Saturday, 16 May 2015

B.P.R.D. War On Frogs #1 - Dark Horse Comics

B.P.R.D. WAR ON FROGS No. 1, June 2008
The first of a four-issue limited series which concentrates upon various members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in their war against the frog monsters of Sadu-Hem. This particular one-shot focuses upon the character of Roger the Homunculus and formed part of “Dark Horse Comics” lead-in to the release of the “Universal Pictures” motion picture “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”.

Whether you agree with the publisher’s exploitation of the (then) imminent movie’s publicity or not is fortunately somewhat immaterial though. As despite containing a decidedly straightforward rather action-orientated storyline, “Number 44 in a Series” appears to be a remarkably thought-provoking tale, without hint or trace of having been rushed into publication simply to ‘piggy-back’ upon any increased public interest in Mike Mignola’s characters. Indeed John Arcudi’s use of the unusually large artificial “little man” made from herbs and blood as the emotional engine for ironically, a very human story of family devotion and love, shows just how much deliberation must have gone into the Italian-born American’s writing. Certainly if nothing else the former “Doom Patrol” author evidently conducted some extensive research into the background of this comic book series, undeniably tapping into the very first “Hellboy” mini-series for his Cavendish Hall based narrative.

Whether this means Issue One of “War On Frogs” is something of an epilogue to the fourteen year-old “Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction” is debatable. What is clear though is that as soon as the authoritative figure of Roger appears to take charge of the B.P.R.D. field team the reader’s attention is never allowed to stray from his side. Whether the alchemist’s construction is swimming through underground tunnels, exploring dank dark caverns populated with distressed family heirlooms and dead bodies, or wrestling with giant upright frogs and their tentacle-like tongues, all attention is entirely focused upon the homunculus’ actions and thoughts.

Such a confining restrictive storytelling technique could easily have suffocated the life from this dramatic animated tale. Instead it really helps Arcudi emphasise just how increasingly demoralised and regretful the B.P.R.D. agent becomes when he realises that the former Cavendish brothers hadn’t actually been hurting anyone, and the only reason they became murderously violent was because he had sought them out and trespassed upon the Frogs' grief and guilt; "who exactly were they bothering in the first place?"

Somewhat disturbing however is that seminal Seventies artist Herb Trimpe actually provides the illustrations for this magazine as guest penciller. Best known for his terrific quality output on “The Incredible Hulk” by “Marvel Comics Group”, the New Yorker’s drawings are completely unrecognisable as a result of Guy Davis’ heavy distinctive-looking inking. In fact rather sadly, if the Inkpot Award-winner’s name wasn’t so clearly credited on the book’s cover, many readers would doubtless believe the pictures were solely the work of just Davis.
Story: John Arcudi, Pencils: Herb Trimpe, and Inks: Guy Davis

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