This may be the darkest of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) books to date. And that is saying a lot.
But, man was it good. As I’ve mentioned before, the BPRD books have continued to impress and sustain, taking place in the Hellboy-spawned world many of us have come to love.When I saw the name of this newest storyline, 1946, I tried to be patient and wait for the trade. I’m not a total trade paperback convert (I still buy approximately 50% of my comics in floppy issues and 50% in trades. It’s part of my past struggling with the newer me who likes the trades crammed in my book shelves for easy access, loaning, and re-reading.
Since I own all of the other BPRD books in trade format, I needed to continue in this way, although I felt the urge to buy the floppies, as they called out to me each month from the comic shop racks.
Then there is the heavy-WW II angle in this book, which I like just fine. Remember, Hellboy was discovered in 1944 by the Allies, right before the end of the war. I really think Mignola & Dysart hit this one out of the park, picking up immediately after the war, in Berlin, with both the occupying American forces and Russian forces vieing for discovery and access to all the secret nazi occult experiments (one of which in ‘44 Hellboy was a result of, himself).
Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (who rescued Hellboy and founded the BPRD) and his assistant Dr. Howard Eaton are sent on special assignment into Berlin to uncover what remained of the Nazi regime’s special occult division. Their reputations preceded them, already infamous in U.S. military circles, due to their involvement in the rescue of one little red guy in '44.
The book gets really weird when Bruttenholm is forced to collaborate with the Soviet allies, headed up by the scariest creature in recent BPRD memory… al little girl with pictails. That’s right, the head of the Russian paranormal unit is an ancient demon in the guise of a little girl in a white dress with a dolly. Talk about creepy. And it bothers me how this doesn’t bother any of the other characters too much. It’s just freaky, scary and wrong. At one point, she tells the story of her origin and reveals herself to a lower level inquiring demon and we see what’s really behind the Russian-accented little darling. Scary.
What is uncovered in the main storyline was a Nazi secret plan to build an army of vampire super soldiers, but the experiments went horribly wrong, and the test subjects become the cause of poor Professor B. And the more he uncovers, the worse the situation gets.
This peculiar story is illustrated by Paul Azaceta with colors by Nick Filardi – and their work shines albeit, darkly. In every shadow lurks a haunted spirit, and every character’s expression has a murky, textured shading that gives the panels a nostalgic feel – perfect for a vampire story taking place in 1946. Even in the depiction of the unit of ragtag soldiers assigned to assist Prof. Bruttenholm, I can see great attention to detail was given to creating individuality amongst the men. This can also be seen in the sketchbook notes by Mignola and Azaceta in the back of the trade.
By the way, the back of the trade has a few neat extras such as a letter from writer Joshua Dysart about his pitch to Mignola, a short BPRD story from Free Comic Book Day, and the aforementioned sketchbook with notes. Not bad.
I am always entertained when reading this series and have been happy with each trade paperback purchase. Not knowing where each story is going to go, BPRD always leads to an excited bit of surprise, and often the trip leads down alleys to the past, buried in dark evil secrets. It's always an adventure. And B.P.R.D. 1946 ends with enough doors open to allow that evil to creep back in at some point in the future…