February 1, 2009

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B.P.R.D. Volume 1

Written by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, and Brian McDonald
Illustrated by Ryan Sook, Curtis Arnold, Mike Mignola, and Derek Thompson
Dark Horse

I enjoy the world of Hellboy so much that I decided I just couldn't wait anymore, it was time to start reading his side material, which shows up in the form of the B.P.R.D. trades. These feature work that is sometimes only slightly liked to Mignola himself, and it's interesting to see how that plays out (pretty well, actually).

The only caveat I'll give the reader is that you should apparently read up to Volume 5 in the main Hellboy trades before reading this, as it spoils some of the plot points in Hellboy. It did not hurt my enjoyment or reading of these stories, but since I know better now, it's my reviewerly duty to tell you this.

The main story focuses once again on the need to save Liz. This time, she's gone off to find herself, which only leads to more trouble. Abe Sapien, who clearly has a thing for Liz, leads a Hellboy-less team, featuring Roger (who I last saw giving up his life for Liz) and a psychic without a body, who really wants to meet our red menace but can't for obvious reasons.

They encounter a strange location, a creepy world within a world (called the junkyard at the center of the earth by the back cover blurb) and of course another mad Nazi scheme to run the world. Because hey, you can't have a Hellboy book without at least one Nazi plot, even if Hellboy himself is otherwise occupied. Can they save Liz? And just how good is the B.P.R.D. with Abe at the head of the team?

Ryan Sook's art is perfect for Hellboy's world, just as I figured it would be, and the pacing of the story is pretty good, even if there are a bit too many writers for my taste, and it's obvious when the lines are Mignola's (like Liz asking in the midst of a crisis about her lack of pants).

Also featured in this trade is the first appearance of Lobster Johnson, which is apparently a big thing for some people but just okay with me. He seems more like a throwaway attempt to give Hellboy's world a golden age, personally, but the story is fine as far as it goes. Abe also gets a short solo story explaining how he saved Roger's life. This vingette shows Mignola at his story-paralleling best, with Abe recalling a similar circumstance from his own life.

Last but not least is the first Abe Sapien solo story, a real fish tale about Abe being sent out to take on supernatural events aboard a ship. Abe, by the way, is apparently prone to sea sickness, of all things. Trying to figure out why people are going crazy on the shipping lanes, our fishy protagonist learns that the Middle Passage is not ready to let go of its dead. Props to Mignola and Co. for doing a story about the brutality of the slave trade in a manner that is actually quite respectful of the dead. The only downside is this story's art is nothing at all like Mignola's and that threw me out of whack, not unlike the first time I saw Mike Wieringo's drawing of feet.

I think you all know by now I'm kind of a Hellboy fanboy at this point, so I'm sure you're all shocked to learn I think this is a collection that is a good companion to the main canon. Enjoy!