Friday, April 15, 2011

Hellboy without Hellboy


B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs, written by Mike Mignola, illustrated by Guy Davis and Dave Stewart (2004): The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence (B.P.R.D.), Hellboy's agency (much more efficient and much less comedic than in the misanthropic movies), takes on a case springing from one of the first Hellboy stories, only without Hellboy, who by the time of this volume is away on his soul-searching walkabout.

Lovecraftian horror and pulpy action-adventure dominate the proceedings, as a malignant super-mushroom attempts to conquer the planet by turning people into giant, vampiric frogs. Along the way, mysterious aquatic B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien learns at least part of his hitherto unknown origin. The action and grotesqueries are top-notch, as Hellboy and B.P.R.D.creator Mignola gives us a glimpse into the workings of the organization and its agents. Davis's art is nicely detailed throughout -- the man loves designing and drawing monsters, that's for sure. Recommended.


B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories, written by Mike Gunter, Michael Avon Oeming, Brian Augustyn, Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, Joe Harris and Mike Mignola, illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming, Scott Kolins, Guy Davis, Cameron Stewart and Dave Stewart (2004): Several short stories of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence (B.P.R.D.), Hellboy's agency (much more efficient and much less comedic than in the misanthropic movies).

"The Soul of Venice" gives us chills, action, and a religion and cullture lesson on the mythic origins of the word 'cloacha' related to the city of Venice. Other stories pit the crew against muck monsters, witches, religious fanatics, giant children's toys, vengeful ghosts and other problems. All this and a welcome appearance from 1930's and 1940's B.P.R.D. hero Lobster Johnson. Writers and artists both clearly enjoy the chance to play in Mike Mignola's creator-owned sandbox with Mignola's toys, as well they should. Recommended.

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