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B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - New World #1

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B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - New World #1

Credits

  • Words: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
  • Art: Guy Davis
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Aug 11, 2010

I had occasion, a few years ago, to speak to a well-respected professional comic book artist, with extensive experience working on both sides of the Atlantic, who estimated that around 60-70% of comics produced in Europe were aimed at younger audiences, while the opposite seemed to be true of the North American market. While publishers such as DC and Marvel have refocused at least some of their efforts towards attracting younger audiences over the last few years, the Big Two still have a ways to go, as they insist on wasting reams of cash wooing fickle Hollywood.

One of the shining lights that seem to buck this trend is Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series and its spin-offs such as BPRD. Sure, Mignola’s franchise has been cross-marketed just as much as, say, Spider-Man or Iron Man, benefiting from the wider exposure garnered from movies, cartoons, books, and toys, but there is one huge difference between Hellboy and properties such as the X-Men: ease of accessibility.

From its publishing schedule and limited series format to the actual story content and characters, Mignola and Dark Horse have designed Hellboy to be accessible to readers of virtually any age group. Some of the themes and characters may be a little dark but they’re also realized in broad enough strokes and balanced with enough light that one doesn’t outweigh the other. Besides, if Disney can kill off Bambi’s mom (a traumatic event I’m still dealing with 30-odd years later), then why can’t Hellboy save us from the apocalypse?

BPRD: Hell on Earth – New World #1
is a sterling example of a comic book that is easily accessible to new, younger fans, while retaining its existing adult audience. Featuring a tight plot, fully developed, distinctive characters, and lively accessible visuals, New World #1 is an excellent jumping on point for readers of all ages.

Mignola and writing partner John Arcudi offer up an intriguing plot of mysterious disappearances investigated by BPRD agent Abe Sapien, as the organization continues to deal with the public fallout from the frog beast invasion. The story has something for everyone: mystery and suspense, perhaps the most eclectic cast of characters outside of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run, and even a little social commentary. The dialogue is snappy and natural; the cast relatable and easy to identify, thanks to the brilliant visuals of artist Guy Davis.

Less is more with Davis and it’s his simple, elegant visual storytelling and accessible style that are some of BPRD: Hell on Earth - New World’s strongest selling points. Similar enough in style to Mignola to preserve the Hellboy franchise’s overall artistic consistency, Davis’ pages are clear, concise and full of movement, even during some of the book’s quieter moments.

New World #1 was a pleasure to read, hearkening back to a time when the escape to another world wasn’t fraught with perpetually grim characters and overstated mature themes, in the name of sophistication and innovation. Darkly funny, easily accessible, and age appropriate for kids and adults (despite the “H-word” in the title), BPRD: Hell on Earth serves as an example of how to create a truly modern comic book that welcomes new generations of readers, while remaining true to the hardcore fans who made it a success in the first place.

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