B.P.R.D. #103 Hell on Earth: The Abyss of Time Part 1 of 2 (January – 2013 – Dark Horse)

B.P.R.D. #103

NOTE: This is going to be one of the comics that we go over in the forthcoming HHC Podcast, so you will get to hear all about this again on May 1st, but more in depth, when Nathan Ellis and Gabe LLanas chat it up for your listening pleasure.

The B.P.R.D. is always on the hunt for creatures of supernatural origin and artifacts with mystical powers.  Their goal is to serve and protect the Earth as the policing force against all things that creepy crawl and go bump in the night.  Sometimes the succeed and sometimes they fail.

This issue finds them deep in the bowels of the ruins of a building in Chicago, Illinois.  Leading them deeper and deeper into it is a punk that has a lead on some kind of hidden temple.  As they investigate the premises one of the investigators stumbles upon a sword.  Story transition to our prehistoric past.

The investigator awakes as a man whose tribe has just been attacked by The Cold People.  In this alternate history he is the son of the chief who died in the battle, and he is suddenly thrust into the role of tribal leader.  Clutched in his hands, the very sword that he had grasped in the past/future.  There is more though, an influx of memories from yet another future.  A place where The Cold People aren’t defeated and the world is over run with monsters.  He knows that he must lead his people against The Cold People, first he needs to understand the sword.

The tribal shaman tells the tale of how his grandfather had discovered the sword amid the ruins of an ancient temple.  Then when he was beset on all sides by ghosts, the spirit of the warrior who had once wielded the still sharp sword had come to him and shown him the power of that blade.  The sword is a weapon to be used against all things evil, and that is what the new chief plans to use it for; eradicating the Cold People.

Art here by James Harren is magnificent, there is an aesthetic that mirrors Mignola’s without being a rip off at all.  It is very detailed while still having those dark black spaces that Mignola is so prone to.  Dave Stewart, as always, has that magnificent ability to create these dynamic and saturated color palates that do it for me in a nearly sexual way, they are so beautiful that I literally finding myself staring at pages that transition from one palate to another for way to long.  I feel like I will blush when the page looks up and notices that I’m staring at it’s yellows.  The story is in the firm and capable grasp of Mike Mignola and Scott Allie (who is also doing brilliant on Abe Sapien).  These guys know how to make a “time travel” tale that I’m not annoyed with.

B.P.R.D. is always solid, and always in my pull.  Dear Dark Horse, never let it stop.

Next Time: Gun Devil #1

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Abe Sapien Dark and Terrible #1 (March – 2013 – Dark Horse)

Abe Sapien Dark and Terrible #1

Abe Sapien is on the run but from what? Upon awakening from a coma, Abe disappears, leaving the B.P.R.D. questioning his motives, in a time when they desperately need his help.
Thick with story, this 1 of 3 parts begins with a decidedly evil bang. In a satanic ritual that fails, it seems Hellboy: In Hell may actually be sweeping continuity since HB killed “you know who” in that series. Due to the disappearance and unknown whereabouts of Abe, Director Corrigan is having a meltdown amid the bureau’s apathy to the current situation of gigantic demons and crab men.
On a train, inside a boxcar, we find Abe and a small group of hobos. This is significant because of the clues dropped by these hobos about vampire fungus, crab men in Georgia and a strange growth on the arm of one.

Reminiscent of 70’s horror mags and comics, Sebastian Fiumara uses a distinctly retro style that keeps us consciously aware: this IS horror! It’s interesting as well, the layout of panels; from 4 to 8 panels per page, allowing for tons of content without cramping the art. This is not an easy thing to do and Fiumara is kind of showing off for our pleasure. I personally appreciate it.

I hate to sound like a broken record but I REALLY REALLY LIKE Dave Stewart! I literally want to eat this guy’s color palette. Dark in tone, the book is not victimized by muted colors. Instead, Stewart uses gradients to darken the rich colors he is so fond of using. It is very effective and keeps your eyes on the page. The wash-like effects he is creating are stunning and reminiscent of water colors or gouache.

