Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Being Human

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola et al.

This volume of B.P.R.D. stories recounts the first missions of Liz Sherman (pyrokinetic ward of the B.P.R.D.), Roger (a homunculus discovered in Romania by Hellboy), and Johann Krauss (a medium whose body was killed while on a "out of body" experience yet continues on as an ectoplasmic man).

Liz has been a ward of the B.P.R.D. since she was seven or eight, when she accidentally killed her family with her fire-starting abilities. Hellboy encourages his mentor and father figure, Professor Bruttenholm, to take her out on a simple assignment--investigating a haunted house in Massachusetts. Haunted from the Salem Witch Trial days! The professor just wants to help the uneasy spirit move along. But does it want to? The real focus of the story is Liz as she befriends a local boy and gets caught up in the spooky proceedings. Can she grow out of her shell-shock and start to live a more normal life? A short story set much later gives a few extra answers.

Roger the homunculus is a simple soul with a yearning to learn more about life. He also has been kept under wraps at the B.P.R.D. until Hellboy suggests he come on an assignment, just to get out of HQ. They go together to investigate an old southern mansion where the dead family members keep coming out of their graves and sitting at the dining table of their abandoned home. Every time they are put back in their graves, they arise the next night. Again, the focus of the story is Roger's search for some evidence that he is not just a living being, but a human being as well. The resolution of the story is not particularly deep but is satisfying.

For Johann Krauss's story, we see the incident that makes him a disembodied spirit. Will the loss of his body rob him of his humanity? He vacillates between accepting his own death and wanting to help people with his own gifts. He tries to intervene for other spirits in between death and the afterlife but is powerless to provide any comfort or aid beyond words. He ultimately finds he must work with others in order to have a meaningful life.

The book provides a lot of interesting background on the main characters of the B.P.R.D. Even though several artists with their own styles worked on the various stories, there's still a consistent overall approach that works well with the horror and supernatural elements of the stories. I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

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