Saturday, 2 January 2016

B.P.R.D, Volume 4: The Dead Review (Mike Mignola, Guy Davis)

Wow, it’s been so long, I’d forgotten how good BPRD used to be - and of course I had to go back to the start to remind myself (the current series is awful)!

The Dead is the book where the BPRD relocates to the now-familiar Colorado base - but it’s haunted! Liz, Johann and Roger meet Daimio for the first time and figure out how to exorcise the demons of their new home. Meanwhile Abe uncovers his mysterious past and visits his old house - which is also haunted (it's a horror comic, everything's haunted)! Abe’s gotta make peace with his ghost wife. 

The tedious frog storyline is mentioned but gets pushed to the side for this volume - thank goodness! The book still has the usual Mignolaverse archetypes as, yes, the Nazis are again the bad guys and, yes, once the Nazi bad guy is revealed he has to give many pages of exposition. Guy Davis’ figures are as sketchy and rough as they usually are but I really enjoyed his landscape work. And Dave Stewart - is it even worth mentioning that his colours are insanely perfect? They always are! The man is an art monster, no wonder he keeps getting awards shoved his way! 

Minor criticisms aside, this is definitely one of the better BPRD books. Daimio’s well-written right from the start as this gruff but competent military man with a bone to pick with guileless Roger the Golem - Roger doesn’t wear clothes and Daimio’s determined to put pants on the guy! Their relationship develops nicely over the course of the book to the point that when the bad guy starts insulting Roger, Daimio finds himself sticking up for him.

That’s what’s missing from BPRD these days: heart. You like these characters and these characters like each other. You could argue that Abe’s storyline is static and predictable here but it’s also a slow burn that builds to a powerful emotional payoff as he’s presented with a blue/red pill kind of choice. I actually felt something on that last page which I can’t say I’ve felt from any Mignolaverse comic in some time. 

The Dead is one of the early BPRD books from “Season One” (the current Hell on Earth series is “Season Two” - I’m using TV terms to differentiate between the two titles but they’re not officially labelled in that way) and, like so many of those early books, is really good. It’s a solid spooky comic with great characters and substantial storylines with real depth to them. The Dead is well worth checking out if you missed it the first time (like me) or feel disenchanted with the way BPRD is these days and want to remind yourself why you liked this series to begin with (also like me)!

B.P.R.D, Volume 4: The Dead

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