In “B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Russia” #1, the B.P.R.D. team (consisting of Kate and Johann) have been called to Russia for a meeting with the Russian Occult Bureau, we assume to help with the disappearance and assumed death of a Russian team on an exploratory mission. Meanwhile, Devon searches for the young psychic, Fenix, that shot Abe Sapien. Abe Sapien remains in a coma, though we’re led to believe here that he is likely never to come out of it and that knowledge is taking a significant toll on Kate.
The writing by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, like all BPRD and Hellboy stories I’ve experienced, is smart and deliberately unfussy. Every scene has purpose and focus and everything moves along from a plotting standpoint without skimping on character moments. Additionally, as someone with some professional experience working with and doing business with Russians, I thought Mignola and Arcudi did a particularly good job with the American/Russian elements. They well highlight some of the cultural differences that arise when working together and the difficulty there can be in translation, both literal and implied.
This first issue does not work quite as well for new readers as some other BPRD/Hellboy first issues I’ve read, in that I felt I was missing something in the final reveal. However, it still functions well enough as the opening chapter thanks to a quick two paragraphs that bring readers up to speed. Other companies could learn about new reader friendliness by watching how Dark Horse handles BPRD and Hellboy titles. Though this is listed as “number 82 in a series” inside, the number one (of five) on the cover and the “story thus far” paragraph makes it so much easier to jump on board than if this were simply numbered 82.
The art by Tyler Crook is wonderfully realistic, despite the fantasy elements, which anchors the book in an interesting way. All the humans look very realistically human. The portrayal of Kate Corrigan feels particularly refreshing in her believable non-supermodel execution and well-chosen clothing. Those characters that are not human feel well-designed and equally realistic and fitting to the world. The storytelling is fluid, natural, and never confusing. The characters are wonderfully consistent throughout. Dave Stewart’s colors are, as always, perfectly on point, a subtle and grim palette that well fits the tone and location of the story.
Despite everything coming together very nicely in this issue, it didn’t quite have a wow factor for me that made it the must-read I wanted it to be. Perhaps the problem is, as I mentioned above, that the final reveal was lost on me. If there was something especially significant about that reveal, maybe it would have been enough to give this story the slight punch I felt was missing. On the whole though, a solid well-done comic book, and a nice start to a new arc for B.P.R.D.