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In B.P.R.D: Being Human, the 150 page volume of Hellboy showcases several unique entries from the Hellboy Universe. This extremely focused collection is an excellent beginners’ starting guide to Hellboy comics. The flashback elements of the Hellboy comics have always been a signature technique which inspires a breath of nostalgia mixed with multifaceted horror.
Most of the horrors in this brief collection are fairly run-of-the-mill while still encapsulating an involving storyline. Writing by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Scott Allie, several single issues were selected to bring together an excellent plot from multiple writers and artists. Artists included are Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck and Guy Davis.
Inking was done by Andy Owens with coloring by Dave Stewart, and with penciling by Karl Moline and cover art by Mike Mignola there is no shortage of powerhouses from the comic industry. More importantly, this trade paperback release focuses on the moral issues at hand, combining action sequences and nonchalant destruction together in a seamless blend through each page of reading.
The pages focus on the choices the characters must make, some of which lead to a great deal of guilt and regret. Many of the Hellboy storylines play Devil’s advocate, often committing violence to stop greater violence from happening. Roger the Homunculus in particular is a perfect example of something that isn’t entirely human, but still feels human emotion and regret.
Most surprising for fans new and old is that Hellboy himself is not the featured character in every single issue compiled here. His slightly blasé and forlorn attitude shines through in his dialogue, writer Mike Mignola making Hellboy’s tone the canvas for his actions. Hellboy’s verbal expressions bring forth the image of a shrug or a sigh with great ease.
There is ample evidence that Hellboy has a tired acceptance of his role and just gets on with his life. He’s been there and done all that, saved the world more times than he cares to count. The real stars through the majority of this small collection are Hellboy’s friends from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D).
The back story of how Elizabeth (Liz) Sherman and Johann Kraus gain their powers is certainly a treat for new and curious fans while veteran readers will glimpse a sense of nostalgia, no doubt remembering a time when they first discovered the joy of Hellboy comics and his never die attitude.
Liz Sherman is depicted during several points in her life, using and developing her pyrokinetic powers. This edition shows her tragic past and how she came to be with B.P.R.D, highlighting her past and showing how her powers are both a gift and a horrible curse. In the mind of Liz Sherman there once existed a scared child afraid of what she was becoming.
Her character through these pages grows later on in a different issue from this collection, showing her older and wiser than before. Further reading into this collection reveals Liz Sherman depicted somewhat more closely to the maturity shown by actress Selma Blair in the second Hellboy movie. Here, she is seen giving advice to Abe Sapien, a character that has always been renowned for his intelligence.
Yet when things get emotional for Abe, it is Liz who gives the advice that Abe Sapien so desperately needs. Johann Kraus, Mr. Ectoplasm himself, is also plagued by the guilt that caused him to survive while those he led on a journey unexpectedly died. A deeply philosophical man, Kraus shows his deep belief that even in hell there is hope and awareness, even while battling against the forces of evil.
Kraus seizes his purpose to continue his life’s work as a medium, albeit a paranormal medium by joining B.P.R.D and lending his assistance. His character also makes an appearance in the second Hellboy movie. Available here through Dark Horse Comics and in stores now, Hellboy B.P.R.D: Being Human is an excellent introduction to the primary protagonists in Hellboy.
There are other characters featured but none more compelling in storyline than those of Johann Kraus and Elizabeth Sherman. Kraus in particular makes us question what we would do if we were in his shoes. The Hellboy comics featured in B.P.R.D: Being Human are an exceptional gathering of character building stories that will spark the interest of new readers while energizing veteran fans into rereading some of their favorite single issues from the Hellboy Universe.