B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories

Written by Mike Mignola, Miles Gunter, Brian Augustyn, Geoff Johns and Joe Harris

Art by Michael Avon Oeming, Guy Davis, Scott Kolins, Cameron Stewart and Adam Pollina

Publisher: Dark Horse

Format: Softcover, full color, $17.95

Category: Adult Action/Adventure

Dewey: 741.5 MIG

Subjects: Comics and comic books, etc.; Action and adventure; Science fiction.

ISBN-13: 978-1-59307-132-5

Reviewed by: Kat Kan

This volume collects several stories about the other members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. After Hellboy resigns from the B.P.R.D., firestarter Elizabeth Sherman sends a psychic call for help to her friend Abe Sapien, and he, Roger the homunculus, and "new guy" Johann Kraus (a disembodied spirit medium encased in a containment suit) travel to a remote monastery high in the Himalayas. Not only do they find the monks all dead; they also find Liz's inanimate body and a strange dead creature which Roger reanimates enough to get information. They must travel below the monastery to find an older race which wants to use Liz's firestarting abilities to destroy the world above. Abe Sapien takes center stage in "Drums of the Dead," when he travels to the Bahamas to investigate eldritch goings on aboard a freighter. Incessant drumbeats affect some of the crew on board, who kill shipmates and then jump overboard to be killed by the many sharks gathered around the ship. Garrett, a B.P.R.D. psychic, transforms into a monster when the drum beats start up. After Abe is forced to almost kill him, Garrett reverts back to human form; when he recovers, he tells Abe that the freighter is traveling along the Middle Passage, the route used by slave ships transporting Africans to the New World, in appalling conditions which killed many of them along the way. The sea is filled with their souls, lost and begging for help. Abe gathers the souls of the dead and stops the drums and more death. In a shorter story, "Abe Sapien versus Science," we see how Abe, remembering the way Hellboy prevented B.P.R.D. scientists from killing him, passes on the favor by preventing a new generation of B.P.R.D. scientists from destroying Roger the homunculus. And in "The Killer in My Skull," investigator Lobster Johnson looks into bizarre deaths in 1938 New York City.

Mignola scripted all the stories except "Drums of the Dead," which is by Brian McDonald, but most of the pencil and inking work was done by other artists, including Ryan Sook, Matt Smith, Derek Thompson, Dave Stewart, and James Sinclair. All the stories employ the darker palette typical of Hellboy comics and maintain the same ambiance. These are horror stories, but not the slasher gore-fests still often seen in movies. Mignola uses Lovecraftian motifs and history, crafting intelligent stories for the thinking horror fan. While I miss Hellboy, I do enjoy the other characters Mignola created, and they work with great effect in these stories. For those who have already read Hellboy and seen the movie, B.P.R.D. can help entertain older teens and adults who enjoy well-crafted stories of mystery and horror.