This week may mark the beginning of the end for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, or at least the end of the B.P.R.D. as we know it. Crafted by the regular creative team of writers creator Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and artist Guy Davis, "B.P.R.D.: King of Fear" #1 hits stores today for the first part of an epic that promises to fulfill prophecies and story threads dating back to the earliest appearances of Hellboy. CBR News spoke with John Arcudi about the five-issue Dark Horse miniseries and what might be next for the team.
"B.P.R.D.," which is published as a series of miniseries, was the first title to spin off from Mignola's "Hellboy" and has since gone on to inspire it's own spin offs spotlighting the Bureau's agents' solo adventures. Though Hellboy himself has long since quit the club, the amphibious Abe Sapien, firestarter Liz Sherman, spectral Johann Kraus and Kate Corrigan have thus far been successful at keeping supernatural threats at bay. Recently, deceased adventurer Lobster Johnson has taken possession of Agent Kraus's ectoplasmic form
"King of Fear" completes the "Scorched Earth" trilogy, the extended storyline that began with "The Warning" and was continued in "The Black Goddess," but some of the threats the B.P.R.D. now face have been building for even longer. "In 'King of Fear,' readers will get a pretty clear peek at the big picture - the larger picture, I should say," Arcudi explained. "Memnan Saa, the Frogs and the Lobster threads will get resolved in 'KoF,' but then the larger picture unfolds just a wee bit and readers will see that the stories to come are going to be loaded with action, mystery, tragedy, and serious character changes."
Longtime readers will note that a character called the King of Fear appeared all the way back in "Hollow Earth," the first B.P.R.D. miniseries. At the time, however, the character was seemingly defeated. Asked if the prophecy foretold in that series was finally coming to fruition, Arcudi said, "'Hollow Earth' was before my time, so I can't be sure what Mike had in mind back then, but it seems to me that this story arc was the result of an evolution of our collaboration over the last few years." He added that, "that original 'King of Fear' dude will be showing up again, but he may not be the same King of Fear that the title of this present arc refers to."
"King of Fear" will find B.P.R.D. agents Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and Kate Corrigan returning to familiar sites, like Hollow Earth's Ural Mountains and Hunte Castle, where Hellboy confronted the Conqueror Worm. While Arcudi wouldn't say what makes these sites continue to have significance to the characters, he did note that "these locations were not simply thrown in gratuitously to try to better ground the story in the Hellboy universe. Both are vital to the story, one for the thrust of the plot, the other for the development of characters."
After the events of "Black Goddess," in which the mystic Memnan Saa captured Liz Sherman and used her as an energy conduit, allegedly in an effort to save the Earth from some approaching disaster, before she ultimately killed him, it would seem that Liz has taken on a new sense of import in the B.P.R.D universe. Arcudi agreed, telling CBR that her role would only be growing larger. "Liz will come out of 'KoF' as the catalyst that changes everything - not just everything in this storyline, but everything," he said. "Cryptic, huh?"
Other fallout from the "Black Goddess" storyline involves the B.P.R.D. finding itself on bad terms with the United States government, which had committed armed forces to assist with Liz's rescue only to see them mowed down by a completely unexpected menace. The political conflicts leave the team relying on its own limited resources, streamlining the Bureau's operations. "The story does start with a back-to-basics team dynamic in place - which is kind of funny, because the threat they face is really, really huge," Arcudi said. "You would expect to see more troops than ever, right? But there is one very good reason why this dynamic works so well right now.
"Oddly enough, by the end of the series, the back-to-basics dynamic will prove to be obsolete for the B.P.R.D. We've been referring to 'KoF' as the 'reset button' for the book and that does not mean we're going back to square one. We're going to a brand spanking new square one."