This is the sixth BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) trade paperback set in the Hellboy universe. It collects stories from BPRD: The Universal Machine #1-5.
Please note that this review contains spoilers.
Kate Corrigan really comes into her own here. As we know from the conclusion of the frog saga (see BPRD: THE BLACK FLAME), Roger the homunculus was apparently destroyed, and Kate (and some of Roger’s teammates) refuse to accept this. Since Roger was never quite alive (in the sense that you and I are), how can he be dead? Kate follows a lead to a small town in France where a rare book dealer may possess a book containing information that can be used to bring Roger back to life. The book dealer is far more than he appears, being a nigh-immortal collector of oddities and esoterica (and quite possibly insane — aren’t they all?). He and his vampiric minions hold Kate hostage, seeking Roger’s remains for his collection. Instead, Kate manages to best the collector at his own game and defeats him before she can be rescued by the BPRD. For the first time I really enjoyed Kate’s character as a fully-realized member of BPRD, and her interactions with her kidnapper are delightful. Sadly, in the end, Roger cannot be restored to life, but through his spirit’s interactions with Johann, Roger is content to accept that.
During Kate’s adventure, the rest of the BPRD team recount poignant tales from their own pasts. We learn how Daimio “died” on his last official mission; Johann tells of the time he fell in love with the ghost of a dead woman when he was still alive; Liz tells us more about the accidental death of her family; and we see a quick cameo by Hellboy when Abe describes one of their past missions together. This mission concerns an ill-fated wendigo who will become important in BPRD: KILLING GROUND (Volume 8 of the series). The common denominator of these stories (aside from the perpetual weirdness that surrounds them) is loss (and perhaps, eventual acceptance of that loss), which seems to be the theme of this collection.
Very good book, highly recommended. I like it better than BPRD Volumes 4 and 5. The main story with Kate reveals her to be an interesting character in her own right (and that paranormal abilities aren’t required to have a cool adventure) and the secondary stories all provide poignant details about the rest of the team. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
Review copyright 2009 J. Andrew Byers