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Hell Notes: B.P.R.D. Grunts

By | June 20th, 2013
Posted in Annotations | 6 Comments
Logo by Tim Daniel

Everyone knows Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and Johann Kraus, but the B.P.R.D. is much bigger than its Enhanced Talents Taskforce. Most agents are regular people, and more and more lately we’ve been getting to know them. This Hell Notes I’d like to take a look at these men and women, the B.P.R.D. grunts in the Hell on Earth era.

Please note, this column contains spoilers for those that have not yet read up to and including B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Wasteland (Part 2).


Agent Andrew Devon

Devon first worked with the B.P.R.D. in April 2006 shortly after the incident that destroyed Nebraska (B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine). He was an academic aiding Dr Kate Corrigan in the acquisition of an ancient text, “The Secret Flame.” It was supposed to be a very straightforward negotiation, but the buyer had other things in mind, and so things got complicated.

Devon spent most of the story locked in a phone booth surrounded by werewolves, but all things considered, he handled himself rather well, and instead of running for the hills vowing never to return, he signed up to the B.P.R.D. as a field agent.

By B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground Devon was already fitting in well at the Bureau. He was shown to be capable in combat situations and he stood his ground in the face of some really messed up shit, most notably his superior Captain Benjamin Daimio turning into a were-jaguar and killing everyone in sight. These were his formative days at the Bureau, and this would be something that would stay with him. It taught him something he’s never forgotten: People don’t always know they’re a monster ― You can’t trust anyone.

In B.P.R.D.: The Warning this happened:

Sorry, but that’s such a great moment, I had to share it. And it’s great to see Devon in this book out in the field, way out of his element, but carrying on anyway. And he gets his moment to shine too, though not in a guns blazing kind of way. See, he’s really good at that other thing the bureau does, the research side of things, and thanks to him they’re able to find Lobster Johnson’s old hideout.

However, he’s also good at jumping to conclusions, and not very good with subtleties. When Memnan Saa offers his explanation as to why he kidnapped Liz, Devon somehow arrives at the conclusion to that Saa is in love with her… on two separate occasions. I guess he’s just not very good at reading people.

A glimpse of Devon in the future.
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear is when Devon’s doubts about Abe were sown by the Black Flame, doubts that even Abe has about himself. He stopped trusting Abe and even began to fear him. As far as he’s concerned, Abe is just another Daimio waiting to happen. His doubt continued to grow over B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World and on into Gods, culminating with the young psychic, Fenix, shooting Abe.

And Devon just lets her go. In that moment, he was so convinced of what he believed, he even lied to Kate, telling her he had no idea who shot Abe.

That falls apart pretty quickly when he meets Fenix properly in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine. Devon makes his decisions by logic, and Fenix is a sixteen-year-old girl all about following her feelings. Knowing that he threw his lot in with her and discovering that she was so emotionally unstable really shook him up. But Fenix’s feelings are right. They may not be articulate, but they’re right, so Devon decided to trust her. Whether Fenix will prove worthy of his trust remains to be seen. This story was a huge turning point for him, plus he got to play the action hero on more than one occasion.

But we also get to see his doubts here too. Since Devon joined the B.P.R.D. he has been a researcher, a field agent, and a soldier. He’s even a part of the Bureau’s Core Committee. After such a short period in the Bureau that’s a huge achievement, but he isn’t comfortable with it, and even feels that perhaps the B.P.R.D. isn’t for him…

Continued below

Agent Salvatore Tasso

Sal’s career as a Bureau field agent began in Scotland, 1984, when he joined the U.K. division after a five-year stint in the Navy. He was far more interested in working back home in the United States though. Thanks to his friend Abe Sapien, by 1985 he got his wish, and soon he was working alongside the Hellboy, the star of the show.

That didn’t work out too well for Sal though. He was in trouble frequently, and ended up being shipped back to Scotland in 1991. Over time he grew to love the place, but he missed working with Abe.

