B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others: Three stories of regular B.R.P.D. agents facing the supernatural

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others by Mike Mignola and othersB.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Scott Allie (writer), Jason Latour (art), Max Fiumara (art), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

This volume collects three stories: “The Pickens County Horror,” “The Transformation of J. H. O’Donnell,” and “The Abyss of Time.” Liz is still missing and Abe Sapien is near death, so there are more regular B.P.R.D. recruits being sent out alone to deal with reports of the unnatural. That’s when two agents get called to Pickens County, a place that seems to be inhabited by vampires and perhaps other creatures. One of the agents, Vaughan, tells his partner about the time he went out on a mission with Hellboy and nothing happened. They are beginning to think this is another case with nothing to show. As they explore the countryside they discuss the tragedies occurring throughout the world as hell on earth seems to be a better and better description of the world. A mysterious fog engulfs them, and the story takes a surprising turn as Vaughan passes out just after losing contact with his partner. Vaughan wakes to meet a strange man with an even stranger story to tell. The connection between current events of the world and his story about Vampires is intriguing, to say the least. This short story has some horrific elements, as we would expect, but the ending comes suddenly and is not quite a satisfying as the buildup to it. But the art by Jason Latour is fantastic.

In “The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell,” we get a very unique art style by Max Fiumara. I’m not a big fan of this approach; it’s too different from the other artists usually engaged to work on stories in the Hellboy Universe. In this tale, we are given a story told by one B.P.R.D. employee to a field agent as they walk around the B.P.R.D. building. The story is about Hellboy and takes place in 1987. The story involves the strange man — J.H. O’Donnell — who lives and is taken care of at the B.P.R.D. facility. O’Donnell, a professor, was called in by the B.P.R.D. in 1987 to go on this mission with Hellboy to examine a unique, mystical library. Hellboy, bored by O’Donnell’s reading in the library, which is not as fruitful as O’Donnell had hoped, falls asleep, so he’s not on hand when O’Donnell discovers a second, more important mystical library that secretly connects to the first, less interesting library. In the newly discovered secret library, O’Donnell meets, as he later reports, some of the major occultists from history. Meanwhile, Hellboy has his own battle to contend with. The story is vague and confusing in the best possible way, as it’s a story told second- or third-hand by an employee who heard O’Donnell’s story from someone else within the agency who supposedly talked with O’Donnell. I think this story is more satisfying than the first story in the collection, but perhaps that’s because I’ve come to like O’Donnell’s character, and I enjoyed this look into his past that explains his eccentricities. So, this story will really appeal to other long-time fans of the B.P.R.D.

The third story, “The Abyss of Time,” takes place in Chicago, and a street kid named Scottie leads some B.P.R.D. agents down to the bottom of an old building. Scottie won’t pass a certain point, so he takes off, leaving the agents to decide whether to open the door he’s led them to. Their radios are no longer working, the signal’s not able to reach the outside, so that’s never a good sign in a story such as this one. They discover what was once a Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra temple. The three agents explore and find pictures of occultists, artifacts, and strange writings on the walls. But one agent, perhaps unwisely, picks up one particular artifact that will prove to be an important one in this and coming B.P.R.D. stories. This artifact triggers a mystical experience for the agent, and we are taken along with him as he lives another life in another time, perhaps in a different world, long ago. This is a great, five-star story that really shows the Hellboy universe at its best. The first two stories are three- to four-star stories, so I give this collection as a whole four stars. The first two stories are not necessary to the overall B.P.R.D. grand tale, but this third story will have importance in the coming volumes, so it’s best not to miss that one.

 


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BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Read Brad's series on HOW TO READ COMICS.

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