Trading Up: B.P.R.D. War on Frogs

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Not every book is a big event. Sometimes, a book is smaller in scale, setting the stage or giving you, the reader, a look into the everyday life of extraordinary characters. As a result, you get to know these characters. You almost get under their skin and see the world that you would miss in a big, action-packed book with issue after issue of monster-fighting.

B.P.R.D: War on Frogs is such a book. It is a collection of five one-shots, each detailing one member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and his or her fight against the “frogs,” a vicious race of monsters who pose a large threat against humanity.

B.P.R.D. builds upon a strong framework built by Mike Mignola and his famed Hellboy series. B.P.R.D. is similar to Robin, in that it is a book famous for a leading character that barely appears in its pages. However, you may be surprised to find that the book does not suffer from Hellboy’s fame. Instead, Mignola and his crew have built up secondary characters like Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, making them capable of carrying this book on their own.

The one-shots expand upon these characters’ histories, showing how each one has a unique problem with the frogs. Roger, a mysterious soldier who is perhaps not human, fights some of the original frogs and discovers something of their past. Johann Kraus, for instance, encounters the ghosts of frogs rather than their physical forms, and he must help figure out a way to allow their souls to “move on.”

The only story that spans multiple issues is that of Abe Sapien, a veteran B.P.R.D. member who seems shell-shocked. As a result, teams of B.P.R.D. soldiers are left without leadership in a battle against the frogs.

War on Frogs is for the committed Mignolia fans. While the book revolves around the B.P.R.D.’s encounters with the frogs, there is no explanation for new readers detailing where the frogs came from or exactly what they are. If you’re new to the series, you’ll have to use your old context clues to figure out how the frogs came up on the B.P.R.D.’s most wanted list. Or you could simply check Google.

Several stories also build upon continuity from previous volumes of B.P.R.D. The traumatic event that forces Abe Sapien off the front lines against the frogs is never explained or even mentioned. It’s not impossible for new or casual readers to understand what is going on, but it will require some detective work.

Another reason this book is for the fans and not new readers is the story. Each issue is its own, small story that doesn’t exactly setup anything more at the end than when you begin. The goal of this book may be to heighten the tension, to leave you dying for a follow-up Frogs mini-series, but it’s certainly not to give you a solid, stand-alone story. Reading the third B.P.R.D collection, Plague of Frogs should be a good way to catch up on the team’s history frogs and add more depth to the events in this edition.

It’s really a companion piece, giving you a slice-of-life view at the B.P.R.D. soldiers and leaders. There are no major revelations or turning points.

The impressive part of this collection is the collaborations. Each story, written by Mignola and John Arcudi, is drawn by a different artist. Artists Herb Trimpe, Guy Davis, John Severin, Peter Snejbjerg, and Karl Moline all lend their artistic touch to this collection, but the pages look remarkably Mignola. It is a nod to Mignola’s Hellboy franchise, which has created a look of its own. Dave Stewart colors almost the majority of the book, which gives it a cohesive feeling as well.

The extras included in this collection are standard. Artists offer up their sketches of the frogs and B.P.R.D. members. Mignola also includes a brief history of War on Frogs, as well as some comments for each sketch.

War on Frogs is an entertaining collection, but its reliance on past continuity, as well as its small scope, won’t bring in new readers. This book won’t leave you yawning in your reading chair, but it also won’t leave you wondering what will happen next. Fans of the series, this book was written for you.

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