Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Comic Review: B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs 1

    As anyone who has read pretty much anything I’ve written about comics will know, Hellboy is right up there at the top of my list of favorites.  So, the idea of a spin-off series based around the organization he belonged to was certainly interesting.  Would it work?  With Mignola mostly taking a back seat?  Who could say?

    A couple years back, I acquired the first paperback volume or two of the series, and I enjoyed it, but wasn’t especially blown away.  I thought the idea of Abe kind of taking on the leadership after Hellboy bailed was intriguing, and the rest of the cast is cool.  Even the first couple stories, with their X-Files meets Hellboy vibe were fun, but didn’t grab me.  Still, I had (have) it on good authority that the series took a few trades worth to really get going.  And now, having read the first hardcover volume of Plague of Frogs, which collects the first three trade paperbacks, I can already see that it’s true.  “Book Three,” originally the third trade paperback stops futzing around and gets into some serious, good stuff. 

    Book One, The Hollow Earth and other stories, is a mixed bag.  The actual, Hollow Earth story is quite good, and totally feels like some classic Hellboy, only with Red missing.  His absence hangs like a cloud over the whole story, giving it just that extra bit of menace.  But the other stories are kind of ‘meh.’  The Killer in my Skull, is a pretty good Lobster Johnson story.  Still…eh. 

    Book Two, The Soul of Venice and other stories is another mixed bag.  Again the title story is pretty good, but the others are only so-so.  I genuinely didn’t like There’s Something Under my Bed.  But Dark Waters and Another Day at the Office were solid.  The art is kind of all over the place, as is the tone.  And I can’t help but feel, again in that X-Files sort of way, that most of what happens doesn’t really mean anything.  Where I want a larger mythos to develop, I’m getting ‘monster of the week.’ 

    This all changes with Book Three, Plague of Frogs.  Going back into the Seed of Destruction (the first trade of Hellboy), this connects with the core concepts of the world Mignola has created.  Getting down to brass tacks, the story grabs hold and doesn’t let up.  Not a bunch of shorts, this whole section is one continuous, driving story.  And here we have the writers getting back to Hellboy basics: mad science, strange history, Lovecraftian horror, and a growing sense of inevitable doom.  The art is consistent, and while Guy Davis has a very different style from Mike Mignola, his style seems to fit the series quite well.

    Of course, the book comes with plenty of cool sketchbook pages with commentary from various creators, and a couple explanatory/introductory essays to give the reader a bit of a handle on where the creators were coming from.  And overall, the volume is pretty good, if uneven.  The third part, the actual, serious beginning of the Plague of Frogs arc (which apparently goes on for quite some time) is the best part, and left me wanting to pick up and read Plague of Frogs 2 ASAP.  While not as handsome or classy as the Hellboy Library Editions, this is still a pretty good hardcover, and a nice amount of reading for the price.

B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs 1
Authors: Mike Mignola, etc.
Artists: Guy Davis, etc.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59582-609-1
Pages: 406


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