At the top of the cover for “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #122 is a green band and the words, “Starting point for new readers!” That’s true, and I can see why they are pushing it as such. But at the same time, there’s also the little nagging feeling that the way Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Joe Querio did so was by ignoring the existing readership, in yet another story mostly divorced from the main cast.
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #122 is the first half of a two-part story set in Saitama, Japan. If you think about it, Japan’s an obvious location for a “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” story, what with all of the gigantic monsters stomping around and destroying everything in their wake. It makes sense to shift a bit more out of North America and see just what else is going on. After all, being able to shift locations at the drop of a hat has been one of the things that has worked for “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” so that we get a better sense of just how bad things have gotten in the world.
Here’s the problem, though: aside from a very small role for Kraus, “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #122 doesn’t star any of the regular cast. And that’s actually not a little problem, it’s a big problem. “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” is fun not just because of the crazy situations and mass destruction that’s going on across the planet; it works because of the cast that Mignola and Arcudi have assembled to fight it. Without their presence, it’s yet another stand-alone story. With the cast having been scattered and only recently getting pulled back together, is it too much to ask that we actually see some members of the B.P.R.D. in their own title? The end result is a title that purports to be a great place for new readers, but neglects to really introduce those new readers to almost the entire cast.
So what does work, here? Primarily it’s Querio’s art, a new addition to the “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” title. He’s a good artist, and the rampaging monster smashing Saitama looks wonderfully huge and hard to ignore. The looks of terror on the various people’s faces who encounter it (and all of the other strangeness) are great, and the old man surrounded by a sea of sketches all around him is a stunning moment that does so without any explosion, grotesqueness, or surprise. It’s quiet and startling, and that’s exactly how it should work. I’m definitely favor of Querio coming back for more; even the little touches like how he works with colorist Dave Stewart for that pale, electric, dangerous red sky grab my attention.
The absolute basic idea behind “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth” #122 isn’t bad, but why is it that Mignola and Arcudi couldn’t have done it with a bit more of the regular cast? Johann Kraus’ cameo aside (hopefully he’ll have a more substantial role next month), it’s a little odd to not see any of them in a story that’s supposed to introduce people to the title. The execution of this issue is so close, and yet so far.