With the launch of this mini-series, one question stands out to me: Is Abe running away from something or to something? Either way, the Abe Sapien character is undergoing some serious development and that makes me very happy.
With the ever-increasing popularity and expansion of the B.P.R.D., Abe looks to be a key figure, as well he should. Is he running to find out more of his past? Is he running away from something to be later revealed? Will I be able to make it until the next issue without completely obsessing? And what about that variant cover by Max Fiumara with Red riding a bat/bull demon thingy and attacking Abe with text that reads May 1982 Calcutta, India? Whaaaaa?

Abe Sapien is a mystery in the DH MIgnolaverse. There are a bunch of questions that beg to be answered and I have great hopes that at least some of them will be answered here.

Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible issue #1 is available from Dark Horse Comics.

Next Time: The Last Zombie TPB

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B.P.R.D.: Vampire #1 (March – 2013 – Dark Horse)

B. P. R. D.: Vampire #1

Mike Mignola might just be the busiest comic writer alive. His name is on no less than 4 titles from Dark Horse right now. It is increasingly apparent that he has become the face of Dark Horse and the evolution of B.P.R.D. from its humble Hellboy roots to a must-have in every horror buffs pull.

B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development) Vampire is a direct follow up to the series B.P.R.D.: 1948. It is post WWII and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm has moved the relatively new agency from a New Mexico air base to its eventual home at a mansion in Fairfield Connecticut. Hellboy is just a scrap of a lad at this point. The mythology and backstory of B.R.P.D is getting a serious fleshing out by Mignola and his mates Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

I really enjoy the way Mignola and DH present this property. B.P.R.D. became a monthly book after several mini-series but DH has never abandoned the idea of mini-series by doing spin-offs. I enjoy being able to obliquely re-enter the Mignolaverse occasionally, like visiting an old friend. It also keeps DH in my regular pull, which seems a lot smarter way of competing with the new 52 multi issue arc madness, currently clogging it up.

Along with this mini-series is a second publication, Abe Sapien which I am completely jazzed about picking up on Wednesday. Abe is hands down my favorite B.P.R.D./Hellboy character although Johann Krauss runs a very close second. Hopefully either Gabriel or I can squeeze out a review of it but just in case, you heard it here. We know, it’s AWESOME! (Yes we do!! -gl)

No surprises artistically, Moon and Bá are back and inking their cool style we expect from these books. The story here though, is Dave Stewart. Stewart has become one of the industry’s best colorists. Using a color palette that is more Mark Rothko than comic style, he paints these pages in an almost Mondrian-like way, using gradients to their fullest extent and blocking out complimentary colors for a visually pleasing feel. You can see the impact in the noted lack of dialogue throughout; very smart, very artistic and very pleasing to the eye.

In Vampire, we are getting a better look at minor character, Simon Anders. The writers give us some casual hints about his true nature, well, it is called Vampire and I’m only guessing here but… I am intrigued with the story though, it starts with a wooded scene involving a couple vampires (no duh!). The story is paced a lot slower than I would expect from an issue #1 with very little reveal. I have to say though; I am intrigued to see how it plays out and am anxious for issue #2. Mignola, Moon, Bá and Stewart are building a mood in which to tell their tale. My guess is it’s a vampire hunter’s tale and uh, yeah, give me lots of that please!

B.P.R.D Vampire issue #1 (of 5) is currently available from Dark Horse Comics.

Next Time:  Morbius: The Living Vampire #3

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Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank (February – 2013 – Dark Horse)

Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank

Baltimore returns in a one shot anthology. Two stories from Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden that as always are amazing.  I read a lot of comics, and a lot of those comments get read on break at my second job (the one where I get breaks).  Usually I’m sitting with a couple of other people, eating my dinner, reading a comic book.  I don’t say much because I mostly just want to read, but when I finished this issue of Baltimore, I slid it back into the poly bag and said out loud, “That is a good one.”  This issue collects two short tales, The Widow, and The Tank.

