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This trade paperback collects the five-issue BPRD: Garden of Souls series, along with an extensive and extremely cool sketchbook.

Note: This review features plot spoilers — read at your own risk.

Abe Sapien and Ben Daimio travel to Indonesia in search of clues to Abe’s past, and are promptly separated. While there, Abe discovers a mysterious island where some of his old Victorian colleagues (scientist-occultists) have set up shop. Their decaying bodies are preserved in really cool exoskeletons modeled on Victorian Era deep-sea diving suits, though they are growing new human bodies for themselves, planning to transfer their consciousnesses once the bodies are ready. And, by the way, they’ve also planted powerful bombs throughout the Pacific Rim designed to trigger massive tsunamis that will kill a couple hundred million people. The plan is that when these people die, their souls will be harvested by the occultists and used for, well, whatever it is that ancient amoral scientist-occultists would do with a couple hundred million souls. Whatever it is, Abe decides it’s a bad idea to let them finish. Oh, and the scientists have been spending their off-hours creating weird animal-hybrids (a la Dr. Moreau) and I must say that these are some of the most creative-looking critters I’ve seen. Very cool imagery here.

Ben is still looking for Abe when he is contacted by a female ancient Egyptian mummy who communicates via a possessed child. This mummy woman has been the prisoner of Abe’s old pals for the last century and a half and is interested in thwarting their plans, so she starts telling Ben what’s going on and he mobilizes the dismantling of the tsunami bombs.

As far as the other members of the BPRD, we see Liz and Johan only briefly. Liz receives an apocalyptic vision of what the Earth would look like if the Lovecraftian entities the Frogs are attempting to summon actually arrived. This is a wonderful, horrific, two-page spread and one of the highlights of the collection. Very, very striking stuff. Johan makes some additional discoveries in the abandoned records of the BPRD’s new mountain headquarters, including a possible insight into Ben Daimio’s background.

I highly recommend this one – like Volume 6, it’s an extremely strong entry in the series, providing a fun adventure, lots of beautiful images, and interesting insights into Abe Sapien’s mysterious origins (it’s not 100% resolved by the end of this story, but it’s close). I give it 4.5 stars out of 5, and would have given it the extra half-star if they’d found a way to integrate more of the other members of the BPRD with the main storyline.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers