“B.P.R.D.” has always done a great job of fleshing out the antecedent characters of the “Hellboy” comic it spun out of. Only recently, starting in earnest in “B.P.R.D.: 1946”, has the book also started to flesh out the universe’s past as well, all while never straying too far from the proven formula of creepy stories steeped in historical legend. It’s a formula that has yet to feel old in either main title, nor the many spin-off series.
It’s a difficult “genre” to categorize well. It has aspects of pulp, horror (of course), and historical fiction. All while maintaining the same tone and mood. The continuity maintained over years now of stories is very impressive, and “1947” never wavers in that execution. Mignola and Dysart introduce a new team of operatives, all weary and scarred from their experiences in wartime, all with their own particular and creepy stories to tell. Stories which are shared as a new mystery unfolds; slowly but deliberately.
The artwork by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon is splendid, perfect for this subject material. One of the more ingenious aspects of this particular collaboration between the twin brothers is the way the art chores are split between them. Ba is responsible for pretty much everything in the “real world.” Scenes of preparation or the Agents just relaxing in a pub are all rendered in his distinctive, angular style. But when one of the Agents wanders off, unknowingly into creepiness and danger, Moon takes over, with a much more fluid visual approach. They even switch on the same page at times. It’s a brilliant and incredibly fitting tactic, probably only possible with these two artists. Sharing a studio, a pair of not-completely-dissimilar styles, and more than a few of the same genome strands; they’ve created a one of a kind of art experience for this book. Dave Stewart also does a fantastic job coloring their work. Different from his approach to Ba’s work on “The Umbrella Academy” but very well suited to the classically creepy atmosphere of a Hellboy Universe comic.
There were some bits of the story that a lapsed Hellboy reader like myself (don’t worry, I’m working on it) were a tad confused about. I wasn’t sure who that creepy blonde moppet was speaking to the Professor, but that’s probably my own fault. Overall, this was a fantastic addition to the steadily growing Hellboy mythos, one that is surprising and appreciated in its consistency.