Dark Horse Advance Reviews: B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth – Russia #1, and The Guild: Clara #1

Today we have two advance Dark Horse reviews for you… Very mild spoilers, though nothing that isn’t in the solicit text, so CALM DOWN and enjoy!

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia #1

I’m not a regular reader of B.P.R.D., and I don’t really have a good reason why that is. For fans looking for info, I’m sure that’s going to be a turn off right away, but I do think coming in occasionally, and having a vague familiarity with the series is helpful – particularly when we’re launching into a new mini-series like this one. Even though it is technically the eighty-second issue of B.P.R.D., and some major s**t went down in the last mini, this is, technically, a first issue. So does it read like a great new entry point?

Well, yes and no.

First, the plot: with most of the Bureau of Paranormal Reasearch and Defense’s heavy hitters either quit, missing, or nearly dead, its up to a ghost and a regular human to head to Mother Russia for their latest case. What that case is? Not quite clear from the first issue, but suffice to say: it’s really gross.

Series writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi do an excellent job of setting up this mini like a movie. There’s a mysterious and intriguing opening, with enough weirdness and mysteries to propel the series forward. And then we flash to the ghost (Johann Kraus) and the human (Kate Corrigan) on their way to the mystery, recapping what’s happened previously… And then there’s a little more recap, and even more, with a brief action sequence thrown in the middle to keep things interesting.

Tyler Crook on art is a little more cartoony than I’m used to from the Hellboy universe, though he draws disgusting piles of human flesh in a fun way that’s nicely reminiscent of Eric Powell’s work on The Goon (though not as textured). And Dave Stewart’s colors are reliably good, mostly muted browns, greys, and greens with the occasional spot of color.

As it is, this is the first fifth of a movie; or if you prefer, the season premiere of a television show: it gets you caught up to speed, presents some intriguing elements that will play out over the next few issues, and as whole reads swiftly and deftly… Though at the same time, it’s not a full meal on its own. Fans of B.P.R.D. won’t be disappointed, and at the same time, new readers may find more than enough to intrigue them into going back and buying previous trades (and the next few issues). As for me, I’ll happily stick to picking up B.P.R.D. every once and a while, because, hey, I’m a jerk.

The Guild: Clara – One-Shot

There’s a tricky line that co-writers Felicia Day and Kim Evey have to walk with this one-shot… They have to stay true to the web series The Guild, not change the character of Clara too much (as that’s for the web series to do), yet make this one-shot work as a fulfilling story. I think they did it, though for three quarters of the length it’s frustratingly static in character development.

To be fair, that’s Clara. She’s frustratingly unchanging throughout The Guild, and blissfully unaware of anything that’s going on around here. Naturally, as creator of the series, Day perfectly captures that in comic book form, and Ron Chan’s art is a delightfully cartoonish companion.

The book – and I’m being careful not to spoil anything here – is so uncomfortable for the first bit because it deals head on with Clara’s child neglect. In the series, and the comic, it’s dealt with in a comedic manner: she doesn’t notice her children or care about them, and that’s supposed to be hilarious. In the series, it kind of works, because they’re always in the background. In the comic, faced with her neglect front and center, it borders on child abuse. Day and Evey do a heroic job playing up the comedic elements, but it becomes real awkward to read, really fast.

Then there’s the last quarter, which provides a nice sweet pay-off, gets back to being actually comedic, and provides a nice, solid laugh at the end. It’s a bit of a relief to read, and thankfully shows that Day and Evey were aware of this dichotomy all along.

Anyway, for fans of The Guild, this one-shot should work swimmingly. For future fans, if you make it through to the pay-off, you’ll get a nice sweet, cute story that’s extremely well illustrated by Chan.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia #1 and The Guild: Clara #1 both hit comic book stands on September 21st, 2011.

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