Cassie’s Dark Horse Comics Review: B.P.R.D. HELL ON EARTH: THE TRANSFORMATION OF J. H. O’DONNELL
Published: May 30, 2012 - 5:17pm
J. H. O’Donnell was once an extremely intelligent consultant for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, until he went on a mission with Hellboy that changed his life. While searching for the secret library of a well-known Necromancer, O’Donnell stumbles upon a horrifying world that destroys him forever.
This one-shot issue in the B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth series is mostly comprised of a flashback story, which may or may not have greater implications on the overarching plot of the end of days. It doesn’t fill in any gaps at this time, other than inform us of the whereabouts of two B.P.R.D. agents in Colorado and the destruction of J. H. O’Donnell. For the latter, it details how he went from a consultant in ancient languages to a raving mad man not allowed to leave headquarters.
It’s unknown why this single issue would be released after Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine #1, which leads me to believe the plot will somehow become important in the current timeline. Perhaps the scholar has a more important upcoming part to play in the end of the world? Maybe his experiences and his discovery of the library of Alessandro Divizia has something to do with it? There is just no other reason to time this issue so it’s released in the middle of another arc. Hell on Earth has certainly not been functioning this way, even Pickens County Horror tied us directly into the events of the world at large, so there has to be some purpose behind this timing.
Until now, what drove O’Donnell into madness was a mystery, but in these pages Mike Mignola and Scott Allie give us the answer. The story itself is told through the perspective of unreliable narrator and B.P.R.D. paper pusher Pauline. It becomes quickly apparent that she doesn’t think highly of Hellboy, who finally makes a confirmed appearance after his death (albeit in flashback form). Pauline heard the story second hand and as she tells it, Hellboy did such things such as sneak away to cause trouble, and that he, “…Somehow ran into a monster, and burned the house down.” Thankfully, illustrator Max Fiumara is there to give the reader the story that actually happened, versus Pauline’s passive aggressive version.
In terms of the artwork, Fiumara does a gorgeous and haunting job conveying the suspenseful, creepy feel of the one-shot. O’Donnell is spectacularly rumpled- alternating between a more sane man and the current incarnation fans know him as. The monsters and the sense of foreboding is played out in the mysterious hooded figures all the way through to their transformations, where they reveal their true nature.
While this issue doesn’t tell us much about the world outside the Colorado headquarters (yet), but rather focuses on events from 1987, it is not detrimental or unnecessary. Mignola’s script shines in this shortened format, a loveable character gets a back story, and the fans get to speculate what all this has to do with hell breaking loose on earth. Insert dramatic DUN DUN DUN here.
Story: Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Art: Max Fiumara
Cover: Max Fiumara and Dave Stewart
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