Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Here’s the next run that did not make the Top 158 Comic Book Runs list, but was still beloved by SOMEone!
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis’s B.P.R.D.
A bunch of one-shots and mini-series since 2003
The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) was the group that Hellboy was a part of in the pages of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Eventually, Mignola decided to give the group and its other members (such as Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Roger the Homunculus and Johann Kraus) their own spotlight.
They had a few one-shots and mini-series, but ultimately, they settled on a steady diet of mini-series co-written by Mignola and John Arcudi and drawn by Guy Davis.
Here is The Dane on why this series was his top pick…
Guy Davis’ involvement in BPRD has completely turned the book around. Volume 1 with Ryan Sook was pretty decent. Not great, but pretty decent. It was an alright story with art that was reminiscent of Mignola’s work on Hellboy (Sook’s work looks like the lovechild of Mignola and Jae Lee), but it did little to bring BPRD into its own. In fact, despite the fact that important things begin in that book, the feeling that the volume is in some ways a Hellboy rip-off (can a Mignola production really be a Hellboy rip-off?) diminishes it almost to the point of forgettability (if that can be a word now).
Unfortunately, volume 2 was a step down. Some of the stories were so-so and some were just on the lighter side of bearable and some might not even make it that far. Guy Davis’ work on, “Dark Waters,” the short about investigating a long-passed witch hunt is the saving grace of the second volume.
With Volume 3, everything changes. Mignola began working with John Arcudi on story and script and art chores were given over entirely to Guy Davis. The story of BPRD (at last there was a story!) began to evolve and BPRD volumes 3–8 have been among the best examples of Good Comics in the last five years. Davis has given the book a distinct look and one that fits the story and mood better even than Mignola’s own wonderful style. And Davis can draw with such an eye for invention that I have a hard time thinking of more than a small handful of comparable creators. While Mignola plays up the minimalism for his work, Davis makes the details sing.
Storywise, the book is just getting better and better and my presumption is that we owe that to the combination of talents in Arcudi and Mignola. The backmatter for each volume usually mentions who was responsible for what, but I’m never quite sure how it is that the two divide their tasks. I imagine it must be through some arcane ritual and forgotten chemistry, but the fluidity with which these stories blend into each other is breathtaking for me.
In one of the comment threads for the main list of 100 best runs, there was some discussion of the contemporary abandonment of the subplot. Claremont, in his day, was praised for the use of subplots that would weave throughout his stories, lending an air of, I think, authenticity to the book; I think all those subplots not only helped ratchet up the tension, but aided readers in establishing a continuity for the stories as a whole. BPRD is one current book that is aces when it comes to subplots. Little details from previous books filter through only to rise up seemingly at random to become major plot points. These little things are a joy to me.
Recently, I had a couple weeks off from work while recovering from a surgery. I didn’t have a lot I could do, so I mostly read. A few novels, a bunch of comics. As I had just received BPRD vol. 8, I thought I would take the time to read the whole series in one go. 1 through 7 and then 8, which I hadn’t previously read. I was riveted and read the entire thing in a sitting. The team of Mignola, Arcudi, and Davis really make you care about their creations. By the time I was a quarter of the way through volume 8 (Killing Ground), I was anxious for all the members of the team. I was overwhelmed with the sense that bad things were afoot and that no one was safe. The creative team had already proven that the group was not to be seen as a property to be protected in perpetuity, so the reader is well aware that any misstep by a character may be his or her last.
The book conveys, perhaps, a true sense of horror. Not anything like the cheap gross-out thrill of a zombie story or the jumpy nerves of a slasher flick, but this gradually building sense of dread. The dread, when encountered is real. And so is the relief, when it comes.
There are only a small handful of books that merit my checking of Amazon with any regularity for a new release date. BPRD is certainly among those.
Thanks, The Dane!!
Okay, folks, I’m running low on essays – tomorrow looks like it’ll be the last day unless people send me more!
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