B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground

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Can we all agree that B.P.R.D. is the best book Dark Horse publishes? There’s no debate anymore, right? It’s clearly better than its parent, Hellboy, and having read Dark Horse’s Conan and Rex Mundi, I feel as though I can speak with some authority on the subject.

For the uninitiated, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense hunts down and fights occult threats to humanity. Their story is published as a series of miniseries rather than in an ongoing, consecutively numbered fashion. B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground is the eighth book to hit stories, and sadly it’s also the weakest. 

Rather than focus on one larger plot/threat and fill in the gaps with subplots, this volume is basically a collection of subplots. What’s going on with Liz Sherman? How is Johann Kraus adapting to having a real body again? What’s going on with Ben Daimio? What does Abe Sapien hope to accomplish with the captured Wendigo? How does the 3,000-year-old lady from volume 7 figure into all of this?

Unfortunately, we get answers to only two of those questions, and even then there’s no real sense of closure. The book ends mysteriously, adding to this reader’s frustration.

 A couple of other things that hurt my enjoyment:

  • I read this in trades and the authors don’t offer much in the way of a recap for people like me who have waited over six months between stories.
  • Amazon has tried three times to send me this book, and all three copies have been unacceptably damaged.
  • The next volume will be about the agency’s adventures in 1946, so it’ll be awhile before we get back to the present day and that badass cliffhanger.
  • I read this volume in about 30 minutes, so there’s not a lot of meat on its bones.

Authors Mike Mignola and John Arcudi usually give us stories in this book that have far reaching, end-of-the-world type consequences (see the phenomenal sixth volume, The Universal Machine), so a change of pace series was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the sense of danger and urgency to be almost completely gone from this story.  This is a book with no real status quo, where change (and not the illusion of change) actually happens. For the first time, though, the tension normally associated with reading a book like that was missing.

Because we don’t know what’s happened to Daimio until after it happens, I wasn’t all that concerned with him. Once the dangerous, feral Wendigo escapes, none of the redshirts seem all that concerned. One of them mentions being careful because “that thing is out there,” but that’s about it. Daimio and the Wendigo both get out of the compound, but no one sees fit to hunt them down because it’s snowing outside.

Guy Davis is another artist I flip flop on. At times I’ve stared at one of his pages for a good three or four minutes because it was so damn good. Other times, I’ve squinted at a panel for five minutes trying to figure out what I was looking at. His rougher style works for the beasties he has to draw, but not so well for the talking heads scenes thanks to his usually ugly-ass people. This volume is 75% talking, so you can guess how this turned out.

I’m sure I’m coming across as too negative here, because there was quite a bit too like. Johann adjusting to his new body (eating, drinking, fornicating, and fighting with it) was good for some laughs. We finally got answers regarding the shady Daimio, and it was good to see more of the inner workings of B.P.R.D. headquarters. The team doesn’t leave their Colorado base and this adds a claustrophobic feel to the proceedings, especially when the situation becomes dangerous.

Of course, I would still recommend this book to anyone looking for a comic that doesn’t feature spandex and capes. I suppose we can chalk my disappointment up to being spoiled by quality of the seven previous volumes. Really, the creators only have themselves to blame.

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