When they announced it, Dark Horse knew that the "B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: The Return Of The Master" was going to be a big book for the franchise. Aside from kicking the number of the comic back over to issue #100, the series also was set from the start to introduce a major new antagonist and serve as a turning point for the book as a whole.
But what fans may not have known going in is that the series was also set from the start to serve as a returning point for a major villain from the B.P.R.D.'s past. Fans who read last week's issue #101 (part four of the storyline) saw that the apex of the story sees the return of The Black Flame – perhaps the most recognizable villain in the B.P.R.D. canon!
Now that the cat is out of the bag, Dark Horse exclusively shared the final cover to "B.P.R.D." #102 – the fifth and final chapter in "Return Of The Master" – by superstar Ryan Sook. And to make things more interesting, the publisher sent along the full run of process images Sook prepared while drawing his first big image of the Black Flame, and Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie brings background to the discussion on the villain's big return.
"When the covers were being done, the scripts weren't written, but John [Arcudi] knew pretty specifically how it would play out, and we knew that the Black Flame would stand revealed at the end of #4, and that #5 would be all about what he does on his return," Allie explained of the hidden reveal. "We were all just really happy about having him come back like this, and we wanted to see Ryan draw him."
"Of course covers are solicited so far in advance, so putting the Black Flame on the cover of #5 would ruin the surprise in #4," the E-i-C said. "We could have hidden him through a real obvious redaction, but that would have shown that his identity was in question, and one of the things I loved about this story was how sure all the character were that their plan would work, never guessing that they might grab the wrong guy."
"Ryan played ball with our idea to show the Black Flame on the cover, but then made a version where the head is hidden by smoke," Allie said of the fake-out cover that ran in solicits. "Because the Nazis were so sure they were bringing back Rasputin, we figured readers would assume we had just chosen to conceal Rasputin's familiar face to maintain a little suspense."
"I don't think anyone questioned who the identity of the figure was," the Editor noted before revealing the true cover. "Ryan's cover worked pretty well without the head, but I think it looks a hell of a lot better in the final version."
"B.P.R.D." #102, the fifth chapter of "Return Of The Master," ships on December 19 from Dark Horse.