Comic Picks By The Glick

B.P.R.D.: 1948

September 27, 2013

Okay, after this one I’m thinking that they can give these “dated” flashback miniseries a rest.  The two previous ones annoyed me (yes, even the one with art from Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon) because they felt like diversions that were keeping us from the more interesting main plot of the series.  I was more optimistic about this volume because regular “B.P.R.D.” co-writer John Arcudi would be co-scripting this one as well.  To be sure, “1948” has a little more excitement than its predecessors, but not enough to make me hope that Mike Mignola and co. don’t waste their resources on another one of these series.

After some strange creatures start showing up near a military base in New Mexico in the wake of atomic testing, the B.P.R.D.’s own Trevor Bruttenholm is called in with a team of his own soldiers in order to help in the investigation.  He immediately notices one Anna Rieu, the only female scientist on base and they initially hit it off in comparing theories about what’s behind the sudden appearance of these monsters.  Also along for the ride is Anders, one of the survivors of the previous series, can’t seem to come to terms with what has happened to him in his time with the organization and is taking it out on everyone around him.  Meanwhile, back at the B.P.R.D.’s main base, little Hellboy is growing up quickly and also finding out how much he doesn’t fit into this world.

While we get a hefty dose of the always-welcome weirdness this title traffics in through the atomic-related pseudoscience theories from Bruttenholm and Rieu and the efforts to wipe out the monsters, there’s no real direction to the narrative in this story.  There’s several different plot threads from Bruttenholm managing things between himself and Rieu, Rieu’s frustration at how no one seems to take her theories seriously, Anders’ self-destructive actions, and Hellboy’s antics back home yet none of them step up to become the driving force here.  We’ve got a big monster fight in the last issue and even that feels tacked-on to some extent.  It’s as if Mignola and Arcudi realized that they had to have something act as a climax to the story and seeing monsters get mowed down by gunfire worked as well as anything.

It’s also hard to see what relevance the events have to the main story going on in “B.P.R.D.”  As was the case with the vampires in “1947,” this could just be setup for something the writers want to come back to at a later date.  They’ve done some interesting things with the groundwork in that series even if the story there wasn’t all that compelling.  I fear that may be the case here and actual relevance of this story won’t likely be known for a while.

The art for this story is provided by Max Fiumara, who shows he can do “weird” and “unsettling” quite well in this story.  Problem is that while the monsters he draws work great under those concepts, he also applies them to the human cast as well.  Now I can appreciate a certain amount of stylization or artistic license in my art, Goran Parlov managed this quite well in “Fury,” but Fiumara’s humans look distractingly unnatural in the way he draws their faces and their eyes in general.  “B.P.R.D.” has been host to a great number of talented artists over the years and it’s inevitable that one of them would have a style that wouldn’t be up my alley.  Fiumara, apparently, is one.

While not an outright bad comic, I can’t imagine going back to read this volume again unless the creators pull off an amazing, “Oh, so that’s what they were going for!” moment using the material here in “B.P.R.D.” proper.  On one hand, it’s great that the series has been successful enough to allow Mignola and co. to explore every little nook and cranny of the world that he has created.  On the other, that approach is going to lead to misfires every now and then.  Consider this volume to be deeply skippable for the time being.

Jason Glick

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