"B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs Collection: Volume 1" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Hellboy: Box Full of Evil, Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead, B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth, Dark Horse Extra, B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice, B.P.R.D.: Dark Waters, B.P.R.D.: Night Train, B.P.R.D.: There's Something Under my Bed, and B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs #1-#5
Written by Mike Mignola, Christoper Golden, Tom Sniegoski, Geoff Johns, Brian McDonald, Miles Gunter, Michael Avon Oeming, Brian Augustyn, Scott Kolins, and Joe Harris
Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming, Guy Davis, Ryan Sook, Matt Smith, Derek Thompson, Scott Kolins, Dave Stewart, Adam Pollina, and Cameron Stewart
2003, 410 Pages
Graphic Novel released on January 19th, 2011
Before there was Hell on Earth, there was the Plague of Frogs. Spinning out of Hellboy, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) received a handful of one shots and mini-series as a way to test the waters. The folks at Dark Horse wanted to see how a team book would work in this world. Fortunately for them and for everyone else, it works very well. Sure, the big red guy isn't around as he had quit the B.P.R.D. at this point in the timeline, but his presence is still felt by all he touched.
Here's a quick breakdown of the team: You've got Abe Sapien, an amphibious man who was found by the B.P.R.D. in a jar. He's served as a field agent since he was revived. Liz Sherman, the firestarter of the group, is only now mastering her powers. Roger, the homunculus made from human blood and herbs, has joined the team after being brought to life by Liz's fire powers. He's rather childlike but incredibly strong. Newcomer Johann Kraus is a medium who no longer has a body. It was destroyed while he was using his ectoplasmic projection. Now he uses a special suit that enables him to move about. Finally there's Dr. Kate Corrigan, who is a former NYU professor. She's a regular human but a devoted field agent.
Now that you've met the players, let's get into it. This collection brings together the first three trade paperbacks of B.P.R.D., which begin to craft the overall Mignolaverse in a place without Hellboy bouncing around. It also started the ball rolling with the Plague of Frogs, which was a mega event that was years in the making. Each story allows different members of the team to have their place in the spotlight so you're given a nice array of comics that let you get to know everyone.
What's telling about the B.P.R.D. is just how important Hellboy is to them. He's still alive at this point, but he's just not working alongside them like he was for so long. It seems some bad blood was created after the Bureau put a bomb in Roger as a safety precaution. This didn't sit too well with Hellboy and he left. The rest of the team questions why they're still there too, but they soldier on for different reasons. For Abe, he doesn't know anything else. The B.P.R.D. has been his life. He can't remember what came before waking up in that jar with the scientists poking at him. Similarly, where are people like Roger and Kraus going to go? Regardless, the "teachings" of Hellboy are still felt.
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This collection also marks the first time that other writers got to play in creator Mike Mignola's sandbox. Up until then, Mignola had been running the show, but he just didn't have time to write a B.P.R.D. series too as he was tied up with the Hellboy movie. Other authors were pulled in and were allowed to craft their own stories, looking to Mignola for guidance. I quickly found that the stories where Mignola had less involvement were the ones that I liked the least. For example, Night Train, written by Geoff Johns -- a current superstar over at DC Comics -- and Scott Kolins, is an alright tale, but it just didn't feel like much of a B.P.R.D. comic. The story has Liz and Roger investigating a ghost train that was blown off the tracks by a Nazi years ago, much to the dismay of Lobster Johnson. I love Johns' work on Green Lantern and a number of other comics, but this one just didn't do it for me. This felt like more of a superhero story, especially due to the art by Kolins. It's so much brighter and larger than life than the dark shadows I've grown accustomed to with the Mignolaverse.
On the other side of the spectrum, there's the title story which was written by Mignola with art by Guy Davis. This is a five issue comic that includes all of the team members as they look into some bizarre murders that followed the disappearance of a large fungal growth from a B.P.R.D. lab. Plague of Frogs gets much more room to tell its plot than the other comics included here but it's also a much bigger arc. This sets the ground work for the next several years of B.P.R.D. comics and ties in to things like Abe Sapien's origin. It's big and Davis' art matches that.
The Plague of Frogs omnibus is an absolute steal. You get what amounts to three trade paperbacks in one collection. This one is doubly important as it's the first batch of B.P.R.D. stories. I think Some of the comics are better than others here, but the quality is pretty high for the most part. Mignola gets to mold the overall story. You can see his handiwork come in a much bigger way as the book goes on and that's definitely a good thing.