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Comicscape: B.P.R.D. Vampire

Boire du sang

By Joel Rickenbach     August 01, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Welcome to Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. This week we trek back into the Hellboy universe with B.P.R.D. Vampire. Read on!
 
It's hard to single out one story in the Hellboy universe, there're all so damn good, and their release schedule is plentiful. However, in the past few years there has been a thread that really stands out to me, and just this week another arc in that story has come to a close with B.P.R.D. Vampire #5 (by Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon).
 
The thread I mentioned is really a character- Simon Anders. The poor Merchant Marine has led a doomed life, and his involvement with the B.P.R.D. has only made things worse, or perhaps inevitable. We first met Simon Anders in B.P.R.D. 1947, he was recruited by Professor Bruttenholm partly because he was considered expendable by the military, and partly because he's had experience with the nature of death; he has stared into the void and seen the other side. For weeks he was adrift on a life raft in the South Pacific, and it was during that time that Simon Anders became the hollow man we meet in 1947. He and his rag tag band of leftover soldiers are tasked with investigating a chateau in France with a sordid history. The team quickly falls victim to ancient vampires and other spirits of the goddess Hecate, who still linger centuries after their "party" is over. Anders is the only one to survive, but he leaves with demons attached to his soul- two sisters who are slowly guiding him to his doom. Professor Bruttenholm tries to have Anders exorcised, but the bond is too strong, and now the soldier starts to share thoughts an memories with the accursed twins inside his soul.
 
B.P.R.D. Vampire opens with Anders leaving the bureau, he's not sure it's the right thing to do, but if he doesn't hunt the creatures of the night that torture his very being he might as well not be alive. Using old “witch maps” he arrives in the Czech Republic via train, the steam engine chugging along, bringing Anders closer to his fate like Jonathan Harker on his way to Dracula’s castle. He meets a local guide named Hana, and they are quickly on the trail of a vampire who has been appearing and disappearing through the ages, each time posing as a different relative to the ruling family. Soon Anders discovers his environs are the very same from the ritual he witnessed during his jaunt to the other side when he was in France, and he knows Hecate can’t be far. The two vampires who govern his soul, Katharina and Annaliese, have their own agenda of revenge for the vampire Anders’ seeks, and they slowly begin to manipulate him into carrying out their will. Anders battles the vampire, Wilhelm, in a very memorable scene, and is confronted by a coven of witches bent on dispelling the power of Hecate slithering around in Anders’ soul. Eventually, Professor Bruttenholm is called in to deal with Anders, as he slips further into possession and darkness.
What makes this book so great is it’s understanding of the quiet moments. It doesn’t feel the need to assault you with needless action or contrived situations. Traditionally a five issue series would culminate with some serious fireworks in the last issue, but Vampire quietly closes the chapter with the pervasive feeling of dread it began with. To pull that off and make it feel rewarding is no easy feat, there’s no neat little bow that ties everything up, instead you are left wondering and curious. Mike Mignola has mastered these types of stories over the years, from horror to folklore, he’s found a unique ability to weave these things into something that’s not always obvious, and doesn’t play to the crowd just for the sake of it.
 
A gigantic portion of the praise has to be given to brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. It’s astounding how their styles can be so fundamentally different, yet compliment each other so perfectly. Watching them each tackle a facet of the story brings a depth to the comic that can only exist when two artists are as in sync as they are. They don’t just trade pages or panels, there are literally a few instances where they both share the art duties on a single panel, and the results are spectacular.
 
As we sit here at the death of July, the pull of the fall begins to creep in, just a little bit. We have a good chunk of the summer still ahead of us, but if you find yourself wanting to let a little dread and doom to keep you company on a night where the breeze has a slight chill, and your mind drifts to the times when it gets darker much more quickly, and you find comfort in something creepy, B.P.R.D. Vampire will fill that longing in your soul, just be careful of dark things that will try and rest there, and if you need further convincing, just ask poor Anders… if you can find him.

 

Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.

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