B.P.R.D. 1946 #1 (Dark Horse)

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1946-header.jpgThe early days of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are finally explored in this latest spinoff of Mike Mignola's Hellboy franchise.

 

32 pgs. full color; $2.99

(W: Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart, A: Paul Azaceta)

 

With the success of the movie version of Hellboy, and with a sequel ready for release soon, interest in Mike Mignola's supernatural opus is as high as it's ever been. For folks who can't get enough Hellboy, Dark Horse has been filling in the gaps with stories featuring sideline members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the latest of which is is B.P.R.D. 1946.

 

Chronicling the early years of the Bureau, B.P.R.D 1946 takes place (as the name implies) just after the end of World War II. The Allies have won, and American and Russian soldiers have begun to discover evidence of extraordinarily odd Nazi experiments involving the supernatural. Enter the B.P.R.D. and its eccentric founder, a decidedly young-looking Trevor Bruttenholm. While the infant Hellboy munches pancakes at a stateside Air Force base, Bruttenholm and company investigate the mysterious research of the Nazi Occult Bureau, trying to keep up with their Soviet counterparts.

 

The cover to BPRD 1946 by Mike Mignola. Click for a larger image.I'm not sure how much of the story each author wrote (I assume Mignola laid out a framework for Dysart to fill in with dialogue and such), but it fits in appropriately with the rest of the Hellboy mythos. Even without Mignola taking primary writing responsibilities (assumedly), it stands as a believable early mission for the B.P.R.D. Part of that may be because most of the characters in B.P.R.D. 1946 don't appear elsewhere in Hellboy lore; don't go looking for Abe Sapien or Liz Sherman, or anything more than a passing mention of Hellboy. The heroes of this story don't possess any supernatural powers, but are instead armed with insatiable curiosity and breadth of knowledge. This isn't to say that there aren't some appropriately odd characters in the mix; of particular creepiness is Varvara, the head of "arcane studies and esoteric teachings" for the Soviets, who appears to be either an adult woman trapped in the body of a young girl, or a brilliant 8-year-old with a penchant for vodka.

 

As far the art, Azaceta's line work decently emulates Mignola's style, but there's really no substitution for the real thing. Mignola's nuanced lines are practically synonymous with Hellboy stories, and even though Azaceta does a bang-up job, he can't quite manage the details that make a page Mignola's. The art in this book is a little inconsistent in places, which is especially noticeable in adjacent similar panels. It doesn't detract from the story too much, but it's definitely noticeable for those familiar with Mignola's work.

 

Bottom line: If you're a die-hard Hellboy fanatic, this is a no-brainer for you to pick up. It's only going to satiate your thirst for anything related to Mignola's lovingly crafted universe. On the other hand, if you think Lobster Johnson is an unfortunate high school nickname, you might want to consider starting off with one of the first few Hellboy trade paperbacks. I'd recommend Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. If you like what you read, give B.P.R.D. 1946 a shot; you won't be disappointed. | Jared Vandergriff

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