Sunday, 9 February 2014

BPRD, Volume 16: 1948 Review (Mike Mignola, Max Fiumara)

What I love about Hellboy, BPRD and all of the associated books is the way Mike Mignola and co. work in haunted houses, gothic castles, black forests, demons, witches, and folklorish characters-turned-evil into their stories. And sometimes they throw in some Nazi vampires and cyborg gorillas too! It’s a potent combination to read a horror comic with horror elements done right which is why the first two Trevor Bruttenholm (pronounced “Broom”) BPRD books, 1946 and 1947, are such enjoyable reads. 1948 though? Uh uh. Mignola drops the ball on this one.

In 1948 we’re in the middle of the Utah desert where the army are experimenting with atomic bombs as a viable means of blasting astronauts into space. Except the atomic blasts have caused a rift to open up - not unlike the rift that brought Hellboy into our world - and a number of monsters have come through. Enter Trevor Bruttenholm.

In 1948, gone are the romantic and spooky backdrops, replaced with boring flat desert and rocks. The Utah desert is completely charmless and dull. Gone are the complex creepy villain characters, replaced with monsters who can’t speak and just attack for no reason. Great, completely arbitrary threats that are there because the authors haven’t got any other ideas. Gone is any semblance of mystery, replaced with nothing. This is such a boring book because its the most straightforward, predictable story without any surprises that you could read. Gone is the originality and imagination that made readers like me look forward to these books, replaced with tedious dialogue scenes between two-dimensional army goons and scientists, bland monster action and a static plot.

This has got to be one of the least interesting BPRD books I’ve ever read. Trevor rocks up, he and the other characters blather on for a few issues, then he figures out what to do about the monsters - the very first plan he thinks of turns out to be the right solution - and it’s done! There’s a subplot about Trevor trying to court a sexy female scientist, while at BPRD HQ a young Hellboy’s feelings are hurt, but really, that’s it for the book? What a load of nothing! None of the storylines tie together at all and seem completely unconnected to one another.  

Trevor is the only developed character and that’s thanks in large part to having been around for 20 years! The others couldn’t be more lifeless. And that Anders character is just terrible - I can’t believe he’s become such a prominent figure in this series! Ooo, I’m troubled, I’m gonna wander about alone in the desert and shoot stuff and yell! Yawn. Seriously, get a personality, chum.

I don’t think I’ve seen this artist’s work before but I really liked Max Fiumara’s art in this book. He has an excellent eye for motion and the action scenes between the giant bird monster and the army were good if only for his efforts. And of course Dave Stewart’s colours remain second to none.

Like the BPRD: Vampire book with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon that follows this, Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are on autopilot in 1948, lazily throwing together some things that make this look like a story but is in fact a load of insubstantial and forgettable codswallop. This was so disappointing because the Trevor Bruttenholm books are usually among the best in the BPRD series. 1946 and 1947 both show that a BPRD book can work without Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Johann Krauss or Lobster Johnson, and that Trevor is a great character in himself though you wouldn’t know that from reading 1948. If you haven’t read them, pick up 1946 and 1947 instead - I can’t recommend 1948.

B.P.R.D.: 1948

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