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BPRD - Hopping Mad!

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Hellboy and the BPRD (the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) have generally been big winners over the past 14 years - Mike Mignola has delivered some fine stories and wonderful, influential artwork within the medium. Simply listing off the team is fun: There’s Abe Sapien the amphibious man, Panya the ageless mummy, and of course, Hellboy, beast of the apocalypse (well, he used to be a member.) This rogue’s gallery of ghoulish crime fighters has kept the Hellboy series, and more recently the BPRD spin-offs fresh, fun, and exciting.

The weird, occult tone of BPRD stories have always been the centerpiece of their success. BPRD 1946 showed the team’s creation amidst evil Nazis and mentally-ill vampires. Mignola has said that Nazis simply make great villains. They’re rooted in real world history, yet they represent such a universal evil. The juxtaposition of historical context and the very paranormal make for a wildly entertaining landscape.

When it comes to the Hellboy universe, there’s a wealth of material to pick up. BPRD claims some truly epic arcs, like Plague of Frogs (the origin story for Abe Sapien, one of the most celebrated arcs) and The Black Flame, a story that vaults the Bureau onto center stage in the public eye.

Although he’s remained quite popular over the years, Hellboy, in my mind, has been slightly overshadowed by the BPRD. Playing to the fans with favorites like Lobster Johnson, the in-house badass, has put BPRD books at the top of a lot of people’s lists. Mignola and his rotating team of writers and artists topple genre clichés like it’s their day job (I suppose it is, really) and no matter what type of character they come up with, it always feels right. I get the sense that they’ve mixed it up more so that many other series - always with refreshing results.

Perhaps it’s the serialized format of BPRD that has contributed so much to its success. The gothic world of the Bureau has avoided the ever popular "mega-event" format that other comics utilize. Instead, Dark Horse has released a number of smaller collections that make great cohesive graphic novels, without feeling weighed down. The stories, while referential, are easy to follow. This format not only feels like an organic way to tell a story, but it provides a gateway for new readers.

With a BPRD book, the art and writing are always going to be top-notch. The back stories and subplots, which the series draws heavily on for arc ideas, create a sense of depth and fleshes out the universe in a way that surprises even veteran readers. Fans can spend hours simply discovering the source material for these books - be it Russian folklore, gothic ephemera, or Americana - creating volumes upon volumes of related work to delve into.

Now the series finds its newest one-shot rooted in events that date back all the way to The Seed of Destruction. War on Frogs #1 finds Roger the Homunculus giving his take on the epic battle. This is the first of an exciting miniseries detailing The War on Frogs from each character’s perspective - all leading up to The Golden Army, in theaters next month. Who would have thought - all these years and the frogs are still getting a bad rap. Dang.

BPRD: War on Frogs #1 is on sale now from Dark Horse Comics with the creative team of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Herb Trimpe, priced $2.99.

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