Mike Mignola and Scott Allie spin another paranormal parable in the BPRD series, one that manages to keep that Hellboy feel, but unfortunately does little else.
The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell is a one-shot story in the B.P.R.D: Hell on Earth universe. It’s centered around the peculiar B.P.R.D occultist Professor O’Donnell, who we learn through an elaborate flashback, wasn’t always as weird as appears. The book goes into detail on just what happened to the Professor after stumbling across a rare find on a field mission. Hellboy makes an appearance, but it ultimately isn’t enough to save O’Donnell from a bizarre twist of fate.
The story isn’t a bad one, and it absolutely keeps the horror-action feel that Hellboy titles are known for, but it seemed a bit uninspired. There really isn’t much action going on in the book. Hellboy does get to scrap a bit with your usual evil demon, but there is not much in terms of who, what or why he is. It feels like the sequence was placed in for the sole purpose of just being there. The story itself is also pretty ambiguous and leaves much up to the reader to imply, which is fine, but I did find myself lost at some points.
The dialogue is also left me wanting a bit more. Intentionally confusing at times to illustrate the madness of O’Donnell, the writers are able to get that point across well.. However, the narrative was pretty bland and did little to add much to the story. I was expecting some humor, as most Hellboy titles have the right amount to move the story along well, but not much is present this go around.
The art is for sure a high point here. Max Fiumara does such a good job here, as always, giving things a really creepy feel. I’m a huge fan of the character art for this series, and we see it shine yet again; O’Donnell looks like what you would probably imagine for an old, sketchy occultist suffering from a traumatic paranormal episode, and the antagonists here are as creepy as they come. Colorist Dave Stewart also deserves a nod here, as the colors go really well with Fiumara’s awesome art. Stewart really shines in some of the more disturbing sequences, choosing a nice variety of colors that aren’t entirely dark and gloomy, but still manage to keep a creepy feel.
Overall, The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell has the same feel that all of the B.P.R.D titles do, but Hellboy fans might be disappointed with the story overall. It’s not necessarily a bad one, but it’s easily forgettable for a title that’s usually well above average. The art continues to provide as usual, with great character designs and nice coloring, but it probably isn’t enough to make this one memorable.