Which is more dangerous, the devil you know or the devil you don’t? What does that mean at the end of the world? In B.R.P.D.: The Devil You Know, the main players in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense come together again to fight against the remnants of the apocalypse, working to stop the Ogdru Hem and their assault on the Earth. Meanwhile, a manipulative spirit in the form of a little Russian girl attempts to lead the masses on a takeover of Hell itself, now that the gates are open and the rulers of the underworld destroyed or fled. Do Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien still have connections to human beings or are they something more now? All these burning issues are explored and exposed in this latest Dark Horse trade paperback.
In the past few weeks, I have read nearly 1000 pages of B.P.R.D. & Abe Sapien comics. If there is one thing that is consistent over not only the collections I’ve read recently, but the entirety of the Hellboy Universe, it is the sincerity and dread mixed in with the humanity of the stories. These stories are dark horror and do not shy away from the occult, the demonic, the obscure, but they also never ignore the reality of the people involved in them. Even the lowly grunt who joins the team is a human being who has friends and personal attachments. Every man and woman has a friend who will mourn them. It is a stark reminder of the actual stakes in the Ogdru Hem apocalypse: when nation and nature are torn apart and betrayed, what is left but the relationships we create for ourselves? If we don’t have those to rely on, what will we fall back upon?
The callbacks to events in both the Hell on Earth omnibus and Dark and Terrible collect together the disparate stories of the B.P.R.D. and create a single narrative leading towards a final end. The Ogdru Jahad is dead and the monsters left behind are defeatable. A lone little girl, doll-like in her appearance walks the land, however, gathering people to her as her cult marches east towards Manhattan island. For the entirety of its existence, the Hellboy Universe has revolved around the idea that Hellboy himself would end the world. Now, after the frogs and the Ogdru Hem, Abe Sapien believes that he is a key to what comes next, while a Hyperborean and a pyrokineticist fight alongside him, potentially working against the very agency that brought them together.
At the last, the cult reaching Central Park allows the girl’s true intentions to be exposed, just as the team exhumes a mysterious coffin they left behind long ago. The final battle, it seems, has yet to begin. Hell is closed and the devil is dead. Hell on Earth is just starting.