Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Tyler Crook's "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master" #2 might have a low digit number on the cover, but it's also the 99th issue of the "B.P.R.D." comics to date. With next month's issue switching the numbering of the comics to #100 to help celebrate this achievement, it's a good a time as any to check in with a series that started as a "Hellboy" spin-off but has become a force in its own right.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master" #2 is up to its usual strengths; juggling half a dozen characters and situations that initially look disparate but are all starting to converge. What's nice about this issue is that if you've got a favorite storyline right now, almost all of them are touched on. Fenix and Panya's scene together is going to grab a lot of people's attention; the young nervous psychic and the ageless inscrutable mummy together feels like an extremely dangerous match, and Mignola, Arcudi and Crook somehow turn the reality into something even worse. It's a nasty glimpse of not only Fenix's power, but Panya's abilities as well, and it bodes poorly for the future.
At the same time, it almost feels like a distraction for everything else that's happening this issue. The body that Johann thinks will be his is ultimately the centerpiece of this storyline, and Mignola and Arcudi have given it just enough attention that it isn't slipping to one side. But when you've got visions of hell, or beings trapped in bell jars, it's understandable if you're stopping to stare at them instead. It doesn't hurt that Crook's art looks great as always; even the less flashy scenes like the appearance of Father Lazar (or that bizarre creature he has with him) show a good understanding of staging and visually hold your interest. Then, as you look closer and start seeing all of the strange legs on the mutated snake, or the symbols drawn on the bell jar, you get a strong feel for just how much work has gone into these pages.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master" #2 is another typical issue of "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth," and by typical I mean strong and entertaining. Arcudi, Mignola, and Crook are turning out strong comic after strong comic, and this issue is no exception. With #100 just around the corner, this mini-series is as good a chance as any to say, "I was reading it back in the day, before it hit the triple digits." Fun stuff.