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This is the second BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) trade paperback set in the Hellboy universe.  It collects stories from the following one-shot issues of BPRD: The Soul of Venice; Dark Waters; Night Train; and There’s Something under My Bed, as well as the story “Another Day at the Office” that premiered in this collected edition.
I’ll provide some short — and spoiler-filled — discussions of each story in this collection.
The Soul of Venice: This one pits the entire team (Abe, Liz, Johann, and Roger) against a demon-summoning vampire in Venice, who has captured the spirit of an old Etruscan goddess as a demonic offering.  The set-up for the story is pretty weak, but once the team starts dealing with the bad guy, things fall into place.  Good story, though not the greatest.
Dark Waters: Abe and Roger head to a small town in New England where three women were drowned as witches in the seventeenth century.  They were innocent, and the town realized that after their death, but their collective guilt has animated a bunch of mud in the local pond.  Plus there’s an evil fire-and-brimstone preacher.  It’s stories like these that make me wonder how the public came to be so nonchalant about mutants, weirdos, freaks, and demons wandering around.  It’s clear that the BPRD operates very openly, receiving both government funding and positive press attention, and no one ever blinks twice when they see critters like Hellboy or Abe in public.  How did this come about?  As far as I know, that’s never been revealed, we just accept it as a trope of the setting.  That’s fine, it’s just one of those things that always sticks out to me.  In any case, good story.
Night Train: This one is half a Lobster Johnson adventure (we see the Lobster failing and the demise of his sidekick, so I found it reminiscent of the Captain America story where Bucky was killed by the Red Skull) and half Liz and Roger, who end up having to clean up the Lobster’s mess seventy years later.  Yes, there’s an aged Nazi in this one.  Good stuff.
There’s Something under My Bed: The art and premise — a small town where there really *are* monsters living under children’s beds — are both good, but the story is hampered by some really muddled dialogue and panel layout choices in the first half of the story.  There were a couple pages where I really wasn’t sure exactly what was going on.  And honestly, other than Abe, the other members of the team are just along for the ride.
Another Day at the Office: A zombie story set in Moldavia where some guy is possessed by the spirit of an old nationalist warlord and, um, raises a bunch of zombies from the dead?  Weak story line.  Abe and Johann waltz through this one looking really bored; the zombies aren’t scary and the possessed guy just looks silly.  Probably the weakest one of the lot, and it’s a Mignola story too.  Disappointing.
If you enjoyed the first BPRD collection, I’d definitely recommend this one.  The stories are equally engaging.  They are also all stand-alone stories, so as long as you’re somewhat familiar with the Hellboy setting, it shouldn’t be a problem plunging right into this collection.  I give it 4 stars out of 5 because of the unevenness of some of the stories collected here.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers
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