Sunday, January 13, 2013

Late to the Party: B.P.R.D.

Cthulhu-esque, supernatural creatures such as the one referenced in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia #1,
with story by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi with art by Tyler Crook, are always a threat to appear! 
With greater frequency than in year's past, likely due to some discontent with the Big Two's reboots and events, I have found myself coming late to the party on some "smaller" titles which have been in publication for, in some cases, many years.  While it is very unlikely I'll have the financial resources (too many years and issues have passed) to reasonably catch up completely on individual back issues, there are fortunately often more recent jumping on points.

One title that I had previously missed out on, that was singled out as #24 in this CBR end-of-year "Top Comics," is Dark Horse's B.P.R.D. A spin-off from Mike Mignola's Hellboy, B.P.R.D. the continuing adventures of the organization which took Hellboy in, the The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Charged with protecting America and the world from the occult, paranormal and supernatural, the B.P.R.D. employs the services of several "enhanced talent" (supernaturally powered persons), most notably the aforementioned Hellboy. While Hellboy quit the B.P.R.D. years ago, and subsequently, "died", Abe Sapien and Johann Krauss, both recognizable from the successful Guillermo del Toro films, remain central to the stories. Additionally, there are a number of human agents featured.

No character is safe from occult body-horror mutations;
from B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror #1.
A unique (and ultimately favorable to the late-comer such as myself) facet of B.P.R.D's publication is that each series, of which more than one may be on the stands at any given time, are presented as 3 to 5 issue miniseries. While each builds on the story that preceded it, each story arc can be at least superficially enjoyed on it's own merits. I will warn you, however, it is VERY difficult not to be pulled in and to start desiring to dig through your local comic shops back issue long boxes.

Another advantage for newer fans is that in 2010 the primary B.P.R.D. series and all ancillary titles (as well as the entire world of Hellboy, for that matter) completed its first cycle. Eventually, this entire initial run of related sixty-eight issues was rebranded as "The Plague of Frogs" cycle.
This was followed by a second cycle, which we are still in. Titles in this most recent cycle bear the subtitle "Hell on Earth." Beginning with what would be the one hundredth issue of the series, B.P.R.D. returned to traditional sequential numbering, therefore issue 3 of the B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master #3 is in actuality #100. In an age when the big two continue to run away from their extensive continuity, it is wonderful to see Dark Horse and Hellboy creator and mastermind Mike Mignola embrace the scope of their characters' existence.

From B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death #1 story by Mike Mignola and
John Arcudi with art by James Harren. 
The biggest draw, as should be the case with any comic book purchase, is the storytelling. Guided by Hellboy creator Mike Magnolia and writer James Arcudi (among others), B.P.R.D. is as much about characterization as it is Cthulhu-esque creatures. After only having reading just three of the recent arcs from Hell on Earth, Johann Krauss (featured in the panels above) has quickly become one of my favorite comic book characters.The storytelling is very visual in nature and the consistently excellent artwork by James Haren, Tyler Crooks and others gives the authors a visually cohesive world within to play.

Most B.P.R.D series are currently available in trade paperback, as well as individual issues at most solid local comic shops.

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