Plot: After the events of issue #3, Professor Brutenholm and Jacob Stegner experience a second dose of survivor’s guilt. When Stegner finally receives word that missing BPRD operative Simon Anders is alive, he mounts a rescue attempt. Meanwhile, Hellboy eats pancakes.
Comments: Sequels commonly repeat elements from the original to recreate success, but only end up losing what made the original so fresh and exciting. It’s funny that BPRD 1947, a direct sequel to BPRD 1946, is all about repeat experiences, with Professor Bruttenholm again losing most of his team while Stegner’s and Anders’ storylines directly parallel their wartime trauma.
Anders is the focus of BPRD 1947 #4, narrating his experience of being lost at sea in parallel to his captivity by a particularly mean pair of vampire sisters. While it may sound a bit cerebral, Ander’s narration is hardly meta-allegory, but rather about the feeling of hopelessly wasting away. While in previous issues he seemed a bit of a throwaway character, with this episode he proved to be one of the most compelling.
Conversely, the Professor’s plight is the series’ weakest link, requiring readers to be familiar with the events of BPRD 1946 (I’m not) to truly appreciate his guilt. Granted, it’s hard to make a reader care about the guy behind the desk while the heroes are out fighting vampires, so it works well enough and never becomes a total chore. The ending of this issue, however, suggests that there might be some payoff to the Professor’s story in the conclusion.
Mignola and Dysart juxtapose the pathos and horror with cute scenes of a young Hellboy living the life of the average kid. Innocent and oblivious to the supernatural turmoil at hand, he indulges in sweets, reads comics, and plays with a dog. While seemingly irrelevant (one might accuse the writers of shoehorning Hellboy in out of obligation), they give the story an almost twisted sense of irony and weirdness that makes the Hellboy franchise stand out amongst the rest of the genre. The satanic child gets a big stack of pancakes while the humans have to fight vampires.
Bá and Moon continue to divide the art duties between the “real world” scenes with the Professor and the other agents (Bá) and the supernatural scenes surrounding the isolated Anders (Moon). A reader speeding through the issue might not notice the difference between the twins’ art because they complement one another, but Moon’s work is more raw, loose, and grungy while Bá keeps his figures tight and compact. Which one is the evil twin still remains to be seen (I’m betting there’s a third brother a la X-Men).
BPRD 1947 #4 is a standout issue in a standout series, setting up for what will hopefully be killer conclusion with more pathos, monsters, and pancakes.
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