Originally published at Comic Book Resources on Wed, May 30th, 2012 at 3:55PM (PDT)
Though the story element is told in flashback, there is a little bit of suspense taken away. Based on the title alone, readers already know the end result of J.H. O’Donnell’s transformation. Right away, readers realize something terrible is going to happen, foreseeing the inevitable conclusion. O’Donnell, the expert language consultant at B.P.R.D., will be driven into madness and lose his mind to insanity; no surprise there. The real question readers have to ask themselves is how it’s going to happen.
Mignola and Allie recognize the problem of the flashback technique and find a smart solution with a focus on constructing the sadness and tragedy of the event. This is a story within a story where all the facts are half there because no one is really sure what exactly happened. Readers are given two points of view from O’Donnell and Hellboy, but they don’t share the same information. Hellboy doesn’t know how the events occurred because he wasn’t in the same room with O’Donnell. To add more questions to the narrative, O’Donnell’s fragmented timeline comes from a fractured mind of a lunatic. Ironically, O’Donnell has a prominent teaching career outside of the B.P.R.D., which he is going to eventually lose because of the mission.
Artist Max Fiumara puts back the missing element of suspense in his illustrations. At first, the presentation of the monsters is slowly built-up as if Fiumara is holding back. Readers are going to be just anxiously waiting to find out who are the people underneath the black cloaks. Finally letting loose, Fiumara gives the kind of terrifying imagery that could have only come from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft.
“B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O’ Donnell” is a tragic tale about the obsessive quest for the ultimate knowledge. In one of his previous missions, Hellboy and Professor O’Donnell entered the secret library of a fallen necromancer. Upon opening the necromancer’s books, O’Donnell saw something he truly wished he didn’t. Now readers will find out what his eyes exactly witnessed in this supernatural adventure.