Normally, the big hook for “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters” #1 would be the return of Liz Sherman, who’s been missing in action for a while now. One of the main characters of the “B.P.R.D.” universe of books, her return to the present continuity of the series (not including the recent flashback/origin story for Liz) would be a big deal.
But “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters” #1 has something bigger going on, and that’s the arrival of Tyler Crook, who’s taken over the artist position from mainstay Guy Davis. And, fortunately, on his very first issue Crook’s doing a good job of filling those shoes. Crook’s art reminds me of a strange cross between Karl Moline (“Fray,” “Route 666”) and Jessica Abel (“La Perdida,” “Artbabe”) but it works. He’s able to draw characters in broad strokes when he wants – a big mustache in a single brush stroke, dots for eyes, trucker’s cap drawn with minimal lines – but isn’t afraid when the scene warrants it to go for a finer line with a lot more detail. When Liz first walks into the trailer, Crook goes that extra step to depict her perfectly; you can see what she’s thinking in her eyes and her posture, that combination of exasperation and weariness with annoyance and anger.
Perhaps even more importantly, Crook’s able to tackle the creepy aspects of “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters” here. From Liz’s dream with the supernatural creatures and figures, to the appearance of a single frog, there’s a genuine sense of menace throughout this comic. And when we get to the climactic scene of this issue, well, without giving anything away let’s just say that Crook can handle gruesome just fine, too.
Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are continuing to surprise me when it comes to the new direction of “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth,” a firm reminder on why the comic has gained a new subtitle. From the church that now worships the horrific creatures as God, to the quieter, more down-to-earth location of a trailer park, it feels like we’re getting a greater look at how all of these events are affecting the world, and not just in a collateral damage sort of way. This new strategy of seeing the after-effects and reshaping of the country’s population is holding my interest strongly, and it’s refreshing to have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next.
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters” #1 is a comic where you might come for the arrival of Crook as artist, but you’ll stay for the way that Mignola, Arcudi, and Crook tell their story. Eighty issues in, and “B.P.R.D.” is still going strong.