First is The Widow, Lord Baltimore has gotten wind of a lieutenant who though he died in combat made his way home with the men who served and died under him.  As goes the world of Baltimore the lieutenant and his soldiers are some of the vampire scourge.  After taking care of him and his cronies, Baltimore returns to the home of the widow.  The widow who has been sustaining her husband with her own blood.  He returns because though he understands that she only wanted to help the man that she loves, none of the evils that plague his world get to live.

The second story is The Tank.  Baltimore arrives in a small town in France to hear the tale of a vampire that lives in an abandoned tank on the outskirts of town.  As night approaches Baltimore confronts the creature in the tank who refuses to come out.  The creature is trapped by something that is outside of the tank.  The creature is not the killer in the town, there is something else.  Something that is about to lash out at Lord Baltimore.  During the confrontation that Baltimore has with these other creatures, the vampire attempts to make his escape, and fails.

These stories are about mercy.  They are about putting down the animal that has become unhealthy and dangerous.  Like Ole Yeller it is moving and poignant.  In these two tales you can see that Lord Baltimore must face the most human decision when he is confronting the supernatural.  He has made him self hard to confront the darkness, where the reader sees grey areas (a wife that just wants to be with her husband a little longer, a creature that hasn’t killed for a while because it is trapped), Baltimore only sees black and white.  There is only the creature, and his need to destroy it.  Mignola and Golden have their finger firmly on the pulse of what makes Baltimore special, the thing that makes this title one of my favorites.

Again the art from Ben Stenbeck and the color palate of Dave Stewart are brilliant.  The black edges and corners, the muted earth tones punctuated by deep bright reds.  It always evokes places of drab hopelessness, places that have lost the ability to even see light, let alone be illuminated by it.

If you aren’t reading the Baltimore series, this is a decent jump off.  It is a simple anthology with a couple of stories that while not explicitly introducing Lord Baltimore give you a really good idea of what he is like, and who he is.

Next Time:  Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #1

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Hellboy: In Hell #1 (December – 2012 – Dark Horse)

Hellboy: In Hell #1

Hellboy is dead, and when you are the son of the Devil you go to Hell when you die.  Well in this case The Abyss, which is kind of like a Hell’s waiting room full of bugs.  I haven’t read Hellboy in quite some time, so the reasons why he dies, aren’t known to me past the brief bit of exposition about it at the start of the issue, but frankly that is all you need to be sucked into the story.  You don’t even need that, you mostly just need to know that Hellboy is dead and on his way into Hell.

Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart have created what may be the most beautifully sparse issues of Hellboy I have ever seen.  The panels are black black black, with muted heavy grays, browns, and strange greens and purples.  It really truly gives the feel of an other worldly place.  A spirit has followed Hellboy into the Abyss and aids him in fighting off giant Lovecraftian insects, only to then be confronted by an old enemy Eligos.  The two of them escape to a seperate place where the spirit says that it can bind Eligos.  Hellboy is cast away from the place so the spirit can do its work and finds himself in front of a puppet show of A Christmas Carol, conveniently setting a framework for the next issue.

This is a hauntingly beautiful looking book, and the tone of it is fairly somber, even the sarcastic shtick that is the trademark of Hellboy is seemingly muted (maybe I’m just projecting that into the book), he has some one lines but largely he is questioning, almost lost or out of his element.  This feels like it is going to be Mignola’s Inferno, like he if finally at a place where Hellboy can make a truly spectacular journey into who and what he is (ideas that have been explored fairly deeply over the course of the comic, but that can always be dug deeper into).  I like the feel of it so far, and I hope that it takes the direction that it seems to be taking.  This book truly excites me.  I have nothing but gushing compliments for it.

I feel like a true testament to how good a book is, is if you want to go back and read all of the old issues.  This makes we want to dig deep and start collecting from the very beginning of Hellboy.  I want to take that journey again, I want to move from semi super hero fighting alongside the B.P.R.D. to what looks to be the start of a very personal journey, all alone, into the depths of Hell.  This is just superb and I can’t wait to spend more time in Hell.

Next Time: Morbius: The Living Vampire #2