B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 ReviewJune 15, 2015
If you’re a fan of the Hellboy series but always wondered what happened immediately after the discovery of Hellboy during World War II, then you need to pick up a copy of B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 from Dark Horse Comics.
Personally, I only know what I know about Hellboy from his silver screen adaptations (starring the amazing Ron Perlman), so the nagging questions about the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense’s actions post-Hellboy discovery didn’t weight much on my mind. However, the world of Hellboy is so alive in the pages of this substantially long (over 400 pages) graphic novel that I couldn’t help but be sucked in.
The story follows that of Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, the head investigator of the B.P.R.D. and adoptive father of everyone’s favorite red demon, as he travels around America and Europe in search of the occult. For those who aren’t aware, Hellboy was discovered near the end of World War II by Trevor and his team after being summoned to Earth by Nazi occultists. B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 covers three separate but linked tales, each of which taking place during a single year of 1946-1948, helping give fans and casuals alike a look into the events of Professor Bruttenholm and his team of paranormal investigators A.H. (After Hellboy).
There’s a lot to handle in this graphic novel given that it’s over 450 pages long. I could go into detail about the individual stories, but that would possibly ruin the experience for you, the reader. However, there are important pieces to the story that I’ll share to entice you to read this excellent piece of Hellboy history.
For me, the most striking thing about the stories was how throughout each of them you can see a struggle within Professor Bruttenholm to not only be the foremost expert on paranormal research, but also a father to the little demon child he chose to adopt. While the instances where we see this struggle are rare, they carry a weight with them that stuck with me as I continued reading. These instances were just as crucial, if not more so, to the development of Bruttenholm’s character as his adventures in old German asylums or around American nuclear testing sites.
Hellboy is certainly the main protagonist in the overall series, but before he was fully matured there were scores of men and women who paved the way for paranormal investigation, helping us better understand where Hellboy fits into this world. However, the relationship between Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm helps us understand that on a level that countless hours of paranormal research couldn’t grasp, and Mike Mignola and his team did a superb job of splicing in those instances.
As for the rest of the tales, well, they touch on just about everything: vampires, witches, séances, android apes, Nazi robot spider men, portals to another dimension, etc. You know, run-of-the-mill stuff for the B.P.R.D. As I said, it’s a lot to cover in one review, but the stories are intriguing and rarely let you down as to their resolution. Certain stories and questions remain open-ended, but that’s to help set-up other stories in the Hellboy saga that’ve already been told.
The writing in B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 is just about perfect. While stories sometimes start out a bit slow, the build up to a conflict/crisis and its resolution are spot on. I found myself glued to the pages, wondering what was going to happen next, and sometimes lingering on a page to fully absorb and come to terms with a certain tragedy or event that occurred. I got to know some characters so well that I was audibly cheering them on as they helped Professor Buttenholm on his missions. This made for some very hard-to-put-down reading, and some painful moments as well when things get a bit…hairy. But that just shows how amazing the writing is, and why B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 is a must read.
Overall, B.P.R.D.: 1946 – 1948 is a no-brainer for fans of the Hellboy universe, even if that only includes exposure via the movies. I found very little to complain about as I read through this sprawling collection. Sure, some of the characters are given all-to-brief introductions and can be hard to follow/identify later on, but the main subjects in the novel are ever-present. The artwork is superb and does a lot with the dark shades and limited colors you’d expect from a world as twisted and sometimes sinister as the one where the B.P.R.D. exists to protect us. If you’re a seasoned veteran of the series, then you’ll likely hum right along without missing a beat. And if, you’re newer to Hellboy and find yourself yearning to learn more (like me), then consider this graphic novel a jumping-off point for the rest of the series. You’ll regret nothing.
[Image via Dark Horse Comics]