Arrow? What arrow?
He showed up recently in a big way in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master leading the team in the Scottish highlands. This is the first time as readers we got to see Sal in action, and he’s fantastic. He knows his stuff, and he can take more punishment than most, especially for a guy that’s in his fifties. Arrow to the chest? I’m not even sure Sal noticed. He really got to shine in this story.

And that’s where his Bureau career ended, in Scotland where it began. Or perhaps that’s premature. The last time we saw him he was dying on the battlefield, but he wasn’t dead…

Agent Vaughn

Vaughn’s been a part of the B.P.R.D. since at least 1981 when he almost got bitten by a werewolf. In his whole time with the Bureau, he only ever got to work with Hellboy once, and it was a bust mission that ended up being more of a weekend camping trip at the lake than an terrifying paranormal encounter.

In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, Vaughn was on a mission with the relatively green Agent Kris Peters. Things went bad real fast when they came into contact with a fungus that’d been growing in sleeping vampires. Then Peters became a vampire-fungus monster and Vaughn had to kill her while dealing with a half-crazy professor and a strange mist with an aversion to crucifixes.

Most recently, Vaughn’s duty was to track down the missing Agent Sapien, a duty he wasn’t exactly comfortable with. As far as he was concerned, Abe’s a B.P.R.D. agent and nothing to do with the frog monsters, which wasn’t exactly an opinion his fellow agents shared.

Oh, and as of the finale of Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible, Vaughn was stabbed through the chest and is now dead…

Ouch. That looks painful.

Agent Howards

Agent Howards has appeared in only one story, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Abyss of Time, as a part of a team sent to investigate a possible supernatural site in Chicago. Most likely he’s one of the old school B.P.R.D. agents with some education in the supernatural. After all, they weren’t expecting action in Chicago, and they needed experts on the site to properly evaluate it. But that’s all I can really tell you about the guy since from page seven onwards he was unconscious.

Well, that’s not entirely true. His consciousness shifted into the past, into an early human, a warrior and tribal leader called Gall Dennar. By the end of the story, that’s still where he is, lying unconscious in Chicago with his consciousness in the past.

In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Wasteland, Johann is leading a team to Chicago to find out what happened to Howards and his fellow agents. Guess we’ll find out in part three. At least for now he’s more alive than Sal and Vaughn, so that’s something.

Bureau Base Crew

Not all B.P.R.D. personnel are field agents. Back at base there are a few regulars wandering the halls.

Professor James Henry O’Donnell

I have to say, I love this guy. Any scene with O’Donnell in it is a good scene. Sure he’s crazy, but he’s proved very useful over the years, often seeing trouble long before others, even if his advice isn’t always heeded. In fact, the whole war on the frog monsters could have been avoided if B.P.R.D. Director Manning had taken his advice and destroyed the fungus-form Sadu-Hem when they first found it. And even before Katha-Hem was summoned in Nebraska, he was warning everyone what the frogs were up to.

Continued below

However it’s in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods that he really pulls out the big guns. He gives an account of the Ogdru spirits that seeped back into the world after the fall of Hyperborea, about the Hyperborean priests that taught a select few early humans how to use Vril, and most importantly how history would repeat itself as Ogdru spirits seep back into the world in modern times.

I should probably point out, this is all stuff he couldn’t possibly know. But that’s O’Donnell. He just knows stuff that vanished out of recorded human knowledge long ago. How he got that knowledge is a little, or rather a lot, vague. In 1987 he was sent to investigate the library of the recently deceased necromancer, Alessandro Divizia. While there he uncovered a second, secret library. Once inside he was surrounded by cloaked figures that he claimed were the greatest occultists going back centuries, all long dead, including Divizia himself. Then they all ripped off their flesh and became fly-like creatures. And that’s about as much as anyone ever got out of O’Donnell on the subject. Whatever happened to him, it appears he’s become one of those creatures…

Doris

Doris has actually been around for quite a while, but I only recently discovered her name when I saw a preview of the sketchbook section from the fifth B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth trade (which comes out next month, I might add). A medical doctor at the Bureau, she made her first appearance back in B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame and has appeared in almost every scene in the infirmary at B.P.R.D. Headquarters ever since. Usually she’s seen looking after Professor O’Donnell or tending to Panya.

