With the shifting of the various "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" mini-series numberings into a proper series, you might think it was a signal to the various stories coming into line with one another a bit more, that it wouldn't feel quite so scattered. Unfortunately, not only is that not the case with "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104, but Mike Mignola, Scott Allie and James Harren's comic might make readers wonder what the point was in the first place.
"B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104 is the conclusion of a two-part story "The Abyss of Time," where an agent touches an ancient sword transports his mind into pre-history where he and a group of bronze age warriors must try and stop the rise of the creatures that are ravaging present-day Earth. It's not a bad idea, per se. But when the dust settles, there's a problem with "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104 that I'm starting to see more and more with this series, and that's a lack of clear direction.
Because "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" also tells an ongoing story, these continued side-stories are starting to become less of a nice break and more of a frustration. Why are we reading about this sequence of events? Does it have anything to do with the "Hell on Earth" story? Perhaps most importantly, are we going to care about the characters involved? It's that last one that I think hits home the most. The fate of the three agents in the present day just isn't that interesting; we don't know enough about them to make them much more than faces with names attached. With a pre-history setting for the bulk of "The Abyss of Time," it's equally hard to worry too much about the tribe that Gall Dennar is bringing into battle. Who lives and dies is a question that it's hard to get worked up over. It's really little more than a group of cannon fodder.
Harren's art is the saving grace of "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104. The ancient forest looks marvelously creepy under his pen, with trees covered in vegetation being akin to ornate carved pillars. The amount of care on drawing little details on the wrinkles on a shaman's fingers is noteworthy, and it'll impress as much as the sharp "KRAK!" impact of the first tribesman being clocked from behind by a human skull. And when the dark beings rise up? Well, it's the one moment in "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104 that you'll start to care what's happening, because Harren makes the creatures look so imposing and dangerous. Ultimately, it's Harren's art that will make you want to read this book, not Mignola and Allie's story.
In the letters column for "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104, it's mentioned that Harren's next "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" comic will "satisfy everyone who's had complaints about the direction of the book." That actually gives me hope, if only because it recognizes that for many readers the book's started to wander afield a bit too much as of late. So while the bad news is that "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #104 is one of those issues that does just that, the good news is that this comic looks gorgeous and that it'll be getting fixed sooner or later. In the meantime, though, with a surprisingly lackluster and out-of-the-blue ending, this issue of "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" feels like it's aimed at die-hard fans only.