Review - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell

Hellboy has a way of invoking awareness in people. He should, considering he's an extremely tall and large half-demon who at any given moment could snap and incite the destruction of the world. When he's more even-keeled though, he's one of the best agents the B.P.R.D. has and his mission alongside a previously sane J.H. O'Donnell is the backstory for B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell.

Published by Dark Horse Comics, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell is written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, with art by Max Fiumara, colors by Dave Stewart, letters by Clem Robins and covers by Fiumara, Stewart and Mignola.

The death of a necromancer with an extensive library is fascinating to an ancient language consultant with a fascination in the occult. As such, when Alessandro Divizia passed away, J.H. O'Donnell couldn't wait to check out said library and he's assigned Hellboy for protection. The two of them visit the former residence of Divizia in Bradford, PA, where the story diverges from there. While O'Donnell is investigating and trying to find the library, Hellboy is off doing is his own thing.

Knowing previous inhabitant of the house had a fascination with the occult (and the fact the B.P.R.D. is involved), it's a safe assumption that O'Donnell did stumble on something. The thing is, it drove him insane and, considering Hellboy wasn't with him the entire time, the events that played out in the house are the subject of some controversy when it comes to piecing things together.

Considering this is only a one-shot, Mignola and Allie have actually crafted a tight-knit story. The haziness of recollection is a nice touch, adding to the sense of insanity that O'Donnell regressed into. Hellboy gets his typical action in fighting a creature who appears from who knows where, but as the reader you're lucky enough to see O'Donnell's descent into madness.

Despite the daily workload encountered at the Bureau of Paranomral Research and Development, the place can still be a normal place of employ. Somewhat. This is one of the underplayed aspects of the story and both Mignola and Allie do a marvelous job infusing the BPRD with a sense of the mundane. There are gossip and watercooler talk which add a touch of normal to the paranormal and is actually quite charming in its own way.

Fiamura's illustrations mostly have the Hellboy flair. Some of the scientists at the B.P.R.D. have a weird body shape which was a little off-putting. The rest of the book is illustrated very well, with Fiamura giving the panels where Hellboy is fighting a great sense of damage. You really get the sense Hellboy is in another knockdown, dragout fight.

O'Donnell is also illustrated, well, crazily, which subtly let's you get inside his head a bit. You really feel that whatever he encountered in the house did change him, as his movements and appearance seem stilted. It's a haunting portrayal of the character, but considering he deals with the occult for a living it's good that you get the sense that he's off.

In reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell you already know the ending (the title pretty much gives it away), but that doesn't detract from the issue being a fun read. It does a great job adding some color to the B.P.R.D., as well as providing some backstory on someone who could become a bigger deal down the road in O'Donnell. There's even a slight twist at the end that could payoff as well as far as future storylines go.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell is in stores now with interiors below.