth of continuity Ragna Rok disappoints. Cheery was never on the agenda, but that’s not the problem. The plot largely works as a culmination of everything Mignola’s been building towards (with one major exception noted below), but readers must join too many dots themselves. For instance, Hellboy’s taciturn personality isn’t ever properly explained. It could be interpreted as someone with the weight of the world on their shoulders finally accepting there’s no way of avoiding what’s been pre-ordained, but if so it should have been clarified because as characterised since his return he’s a sulky grump. The resolution of prophecies concerning Abe is more satisfying, although again far from clearly laid out. Other such moments occur, and since they didn’t when John Arcudi was collaborating with Mignola, suspicion falls on Scott Allie’s participation, although emotional response isn’t among Campbell’s artistic strengths. The actual resolution is also far too simple after the prolonged set-up. You don’t want spoilers, but, really? That’s all it takes? The afterthought explanation of why it was that simple is unconvincing.

Since The Devil You Know began it’s been plotted as an ever-escalating series of disasters and setbacks, essentially a war that can’t be won, which continues over the better opening chapters where some hope still remains, however slim. And as problematical as the ending is, it’s still the culmination of monumental ambition from largely superior creators, so Ragna Rok isn’t bad, just not as good as most who’ve followed the B.P.R.D. from the start will want it to be.

The entire saga is collected in hardcover and paperback as The Devil You Know, and new stories of earlier times appear in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.