"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia" is one of those mini-series where everything clicks together in such a manner that it all feels natural. References to old mini-series? Things not quite what they seem? Nasty intangible monsters? Check, check, check.
After being associated with Guy Davis for such a long time, it's great to see "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia" artist Tyler Crook doing such a good job so quickly. Crook's art here brings the world of the B.P.R.D. to life in a manner that disarms you, making you feel like it's sweet and innocent, only to sneak up on you. There's a wonderful sense of dread and danger in the ruined church in Indonesia that something as simple as a banner can give you the shivers. And when Johann confronts a spirit in Russia, seeing its smoky form somehow rupture through the pipes in the ceiling or the shell that was previously containing it? Brrrr.
You look at his figures, and at first they too seem innocent and sweet. Little dots for eyes, pouts everywhere, a general sweetness. And then you look closer and you realize that Crook is sneaking up on you again. There's malice in these pages, ready to attack. And just when you think you see it coming, a little trickle of a tear down a prisoner's cheek... it's too late. Crook's got you again.
That's not to say that "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia" is all about Crook's art. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi do their usual good job with the writing. I have to give them credit; they telegraph the ending coming quite blatantly, and yet at the same time it's still surprising (perhaps because of the force of its arrival). I was also a little surprised and pleased to see a tie-in to the "Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain" mini-series, but at the same time it's done in a way that those who haven't read it aren't missing out. (Of course, it has some truly gorgeous Peter Snejbjerg art, so if you haven't read it, you really should fix that pronto.) Some plotlines are temporarily left behind this issue, but I have no doubt that we'll see them picked up again shortly. And after all, we've got more than enough to occupy us here this month.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia" is the comic equivalent of a close friend that you know, month after month, will be there and be just what you need. Hopefully your close friends won't get possessed by demons and try to destroy the planet, mind you. As always, dependably good.