I honestly didn’t think we’d ever get to this point, but the end of the Mignolavese appears to be nigh. What with the final issue of “Hellboy in Hell” arriving and all of the hoopla that generated due to its status as the “last” story involving the character and the buildup towards the end of “B.P.R.D.” that kicks off here. Mike Mignola and longtime co-writer John Arcudi pull out a lot of stops here to make good on this volume’s subtitle. We get Johann flexing his newfound power with the Sledgehammer armor just in time for one of the Ogdru Jahad to land in Kansas. While he and Kate team up to take on that dragon, its arrival sends Fenix into a catatonic shock. That’s because she’s keyed into the psychic link it shares with one of the B.P.R.D.’s deadliest foes, the Black Flame. His stronghold in New York would appear to be impregnable, were it not for the sudden appearance of a member from a certain organization that hasn’t been heard from since “The Garden of Souls” (vol. 7 of the original series). On top of all this, Iosif in Russia is feeling the strain of it all and contemplates doing something spectacularly ill-advised with his little vampire demon prisoner.
Yeah, there’s a lot going on in this volume and it makes for satisfying buildup. Most of the time. Mignola and Arcudi, along with artist Laurence Campbell really do let you know that things are escalating towards a final battle and the story has a lot of narrative and momentum as a result. Yet there are some things that are glossed over, such as the return of that group from “The Garden of Souls” and the magical techniques that are used to interfere with the Black Flame, and come off as storytelling deus ex machinas rather than the cool concepts the writers clearly felt they were delivering. Also, while Campbell is great with delivering a creepy mood and some killer visuals to drive it home, he’s less successful in depicting compelling hand-to-hand fighting. Or maybe it was just a mistake to have the showdown with the Black Flame hinge on the big guy duking it out with Liz and Johann. If this is his final appearance in this series, then he goes out as he has lived: As a character who is as powerful as he is personality-free.
“End of Days” does get me fired up for the end of the series, even with the “no good can come of this” business between Iosif and Varvarra at its close. The title’s real challenge will be in seeing if its momentum is sustained after the next volume appears to be exorcism-related filler. I can understand if Mignola, Arcudi, and Campbell need time to prepare for their climactic storyline, but at this moment I’m wondering if they could’ve found a better way to do it.