By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 12/05/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: November 27, 2013 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This graphic novel collects the five-issue miniseries that ties into B.P.R.D.: 1946-1948.
It’s the image of the deserted, silent interior of a train car that sets the mood for B.P.R.D.: Vampire. This is another rich, dark layer that Mike Mignola adds to the B.P.R.D./Hellboy cake. Vampire spotlights B.P.R.D. Agent Simon Anders in the aftermath of the events shown in B.P.R.D.: 1946, 1947, and 1948.
This is a solid story with incredibly great art. I have been a sucker for Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá ever since they created Daytripper. Their stories are brimming with subtextual layers and their art is beautiful, atmospheric, and above all unforgettable. Characters don’t stand still, they glide—there is movement in the ink. And the coloring—Dave Stewart, enough said!
I enjoyed every page of B.P.R.D.: Vampire and would have to refer to it as a must-read for any B.P.R.D. fans, as well as any fans of these talented siblings, the “Boys from Brazil.” Mignola, Bá, and Moon really pull out all stops on this one and it is so subtle (well, besides the hundreds of dead, bloody virgin corpses bobbing up and down in the river) one doesn’t notice just how affective the storytelling is until a second reading.
The theme and imagery concern reflections and how appearances, titles, and even history itself can be misleading. Page after page, Moon and Bá display many mirrors and the characters’ reflections. The cover itself is a small miracle of an illustration. It shows the polar opposite of the vampire lore where the undead have no reflection. Our doomed B.P.R.D. agent has inner demons and we can see them reflected in a puddle. Rather unique for a vampire story, but essential to the examination of what is happening in Agent Anders’ head.
Unlike the last few trades in the Mignola oeuvre—namely 1948, The Midnight Circus, and The Return of the Master, this book does not stand alone very well. I think that Mignola and the brothers figured the atmosphere of the story could succeed on its own. And it does—almost. I had to go back to look up what had happened before. I can only assume a new reader would be even more confused. They just wanted to tell the story without any background information slowing down the flow, but the lack of distractions actually proved to be a distraction.
This may seem like a nitpick, but keep in mind, I try to review every GN collection on its own merit. There is just too much stuff available out there. We need to spend our money wisely and it is a shame that many long series go unread because readers feel they need to pick up every single trade. Not so for most of B.P.R.D. I wonder what a fan of Umbrella Academy, Daytripper, or any of the Moon/Bá output would react to this story. The art and storytelling are amazing. Had we been given a recap page (Mignola’s comics are famous for them) and known what happened to Agent Anders in the previous volume and who the little Russian pixie is and a few other loose ends, this would be rated quite a bit higher.
Regardless, B.P.R.D. continues to impress. The ride on the empty club car on the lonely train through Eastern Europe is enough to forget any shortcomings. It calls to mind the first 20 minutes of Tod Browning’s Dracula and Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr. You are alone to face your demons. Do yourself a favor—pick up all four B.P.R.D. volumes in this series: 1946, 1947, 1948, and Vampire.
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.