Wrapping up “1948,” setting up “Vampire,” is there anything this issue can’t do?
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Max Fiumara
Paranoia plagues members of the team as one scientist begins to suspect Bureau members are being replaced by beings from another universe.
* A direct lead-in to next month’s B.P.R.D.: Vampire by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon.
David: Thus ends another edition of B.P.R.D.’s adventures from the 1940’s, as B.P.R.D. 1948 #5 from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Max Fiumara brings that mini-series to a close. Brian, we had noted that this mini-series never really clarified a bigger picture for us early on. Do you feel that this last issue got us there? What did you think about it?
Brian: This is an odd one, David. The series, after a slow start, kicked into gear last issue and yet, here, there’s a lot of…well, not a whole lot of any real action. I enjoyed this issue, because I enjoy the world the series is set in; but the issue and, to a lesser extent, the series, remains an oddly paced one.
Am I alone in thinking this?
David: I wouldn’t say I felt it was oddly paced. Actually, I thought it was a very good pace, and it overall was a very good mini-series as well as a really solid issue. From a craft standpoint, I have almost nothing to complain about with this issue. I think the only problem you could say is this entire mini-series never really had a definite point that needed to be resolved, and if it did, it never really got there. So it was kind of just a glimpse into Professor Bruttenholm and Anders lives and where they were at the time.
But pacing, I’m not really sure that was a problem, so I guess in that regard you are alone for once. Sort of like Bruttenholm on date night.
Brian: Zing! Oh, you slay me, Mr. Harper…
I stand by my remarks, however. The purpose of an arc, of any story, is to move people from Point A to Point B. The creativity comes in how you get there, but the point of an arc is to GET there. And with this mini, while I enjoyed the hell out of every page, panel and word bubble, I don’t know if I can say that, as a story, there was much movement from where the series began to where it ended.
What it lacked in terms of forward progress, it made up for in character moments. Bruttenholm, in particular, really shines in this mini, and the character’s growth and depth continue to expand, and this is for a character that isn’t exactly underdeveloped.
Plus, the final page with Li’l Hellboy? Heartbreaking.
David: Yeah, I guess the difficulty with this, and in other B.P.R.D. arcs like The Abyss of Time, is that you can’t really judge them by what they do for you now so much as what they may do for us later. I think the thing that I do agree with you on is that we’re not that far from where we were when we started save for:
– Bruttenholm may have gotten reengaged with his team after the temporary distraction with Dr. Rieu
– The rest of B.P.R.D. is 100% against Anders
– Anders establishes himself even more as a very capable yet very troubled soldier
– Hellboy = sad and might be cutting off one of his horns
Unlike 1946 and 1947, I wouldn’t say this one was a story that had a real five issue narrative payoff. If anything, this served as a precursor to the Twins future work with Anders. And, like you said, it was filled with great character moments. That last page was just heartwrenching, but I loved the moment where the interviewer asked Yessler if his wife ever apologized. There was a part of me that was wondering the same thing, but the rightful indignation was still a powerful, touching moment of a man who had lost the woman he loved.
Also, I have to see this was – cover to cover – one of the best artistic issues of B.P.R.D. in a while, and that is saying something. Max Fiumara was on point, and Dave Johnson’s cover was beautiful as well.
Brian: Before we get to the art, let’s talk about the series bookending itself with the documentary filming. I have mixed feelings on this technique; clearly, it was done to bring the documentarians into the B.P.R.D. world, but I felt it was somewhat unnecessary. Obviously, we don’t know exactly what’s in store for them, but did that technique work for you?
David: When it first showed up, it bothered me because it’s B.P.R.D. 1948 and it kicks off decades later (quick note: we first talked this at NYCC 2012…weird). But when it showed back up, to me it was a fitting coda to the story (even though it wasn’t actually where the story ended in the issue). As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the ending with the documentarian and Yessler and his rage about the suggestion of an apology from Rieu to Bruttenholm, and I have to imagine that there is a reason for this save for as use of a framing device. Ultimately, it didn’t take anything from the story, and it gave them a device to move elements from this story forward.
In short, yeah it did, but I understand why it wouldn’t work for you.
Brian: It isn’t that it didn’t work, it just didn’t feel particularly necessary. I thought the tag at the end about the apology was a nice bit of business, and that one bit made the whole device worthwhile. I know when it started (back at NYCC), you were pretty down on it, so I wanted to see if you had come around at all.
Let’s get back to the art. Max Fiumara wiped the floor with this issue, that’s how much ass he kicked on it. Good grief.
A lot of people have drawn Bruttenholm before, but I think Max’s interpretation is my favorite thus far. His Bruttenholm just hits every note you’d want. He looks conflicted, distracted, perturbed, lost in thought and desperate for understanding, all at once.
Beyond him, the action and monsters weren’t exactly shabby either. I am looking forward to Max doing more in the Mignolaverse, ditto his brother Sebastian.
David: Yeah, Max did a really amazing job. I really enjoyed his work, and his Bruttenholm is pretty fantastic. His action set pieces were so good though. I loved it when the bird began its confrontation with the jeep and then there was a few page divergence with Rieu, and then the bird destroyed the jeep. It was such a cool bit of visual storytelling, and it speaks volumes of what Max brings to the table.
Before we grade this, I’m curious: this leads into the Twins work on B.P.R.D. Vampire, and with the vaunted role of vampires recently in this universe, I’m interested in what you imagine the importance of 1948 ultimately is.
Brian: Well, if the documentarians turn out to be key characters, this backdoor pilot might be an interesting footnote. It is also the spot where we see Hellboy’s first real revolt against his nature, a theme that plays out over his entire life. And, I suppose, this propels a few characters into the areas they are meant to occupy: Bruttenholm focuses more on the supernatural/magical realm, Hellboy decides to be more man than demon, Anders decides to go off the reservation.
However, unless someone is reading the B.P.R.D. saga chronologically, I don’t know if anyone was really asking the questions that led to these answers. I think it’s great to know these small details, but I’m a giant nerd who spends way too much time trying to reconcile timelines in comics. Did we really need this series? I don’t think so. Am I glad we have it? Certainly.
David: Personally, I think it’s too early to say we don’t really need it. For me, I’d rather have a good comic that doesn’t appear to “matter” up front than one that belongs to some comic continuity that isn’t particularly great. I think you could make the argument that so far 1946 and 1947 haven’t really paid off in future events (short of introducing Varvara), but at the same time I think they’re building somewhere. It’s like what I believe Scott Allie said when we interviewed him, John Arcudi and Mike Mignola: they get to these series when they can, but they always intend to build on them.
Like, we raved about Exorcism, but there was no apparent “need” for that series. Yet it was excellent, so it earned our love. I don’t think this is any different. I think the main difference between this and Exorcism is that the latter had an obvious beginning, middle and end, and there was resolution to a primary narrative thread. This told a complete story that didn’t really have any resolution. It was much more fluid, but I don’t think that ultimately devalues this for me as an exercise as I have to imagine it builds in to Vampire.
Brian: I agree with just about everything you said. Like I said, I’m glad that this book exists, regardless of whether or not it becomes a cornerstone story in the world of “B.P.R.D.”
So, where do you rank this? I’ll give it a 7.
David: From a written and artistic standpoint, this was a very, very solid issue with some great moments. Both for this issue and the mini as a whole, I have to give it an 8. I enjoyed it too much not to.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Buy