The Mignolaverse can be daunting: when I was buying monthly issues it sometimes felt like being a Batman fan: one miniseries or another seemed to come out almost every week. So I’m catching up with the fallout from the “Hell On Earth” story line. At first glance, things don’t look very different. There are still monsters everywhere, and the Bureau is busy on cleanup missions. It’s so widespread that there are three “monster maps” in the Sketchbook section depicting the problems. The worst thing has to be that England is completely missing: there’s no sign of the land mass at all. Strange cults have sprung up, and the demon Varvara (disguised as a little Russian girl) has emerged to lead them. The Bureau lost Kate Corrigan, Johann and Panya in the battle. But the good news is that Abe Sapien has returned from his self-imposed exile to help the newly-powered Liz Sherman (she can fly now) in the fight. Satan is dead, Hell is closed, and Varvara begins establishing a new Hell on Earth with Manhattan as home base. And in Colorado Liz uncovers a coffin containing Hellboy’s corpse.
Hellboy is back–reunited with Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien–but the B.P.R.D. isn’t sure he’s really back on the team. He seems unwilling to hunt the demon leader threatening to turn the Earth into a new Hell. The first chapter begins with a surprise sequence drawn by Mike Mignola which depicts Hellboy meeting Roger in Hell. Hellboy keeps saying enigmatic things like “it’s very close now.” The team goes to Manhattan to confront Varvara and her followers (which includes a demon that Ashley Strode thought she had sent back to Hell, but instead had bound to Earth). They have another huge demonic battle, in which acting director Devon becomes demonically possessed after falling in battle. Ashley falls after being used to help Varvara’s plans. The Black Flame appears, and the final caption reads “Next: Ragna Rok!” Somehow the series finds a way to keep increasing the stakes, even though it seemed the world was lost before now. The endless protracted battle scenes are becoming tedious as well. But it looks like the next collection will finally truly be The End.
This story begins in “Spiral City, One Hundred Years From Now.” The teenage superhero team called the Quantum League are civilization’s guardians. The cybernetic member called Archive has a special interest in the heroes of the 20th century: what happened to them after they defeated Anti-God in 1986? The answer to that question is reserved for the conclusion of the Farm story line. But this series manages to fill in a good deal of history without actually spoiling the main Black Hammer series (although there is a brief scene set there).
The future story includes a Martian invasion and its aftermath. The Quantum League has been disbanded, and the President of Earth has no tolerance for Martians or superheroes. The big reveal of who he is is just one of many, as we also find out what became of Talky-Walky, Colonel Weird and Madame Dragonfly. And although the Black Hammer Farm story is not resolved, Weird and Dragonfly set a plan into motion to move the entire benighted universe to the end of time via the Para-Zone. It will be a new reality: Quantum World.
Quite a high concept here: it is set on a space station named the Orpheus located at the end of the universe. Our universe has been consumed by heat death, so the station is intended to be a lifeboat for all of humanity, protected by a pseudoreality shield from the total darkness of complete entropy beyond the station’s walls (the infinite dark of the title). It’s probably just as well that the story doesn’t go into too much detail explaining the science, since it would likely be incomprehensible anyway. Instead of being saviors the crew finds themselves sole survivors after none of the colony ships succeeds in outrunning the entropy wave and reaching the station. So there is understandably survivor’s guilt, which Security Director Deva Karrell is struggling with. But she is thrown into investigating the Orpheus’ first murder, which turns out to be much larger than mere guilt and depression. The station’s technologists have become convinced that there is an entity outside the ship that regards it as a mistake. They go about trying to destroy the ship. Deva confronts the entity, which tells her that the Orpheus is preventing the start of a new universe by hanging on to a sample of the old one. So in addition to outer space sci-fi we have psychological horror and a metaphysical threat. The drama is effectively presented: Mutti is good at character design and facial expressions, and does what he can with action that takes place almost entirely inside the space station’s halls. He cheats a little bit with the space views: total blackness is not visually interesting. But in the end I had so much trouble accepting the main conflict that I doubt I’ll continue with the series.