Aah! Really Depressed Monsters! B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World Graphic Novel Review

scan of BPRD New World, cover art by Mike Mignola

In case you’re new to this site, you should know that I’m basically the Gene Shallit of comic book reviews. Given the chance, I’ll always go for a cornball pun for a title. This time around, after spending far too long trying to do some punning with B.P.R.D., I decided to instead reference a children’s cartoon from the 90s most people barely remember: Aah! Real Monsters. B.P.R.D. though is about as far from Aah! Real Monsters as a monster horror story can get. The characters are hardly animated, and there’s little or no comic relief, especially this time around.

Instead, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World is a strikingly mature look at the world of monster hunting. If you’ve read the early issues of Hellboy or have seen the films, you’ll recognize Abe Sapien and Johann Kraus. Liz Sherman is nowhere to be seen in this story, but she’ll come back in a big way later. This story does however feature the return of Ben Daimio, a military expert who turned into a were-jaguar and nearly ruined the B.P.R.D. before disappearing into the night (thank you Mike Mignola for making me aware of the were-jaguar myth!).

The story mostly revolves around Abe Sapien as he investigates recent unexplained deaths happening in small towns. While researching in the woods, he runs into Ben Daimio, who, contrary to past beliefs, is very much alive. Together they find a strange murky pond and Abe, putting his gills to good use, dives in and finds it’s full of corpses. As is the case with every B.P.R.D. investigation, it turns out there’s a horrible monster involved, but this time the monster’s power source isn’t what you’d expect.

B.P.R.D. is remarkable for the emotional depth it gives the characters. Most writers would create giant knockout fights between the heroes and the monsters, but Mike Mignola and John Arcudi (the co-writers) are more interested in showing how the characters deal with their private grief and how they come to grips with their failures.

In  a short bonus issue in this graphic novel, two B.P.R.D. agents are shown surveying the wreckage of what was once a busy portion of Seattle, destroyed in a giant monster battle shortly before. This was interesting for me to read especially, since I’ve spent some time in Seattle. In one panel, the famous Public Market Center sign is shown broken down in the ruins of the Pike Street Market, Seattle’s most recognizable place besides the Space Needle.

The artwork is supplied by Guy Davis, who has done much of the penciling and inking for the series. Guy Davis work is in a similar minimalist vein to Mike Mignola’s, but the way he draws faces is more expressive and thus perfectly fits a comic so heavy with emotions. The colors here are done by Dave Stewart, my favorite colorist. His use of colors serves to heighten the ambiance and to emphasize the gloomy moods of the characters instead of making the action splashier.

On a side note, this graphic novels has one of the longest titles out there. B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World–it’s even longer if you know that B.P.R.D. stands for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

Also, in the afterword to this book, Mike Mignola says that Bride of Frankenstein is his favorite monster movie! I love that film.

———-Take some time to check out my books A Rapturous Occasion and The Madness of Art: Short Stories!

If you like B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World, check out my review of B.P.R.D. The Warning.

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