Four members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense sit in a circle: Panya the living mummy, Johann Kraus the Ectoplasmic Man, Liz Sherman the fire-starter, and Dr. Kate Corrigan, a specialist in occultism and folklore. They clasp each other’s hands and look at Johann’s luminous bulb-head as he leads them in their séance. “Mr. Johnson, you have made no secret of your presence here. You wanted to be seen, and felt, for your reasons,” beckons the Ectoplasmic Man to the wayward spirit. “But now we have our reasons to speak with you.”
B.P.R.D.: The Warning # 1 is the most peculiar HellBoy comic I’ve read, not content-wise but concerning the unusual lack of structure and derivative plot. There is a lot going on that has definitely happened elsewhere and without annotation of those sources I found myself lost and unengaged.
The plot focuses on the four aforementioned characters and Abe Sapien, who is on a mysterious mission out in the Colorado Rockies. Back at BPRD base, the four try to contact the ghost of Lobster Johnson and request his help in discovering the name of the man who prophesized the frog plague and messed with Liz’s head. That name, Martin Gilfryd, rings a bell to Panya who remembers a rather persistent fellow in the 1860s that hoped to learn the secret of her resurrection. The group discovers his whereabouts and sets out to find him.
Firstly, I didn’t read the BPRD: War on Frogs so I don’t know the context of that mission on this book. Secondly, I have neither reference to nor explanation of Gilfryd’s significance. If he knows something, what is it? If he can do something, what can he do? What exactly did he do to Liz? There is no clarification to any of these propositions and that considerably detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book. I would be interested in delving more into the series to find all this out, but when the issue doesn’t even help to direct me, the reader, I feel lost and a bit slighted.
Yet, there are praise worthy moments, such as Johann’s awkward confusion before the séance. As Abe is on assignment, Liz and Kate set up the ritual with Panya in the infirmary. Neither of them told Johann this, who waits in his room working on a strange assignment of his own. By the time they get to the infirmary, Johann is so disoriented that Panya is concerned he is uncomfortable by her presence. “No, No. Only surprised,” he explains. “You know, you plan for one thing, and it goes another way. It throws you off.” The scenario gives a bizarre sense of realistic tension to an ectoplasmic entity in a plastic suit and living mummy, which exemplifies even the professionals get disoriented and embarrass themselves.
Guy Davis’s style is very sketchy but emotive. You can see Liz’s jocular demeanor from her body language, and sense Panya steadfastness from her facial expressions. Yet, the sketchy style doesn’t really lend itself to the suspenseful horror that usually accompanies BPRD titles.
BPRD: The Warning # 1 is a surprisingly sub par comic from this creative team and one that is needlessly inaccessible to new readers.
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