By Mike Mignola & various (Dark Horse Books)
This collection features spin-off characters from Mike Mignola’s excellent Hellboy series and deals with the spooky jobs that typically befall the Enhanced Talents task force of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. If you’re new to the concept think of a government sanctioned Ghostbusters dealing with Buffy style threats to humanity.
After the events of Hellboy: Conqueror Worm, the demonic hero took a sabbatical from the B.P.R.D. and our tale begins as the remaining investigators question their own validity in an organisation that clearly does not fully trust or appreciate them. Such ponderings are sidelined however when pyrokinetic Liz Sherman sends a spectacular distress call to the Merman Abe Sapien. Since she has been missing for two years nobody downplays it and a team is promptly dispatched to her last known location, a temple in the Ural Mountains, on the Arctic Circle.
And so begins a classic tale of sub-Terrene lost civilisations, ancient races and another imminent threat of world conquest, all dealt with in desperate fashion by genuinely charismatic heroes in the supremely entertaining action-packed, tension-filled nick-of-time.
Mignola’s heroic-culture distillations are refreshingly familiar yet engagingly novel, with disembodied psychic Johann Krauss joining Sapien, Sheridan and the wonderful Roger the Homunculus and psychologist Kate Corrigan in an adventure every bit as captivating, thrilling, and just plain spooky as the previous Hellboy vehicles. Indeed, an ensemble situation seems a much better fit for this kind of story. All this eerie wonderment comes courtesy of Mignola, scripting team Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski, the astounding Ryan Sook with additional inking from Curtis Arnold, letters from Clem Robins and magical colours from the himself-legendary Dave Stewart.
Accompanied by a brief but valuable commentary, two back-up strips from the miniseries Hellboy: Box Full of Evil add even more wonderment to this mix. ‘The Killer in My Skull’ is written by Mignola, drawn by Matt Smith, inked by Sook and coloured by Stewart, and features the introduction of 1930’s ghost-breaker Lobster Johnson in a splendid weird science thriller. ‘Abe Sapien versus Science’ is a chilling little character reminiscence of the manphibian’s early days, by practically the same team, except Mignola inks Smith. Pat Brosseau is the under-appreciated letterer in both cases.
Even more thrills come care of writer Brian McDonald, illustrator Derek Thompson and colourist James Sinclair in the extended Abe Sapien solo adventure ‘Drums of the Dead’, a splendidly spooky sea-faring thriller involving voodoo, sharks and the unburied. Rounding out this lovely book is an extensive sketchbook section and the origin of Johann Kraus which originally appeared only in Dark Horse Extra, the publisher’s trade journal.
When the tides of TV fashion once again shift to the fantastic, this bunch should be first choice option for every production company out there. Until then why not get ahead of the rush by reading these truly magical tales?
© 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003 Mike Mignola. All Rights Reserved.