Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #313: B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mignola & the crew

The last time I wrote about the B.P.R.D. series, I had an extended metaphor about workplaces, and I could easily continue that here: for all of the world-threatening creatures and bizarre occurrences, Mike Mignola's world is a grounded one, full of people doing their jobs and trying to get through just one more day. And B.P.R.D.: Being Human is the story of the first days on the job for three of those people -- plus one other, shorter story that's also about another day at the monster-fighting business.

Being Human doesn't have any larger structure to hold those stories together, and it doesn't have a consistent creative team -- Mignola is involved in all of the stories, but he doesn't draw any of them, and only co-writes most of them -- so the workaday-ness of the stories is what brings them together. Maybe that's what Mignola and his editor Scott Allie planned -- or maybe they just thought of this as an "origins" book, since this is comics, after all.

The longest piece here is a miniseries set in 1976, with a sullen teen Liz Sherman going out to investigate a witch/haunting with Prof. Bruttenholm in Massachusetts: "The Dead Remembered," written by Mignola and Allie with art by Karl Moline and Andy Owens. It's a bit thinly plotted, and relies too heavily on Liz's angst to drive it, but it's a decent story that fills in her history. (It also gets awfully Catholic, particularly in its solution to the supernatural problem, which is out of character for the B.P.R.D. world -- I would have liked to see Liz be more active and useful.)

The shortest story is the eight-pager "Casualties," a vignette about Liz and Abe Sapien out on a mission in 1981, written again by Mignola and Allie and drawn by long-time B.P.R.D. artist Guy Davis. It's a slight piece, somewhere in between shop talk and a serious conversation about "the relationship" (with the B.P.R.D. and with the job), but it's always great to see more Guy Davis pages of Abe fighting monsters.

"Being Human" was written by Mignola for Richard Corben's art; it's about the homunculus Roger's first mission, out with Hellboy in South Carolina in 2000. It's vaguely voodoo-ish, like a retread of the Mignola-Corben "Crooked Man" miniseries, and full of suitably creepy stuff for Corben to draw in his disturbingly fleshy style.

And last is "The Ectoplasmic Man," in which the German medium Johann Krauss loses his body and joins the band -- written by Mignola and John Arcudi (the usual B.P.R.D. team) and drawn by Ben Stenbeck (who's done a number of Hellboy-verse stories as well).

These are all minor stories -- that doesn't mean they're bad, or not entertaining, but they're not important to the larger Hellboy and B.P.R.D. universe, and they have a faint air of overexplanation about them, as if they were spun out of backstory that was perfectly fine before it became a separate story. This isn't one of the numbered B.P.R.D. collections, and it could easily be skipped -- it's entirely sidebar. But if you like this universe, and I definitely do, it's another almost hundred and fifty pages of stories about the characters you already love.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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