B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth vol. 15 — Cometh the Hour



I was awaiting this volume with one big expectation.  After all, Mike Mignola provided an end to “Hellboy’s” saga last year, and delivered the final proper volume of “Abe Sapien” leaving “B.P.R.D.” to be the only title to advance the ongoing story of the Mignolaverse.  With word that it would be coming to an end as well, I was expecting this to provide the finale for this vast, weird, and thrilling universe created by Mignola.  We’ve even been told what to expect:  With this age of man coming to an end it’s down to the members of the B.P.R.D. to fight for the best of mankind’s essence to pass over into the next age.  More than anything else, that’s what I wanted to see in this volume!

 

However, if you’ve been paying attention to the solicitations from Dark Horse you’ll know that there’s a new “B.P.R.D.” series called “The Devil You Know” starting in the next month or two.  It’s not a flashback or anything as the solicitation text made it clear that it’s following up on the aftermath of the story in this volume.  I was… disappointed to learn that as it meant “Cometh the Hour” wasn’t going to deliver on what I wanted to see here.

This is after vol. 13, the last proper volume of the series, left us with the Black Flame dead but one of the Ogdru Jahad still running loose on Earth.  No longer under anyone’s control, the Ogdru Jahad has been spewing dozens of Ogdru Hem by the hour as it slowly makes its way across America.  With the B.P.R.D.’s Colorado headquarters currently right in its path.  The only frontline in this struggle is the one provided by Liz Sherman and her flames along with Johann and the vril power he’s able to tap into via the Sledgehammer armor.  Meanwhile Director Nichayko follows the demon girl Varvarra through Hell in the hope that evil can be used to fight evil in this battle.

 

If we’re judging this by previous big “B.P.R.D.” storylines, “Cometh the Hour” actually compares pretty favorably.  There’s a genuine larger-than-life threat here in the form of one of the big bads of the Mignolaverse ruining everyone’s day.  We also get some impressive spectacle in the form of Liz and Johann using their powers to destroy the many Ogdru Hem on a scale we haven’t seen before.  There’s also some last-minute assistance from Hell that leads to a “Godzilla vs. Giant Men” situation as it’s called here.  It also draws upon other stories, in small ways from “Sledgehammer ‘44” and large ones via “Hellboy in Hell.”  If you haven’t read at least the first volume of “Hellboy in Hell” then the Nichayko/Varvarra sections may just confuse you.  Of course, if you’re this far into “B.P.R.D.” I realize that may be a non-issue.

 

We also get several deaths in this volume as well.  A couple of them have even been a part of the Mignolaverse since the days it just consisted of “Hellboy” miniseries.  The majority of them are handled pretty well, and I’m left with only one instance where I’m confused about the motivations of one of the characters.  One is clearly heroic in spite of the plot mechanics necessary to get to this character’s sacrifice.  Another is a well-executed take on a character being led up the garden path to the point where I thought this person might actually survive.  I was mistaken, which tells you how well this particular trope was executed.

 

By the end of it all there is, if not a sense of closure, at least the feeling that a page has been turned in the saga of the B.P.R.D.  What they gain in battle during this volume feels earned and a welcome change from the constant sense of impending crisis that has driven this series almost since day one.  The problem here is that “Cometh the Hour” never really transcends being just another “big” story in this series.  I mean, this was the FINAL arc for the ongoing series.  The main antagonist was the Ogdru Jahad — the legendary dragon that Hellboy’s right hand was meant to have kept sealed.  I should’ve felt gripped from the first page and exhausted but relieved after reaching the end.

 

That I didn’t feel these things is likely because this arc buts up against the creators’ limits as storytellers.  Mignola and Arcudi haven’t really gone in for a lot of fate-of-the-world stories in the course of writing “B.P.R.D.”  Even when things went to hell at the end of “King of Fear” we only saw the destruction in a couple pages with the effects of it being conveyed through the cast’s reaction to it.  That’s not a bad approach and most of the best moments in “Cometh the Hour” are the quiet ones where the characters are just talking to each other.  Even when they’re handled in a very sinister fashion in the case of Nichayko and Varvarra.

 

By comparison, the big stuff isn’t as interesting.  The missile strike against the Ogdru Jahad that kicks off the volume should’ve set the stakes dramatically high for the opening act.  Instead, it winds up feeling like a formality.  Something that needed to be done to establish its threat.  Also, while the threat of the Ogdru Jahad is clear the fight against it mostly comes down to Liz and Johann fighting faceless Ogdru Hem.  That they acknowledge the futility of their actions in the face of the numbers they’re fighting doesn’t make it any more exciting.  Then you have the subplot involving Johann coming to terms with the great power invested in his armor referred to as the Infinite.  You may think that accepting such power would involve more than an exclamation of “Oh my God!” but you’d be wrong here.

 

I do think that some of the shortcomings here are also the fault of the artist Laurence Campbell.  There are a few times where he’s able to capture the grand scale of the conflict at hand, but more often than not — such as in the opening missile attack — it looks fairly perfunctory.  Much like the writers here, Campbell is much better in the more intimate sequences as he gives them an appreciable atmosphere of doom.  The parts in Hell are particularly impressive in this regard and show that he can effectively channel Mignola’s style when the story calls for it.

 

There’s a moment towards the end where one character remarks on another’s heroic sacrifice, “You can see what’s coming.  You know you’re only delaying the inevitable.”  It lets you know that the end of the age of man is still coming, but has just been put on hold now.  I like the fact that it gives the B.P.R.D. a rare win.  Said win comes at the feeling that Mignola and Arcudi were just playing for time here.  With the ongoing title wrapping up they wanted to go out with a bang, just not too big of one to wrap up the Mignolaverse itself.  On that level, they succeeded.  Don’t expect the world from “Cometh the Hour” and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll come away more satisfied than I did.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com


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