COMIC REVIEW: Gods and Monsters

Between tracking down the vagrant followers of a prescient teen pursued by crablike beasts and dealing with a redneck priest who preaches by way of human mutilation to a trailer park populated by a cult of hillbillies, the B.P.R.D. certainly have their hands full. Can a fractured team wage a winnable war or are they fighting a battle of attrition?

Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi

Artist:Guy Davis, Tyler Crook

Colorist:Dave Stewart

Cover Artist: Mike Mignola

 

Gods and Monsters written by mike Mignola is a trade release featuring two stories from the BPRD universe. For those not in the know the BPRD they are the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence. The best way to describe them is to use a quote from the Hellboy films – ‘When things go bump in the night we’re the ones who bump back’.

I was first introduced to the world of the BPRD through the Hellboy comics. I loved the fact that although the stories focused on Hellboy it was clear that he was cog (albeit a big red cog summoned from hell with a giant hammer like right hand to bring about our destruction). Over the years the BPRD has been the focus of it’s own series and to my shame Gods and Monsters has been the first trade of their adventures that I have read. I have no idea why that is as this kind of comic is right up my street…that street being pulp adventure avenue.

The first story ‘Gods’ centers around a young teenage girl who seems to process the ability to sense danger. Those who travel with her treat her almost like a kind of messiah or prophet. A BPRD team led by Abe Sapien are sent in to find girl and discover the truth behind the rumours.

It’s clear from the first page if you’ve never read a single BPRD or Hellboy title that you’ve missed a hell of a lot. The world is dealing with the aftermath of a major catastrophe that is affecting everyone. The first positive thing to say about the volume is that there are character biographies at the beginning of the book which, although do not answer every question as to what’s been happening, gave me enough of an idea to get me started. What isn’t covered in the pre-story blurb comes out through the dialogue between the characters which helps to build up a picture of the events I’d missed. It also doubles as a sales tool making me want to pick up some of the earlier trades to bring myself up to speed because it sounds like a I’ve missed one hell of a adventure.

The dialogue is tight and the tension between Abe and his BPRD second in command can be seen in every exchange they have even with the little moment of comedy throw in. This Abe seems a lot harsher than the one I remember reading so it’s clear a lot has happened to him. The story is tight and although by the end (which I didn’t see coming)I was left with more questions than answers I knew this was part of a much bigger story so I was fine with that.

Moving onto Monsters, a two issue tale which focuses on Liv Sherman, once a top member of the BPRD but is now in hiding and blaming herself for something terrible she did. Liz soon discovers that even in a run down trailer park the horrors that she used to face on a daily basis aren’t too far behind. Again this story served to heighten the whole ‘the world is going to hell’ theme which played through ‘Gods’ and that this is only the beginning.

I wasn’t feeling this story for the first few pages but the moment Liz came into the picture everything changed. Here she comes across as a burnt out shell of a BPRD agent trying to keep her head down and not get involved. The fact that you know she will find herself up to her neck in trouble soon enough doesn’t matter and boy when it does happen it was one hell of a shock. What starts out as a run of the mill domestic drama about trailer folk, complete with stereotype hillbillies suddenly goes into full on horror mode at the flick of a switch. It’s here that Liz’s character shines for me. She’s bad ass, sassy and comes with a string of one liners and put downs that any action star would have given their right hand to be spouting. If they did a Liz Sherman film it would have to be directed by John Carpenter as elements of story, like being pinned down in a trailer with people baying for blood outside while the one liners were being traded within, reminded me of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. Although the end is another cliffhanger to lead into the next story you get enough closure to the story to be happy. After that you a then treated to a load of production and concept art with some great little notes from the creative team on how the art came to together on both stories.

The art is fantastic in both stories and fits with the gritty styles of both stories. I even found myself cringing at one monster in particular in ‘Gods’ so the art was doing it’s job in ramping up the horror factor. Special props goes to the way Liz is portrayed, in every panel she looks like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and her legs are buckling.

If you’re not familiar with the world of Hellboy and his BPRD mates then this volume may be like diving in the deep end. On saying that I was up to my neck in who’s, what’s and why’s and yet was still able to follow the stories for the most part.

It may not be the best place to start your BPRD education but God’s and Monsters is a fantastic slice of horror and adventure in equal measure.

GS Rating: 5/5

GS Reviewer: Nuge

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