BPRD: A Plague of Frogs
by Mike Mignola and Guy Davis
I think Hellboy is one of the great comic book creations of recent years, despite the fact that I’m not really into the Cthulhu/Lovecraft horror thing. I prefer the supernatural adventure, the punching, the folklore from around the world, and the fact that Hellboy is cool. He has horns, a tail, a Right Hand of Doom made of stone, and carries a big gun. What’s not to like?
The other appeal of the Hellboy comics is the moody art of the creator, Mike Mignola. His ability with shadow, composition and atmosphere is sublime, and it doesn’t feel like Hellboy when he’s not drawing the character. This means that I haven’t read much of the other work that is outside of the main books written by Mignola, nor the spin-offs that don’t have Hellboy; therefore, I decided to sample A Plague of Frogs.
A story of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, it has resident merman (sorry, icthyo sapien) Abe Sapien, the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, Johann Kraus (a disembodied ectoplasmic spirit in a containment suit), Roger the Homunculus and Director of Field Operations Kate Corrigan investigating frog demons (last seen in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction). The reason for the story, though, is the ‘origin’ of Abe Sapien. The fact that Abe was discovered in a glass tube of water was enough of an origin for me in the Hellboy universe, but I suppose Mignola had to get round to it eventually, especially with the way the stories all tie in with each other so well (it’s really nice to see footnotes in comics again, letting you know where everything connects).
Instead of Mignola on art duties, we have Guy Davis, whose art I remember from Sandman Mystery Theatre. His ease with period setting there and his ability to draw absolutely anything suits the tale well, as the Hellboy stories always have a timeless feel to them, as if the current time period in which they are set is not really important. I find Davis’s art a little loose and straggly for my tastes, and always prefer Mignola’s art on Hellboy, but he does a good job of marking his own stamp on the work while keeping a connection to Mike’s visual styling.
A Plague of Frogs is an enjoyable tale, but it doesn’t make me want to go out and read more BPRD stories. I am intrigued by the group as a whole, as Mignola has created a bunch of interesting characters (both intellectually and visually), but this story didn’t grab me, possibly because of the Lovecraftian gods aspect. However, the supernatural adventure side of things was provided in full, and there’s not much like it out there for the same sort of entertainment.