“B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell” is an action-packed horror adventure. A lost mission from Hellboy’s past comes back to haunt the Bureau of Paranormal Research And Defense. What unearthly secrets will they uncover now during their latest investigation?
Readers will be laughing out loud as soon as they read the hilarious opening pages if this comic with a surprising look at how randomly normal B.P.R.D. is. Mike Mignola and Scott Allie cleverly turn the secret organization into an office/workplace comedy, showcasing the office chitchat and water-cooler talk of protagonists Pauline and Nichols. These characters go on about their typical day, gossiping about who’s getting the promotion and their annoyance at the menial tasks of their jobs — but when the storyline starts to turn towards the occult and supernatural, the creative juices really start flowing.
Though the story element is told in flashback, there is a little bit of suspense taken away. Based on the title alone, readers already know the end result of J.H. O’Donnell’s transformation. Right away, readers realize something terrible is going to happen, foreseeing the inevitable conclusion. O’Donnell, the expert language consultant at B.P.R.D., will be driven into madness and lose his mind to insanity; no surprise there. The real question readers have to ask themselves is how it’s going to happen.
Mignola and Allie recognize the problem of the flashback technique and find a smart solution with a focus on constructing the sadness and tragedy of the event. This is a story within a story where all the facts are half there because no one is really sure what exactly happened. Readers are given two points of view from O’Donnell and Hellboy, but they don’t share the same information. Hellboy doesn’t know how the events occurred because he wasn’t in the same room with O’Donnell. To add more questions to the narrative, O’Donnell’s fragmented timeline comes from a fractured mind of a lunatic. Ironically, O’Donnell has a prominent teaching career outside of the B.P.R.D., which he is going to eventually lose because of the mission.
Artist Max Fiumara puts back the missing element of suspense in his illustrations. At first, the presentation of the monsters is slowly built-up as if Fiumara is holding back. Readers are going to be just anxiously waiting to find out who are the people underneath the black cloaks. Finally letting loose, Fiumara gives the kind of terrifying imagery that could have only come from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft.
“B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O’ Donnell” is a tragic tale about the obsessive quest for the ultimate knowledge. In one of his previous missions, Hellboy and Professor O’Donnell entered the secret library of a fallen necromancer. Upon opening the necromancer’s books, O’Donnell saw something he truly wished he didn’t. Now readers will find out what his eyes exactly witnessed in this supernatural adventure.