Peter

Peter’s one of the lab guys, the one looking after the super-man body recovered from the Oannes Society in B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls. As Johann would visit the lab to check on the body rather frequently, he got to know Peter rather well. Peter fought really hard for Zinco to see if they could do anything with the body for Johann. Of course, he had no way of knowing Zinco were actually very interested already, and had plans for it of their own.

Agent Pauline Raskin

Pauline Raskin used to work in the field with Hellboy in the early nineties, though she doesn’t seem to exactly hold him in the highest regard. She holds him in the estimation that he will always end up finding a monster and burning a house down. In the present, she’s training new agents, and when she’s not doing that, she’s confined to a desk job and bored out of her mind doing it.

The U.N. Security Council Representative

This guy’s been around since the end of King of Fear, assigned to the Bureau by the U.N. to be their eyes and and ears. I get the feeling he thought he’d walk in and everything would all be nice and neat, and he’d just tighten things up a bit and lay down a few new rules. Instead he found sixty years worth of files (none digitised), animals running around, and constant disasters which he can’t even begin to cope with. Every time I see the guy now he seems to be coming apart a little more.

The odd thing is, even though the U.N. guy has appeared in practically every Hell on Earth story to date, we still don’t know his name. Not that a name hasn’t been teased.

Yeah, Panya, neither did I...

It almost seems like a game at this point. How far can they take this before they give him a name? I have a feeling he may always be the nameless U.N. guy.

…His Aunt is called Kara. At least that’s something, right?

A Militarised B.P.R.D.

In July 2004, Crab Point, Michigan, the entire town’s population was transformed into frog monsters. While many were captured, several escape and spread across America. In order to effectively combat the plague of frog monsters, the B.P.R.D. recruited many new agents with a focus on those with military backgrounds. These aren’t agents that have studied the paranormal at all. What they do learn is learnt out on the field. They’re great at shooting monsters, but ghosts, demons, vampires, et al are a bit out of their league. As such, they are usually led by a more traditional B.P.R.D. agent with the necessary paranormal training.

Continued below

Agent Ashley Strode

Ashley transferred from the navy to the B.P.R.D. in April 2005, and was one of the first female combatants to join the Bureau. Early on she always admired Agent Elizabeth Sherman, but never got the chance to work with her until February 2006. What was supposed to be a simple mission with a focus on developing new agents deteriorated quickly. One of Ashley’s friends was killed by frog monsters, and Ashley would have been too if she hadn’t been rescued by Liz.

Ash and Liz fighting side by side

In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism Ashley was put on a solo mission that forced her confront demon possession. She was never very comfortable with the supernatural. She liked problems that she could point a gun at. Ota Benga would change that. The one-hundred-and-fifty-four-year-old exorcist teamed up with Ashley to exorcise Andras, a marquis of Hell, that had been sealed inside him for over a century. Although initially completely out of her depth, overrun with doubt and insecurities, Ashley is a fast learner, and begins to recognise her own strengths.

In fact she is far stronger than she knows. She manages to kill Andras, and the demon Sybacco flees rather than confront her. Ota, recognising her strength, teaches her the rudimentary tools of exorcisms, and passes on to her all his talismans and an old book.

Ota's book
For me, Exorcism, along with The Long Death, was the best B.P.R.D. story of 2012. Ashley’s at the beginning of her journey, and I for one am looking forward to more. Thankfully both Cameron Stewart and Mike Mignola have promised there will be more. It’s just a matter of when. She has been specifically set aside for Cameron Stewart though, so don’t expect her to pop up outside of stories written by him.

