Mike Mignola and John Arcudi spin a great apocalyptic tale; in fact they are so good at it that BPRD Hell on Earth The Return of the Master (a title worthy of Mark Hodder) overcomes any apocalypse fatigue you may have. As a horror story fan I have to say Mike and John create a great mood of foreboding in this volume foreshadowing a horrible event on the horizon. I am an on again off again reader of BPRD and have only passing familiarity with some of the characters and I'd say this is a bad place to start but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its got me hooked back into the story. Hell on Earth pulles storylines from the early volumes of Hellboy and talks about recent events like the horrors that affected the UK, Canada and lead to the shooting of favorite Abe Sapien and the suspension of another long term BPRD agent.
This volume in the long running story of the B.P.R.D fight against the supernatural brings back a long though defeated antagonist who has a real desire to bring hell to earth. The all too mortal agents sent to Scotland to deal with the threat have no clue of the magnitude of the danger to them. The story brings in elements of the world created by Mike and John Arcudi from as far away as the old Soviet Union and from stories dating back to the days of World War Two. Though I have read the series sparingly their handling of the history is so deft that I never really felt that lost or out of the loop.
This story has a newbie coming into the department, one who gives a different perspective on the agency. She is a percognitive and has disturbing visions of a blood soaked future. Given her fresh eyes on the story as well as the perspectives of the leader of the Russian paranormal agency, the veteran BPRD agent Johann as well as the mortal operatives I could really see just how serious the situation is. Without the essentially super powered heavy hitters of the agency things look terrifying bleak given the events in Return of the Master. It ends I warn you on a cliffhanger and I need to see the next issue now. NOW I say.
John Arcudi is a perfect artist for this story and he has been Mike's creative companion on so much of this series he really has defined the world visually. His characters are very human looking blemishes and all, this is not the supermodel/bodybuilder kind of books. The people look like people and their expression through his art give gravity to the storylines. This time out he gets to create giants and ogres and mythological things left best unnamed lest they be summoned. Some of the things in this story get decisively into the Kaiju range of things. If you are like me and enjoy seeing people trying to contend with situations far beyond their pay grade this is one you need to get. The sketchbook alone that accompanies the five issues collected in the volume is worth having as a springboard for creativity.