"B.P.R.D.: Being Human" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered #1-3, B.P.R.D.: Casualities, B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man, and Hellboy: Being Human
Written by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Karl Moline, Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck, Guy Davis, Andy Owens, and Jo Chen
2011, 152 Pages
Trade Paperback released on December 14th, 2011
Everyone knows that Hellboy is the true star of the B.P.R.D. world, but fortunately creator Mike Mignola spends enough time with the supporting characters, giving them their moments in the spotlight. Such is the case here with B.P.R.D.: Being Human, a collection of issues that focus on the other members of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
First up is fire starter Liz Sherman in the three part story The Dead Remembered, written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie. We're given a glimpse into her life just after she became a ward of B.P.R.D. cooped up in the offices without much to do. Hellboy takes a liking to her and urges the Professor to take her on a mission to get her out of her room for awhile. The pair investigate a haunting caused by the death of an alleged witch some time ago. Liz struggles with her abilities while dealing with being an awkward teenager.
Karl Moline drew this arc and he does a fantastic job. I'm a fan of his art from Joss Whedon's Fray, so I was glad to see him on pencils here. Everything has a very stark look to it, but still fits in with the overall design of Mignola's characters. There's also a thin vein of nostalgia with the scenes shared by Liz and local boy Teddy that harkens back to an almost ‘50s era vibe. I wouldn't be surprised if the pair of them got a shake with two straws at the malt shop.
Next up is the short story Casualties, also written by Mignola and Allie. This is another Liz focused comic, but she plays off of Abe Sapien here. The two of them have been through some shit lately and they lean on each other in the aftermath of a werewolf attack. It's a very brief tale, but it's one that shows tremendous character growth between them.
Guy Davis illustrated Casualties in a style that mimics Mignola's very well. It's weird, but Mignola has such an iconic look to the Hellboy universe that everyone else has to try and imitate it just right. I couldn't see someone like John Cassaday or Ari Granov drawing a Hellboy comic. It just wouldn't work. Anyway, his werewolf design is pretty fierce, but still emphasizing the fact that there's a human being in there somewhere. There's a close up shot of the beast about to tear the throat out of a B.P.R.D. agent that's terrifying and then the next panel has it reeling back, showing lanky arms and an overall awkward body.
Being Human is my favorite of this collection. It's written by Mike Mignola and is a Hellboy-centric story shared with Roger, a homunculus made from human blood and herbs. The two of them share a unique connection as neither of them can really be considered human. Hellboy has always been an outcast and Roger is sort of like Frankenstein. They team up to investigate some strange doings in a cemetery in South Carolina. The moral implications brought up in the story are really interesting. They explore the consequences of taking life for granted, which is played up very well with Roger.
Richard Corben handled the art for this story. I'm not sure why, but his work reminds me a lot of that of cartoonist Robert Crumb. This is probably due to the outlines of the characters and the design of the vengeful daughter. I really like his zombies too.
Finally we have The Ectoplasmic Man which gives us the details on the origin of Johann Kraus. Fans of Hellboy II will remember Kraus as the projection housed in a containment suit. He's sort of a ghost but not quite. His body was destroyed while he contacting the dead so he's just kind of stuck. We knew the basics behind Kraus' condition but this shows us exactly what happened and how he came to work for the B.P.R.D.. He does it to help others and for a bit of revenge. It's a great story.
Ben Stenbeck drew this story and he kicks its ass. There's this three panel transformation of the villain that Stenbeck just nails. It culminates in a full page spread of this guy in his true form. I think it's the only full page image in the entire book outside of the covers and it's so worth it.
The book wraps up with sketches and notes from the artists as well as a cover and pinup gallery.
B.P.R.D.: Being Human is a great primer for new fans of the Hellboy books. It makes it quick and easy to follow origins for most of the players and enough information about the others to not leave you in the dark for the story. The comics range in tone and topic to give you a nice variety for the price of admission.