Agent Carla Giarocco

Giarocco in Liz's vision
“C. Giarocco” made her first appearance as a corpse in Liz’s horrific vision of the future in B.P.R.D.: King of Fear. Not exactly the brightest of beginnings. She made a brief appearance in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World, but it was in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Seattle, an eight-page short made specially for the 2011 Emerald City Comicon, that Carla was properly introduced. From Rochester, New York, Carla’s a Catholic, and a mother with a three-year-old son called Connor. Don’t let that fool you though. Agent Giarocco knows how to kick arse.

In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death, we finally got to see Carla in action in one of the most visceral action sequences the comic has ever featured. She stood her ground while fighting Daimio in his were-jaguar form. Keep in mind, most people that go up against him come out looking like chunky spaghetti sauce. Carla’s bravery saved the lives of what was left of her team, and landed her in a hospital bed.

It’s not just her health that’s suffering from her job at the Bureau, but also her family life. She’s so busy she’s had to skip weekend visits to see Connor, and Connor’s father, Chris, is getting a bit passive aggressive about it. So that sucks too. I guess this is what happens when you become one of the best agents the Bureau has to offer, especially so quickly. After all, Carla didn’t join until after Captain Daimio’s departure in B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground.

Giarocco after encountering Daimio
So when the S.S.S. called to ask for the B.P.R.D.’s help in tracking Lazar (an S.S.S. research technician possessed by an Ogdru spirit), Carla was the one called on to lead the mission. The battle at the ruins of Gairdon Manse was a brutal one, but Carla kept her cool in extreme situations and proved she could handle being a leader. And fortunately, she survives, thanks to the S.S.S. showing up at the eleventh hour.

In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: A Cold Day in Hell, Carla and the S.S.S. Director, Iosif Nichayko, formed a bit of a bond. As he had pulled her out of trouble, Carla has developed a sense of loyalty to him, and ends up fighting demon-possessed frozen corpses to rescue him.

Continued below

As for the future, I expect Carla will be around for a while yet, at least until the end of the world. But Connor and Chris? I don’t like their chances. There’s already an Ogdru Hem loose in New York City, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns North towards Rochester…

Agent Rebecca Gervesh

Formerly a marine that served in Iraq, Gervesh has only appeared in two stories to date, The Long Death and Wasteland. She wasn’t even named in The Long Death, although we did get a glimpse at her perspective on life and death. She used to be afraid of death, but since meeting Johann she’s OK with it. She found comfort in the idea that even if she died, she’d still be around in some form or another.

In Wasteland we get to know Gervesh primarily through the eyes of Lucas, the child they find. Shouldered with the responsibility of looking after a scared kid, she drops her defenses a bit and shows a more sensitive side of herself. She even lets him call her Becca. She probably won’t be too happy when she finds out Lucas ran off in the night…

Agent Nichols

Nichols grew up in North Philadelphia, and has been a part of the Bureau since at least the Nebraska incident in March 2006, but it wasn’t until The Long Death that he made his first appearance in the comic. He was trained by Agent Raskin, and is on first-name basis with Agent Giarocco, but as reader’s we’ve mostly seen him in the company of Agent Gervesh.

He’s front and centre in Wasteland. After the death of his friend, Agent Brandaux, the cracks are starting to show. He becomes convinced this is the end, and in a situation when he needs to be alert, he takes pills to “take the edge off of things.” They end up dulling his senses so much, he almost doesn’t get his gas mask on in time when monster-making mist rolls in.

But don’t write him off yet. He’s shaken, not broken. And even though he’s saying it’s the end, he’s still fighting like there’s a tomorrow.

Extra Credit:
The fate of Agent Enos

Enos made his debut in the pages of Wasteland. Aside from Agent Brandaux who died in the opening pages, Enos is the only new agent with a name and a face (a rare combination). So, with one issue to go, Johann’s team consists of Gervesh, Nichols, Enos, and one unnamed and faceless agent. The faceless guy will almost certainly get killed next issue, but what about Enos? Will he live or die in the third part of Wasteland? Place your bets now.


//TAGS | Hell Notes | Mignolaversity

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.

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