B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine
By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis
I always thought the Hellboy spin-off, B.P.R.D was a steady series in its own right — it continues in the vein of occultic and gothic themes that Hellboy is known for. As Mike Mignola is still contributing and overseeing the project, the writing is still solid, with enough loose threads for the readers to stay interested. The ensemble members of the Burea for Paranormal Research and Defense are also interesting in their own capacity and varied talents. So while I was cutting down on my comic buying, B.P.R.D. still remained on my "Must-Buy" list.
B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine is volume 6 in the series. Last we left the team they (probably) contained the apocalyptic plague of frogs but they lost one of their team member (Roger the Big Friendly Homunculus.)
As a team that is always out to save the world from mystical threats, you would think the B.P.R.D. team is used to losing a few operatives from time to time. But this being a comic book, characters death are rarely permanent, especially for a major character like Roger. I believe this is where Mignola and his co-writers are playing with the readers' expectations, because there always exist this lingering possibility that they might bring Roger back.
The Universal Machine starts the story with Kate Corrigan setting out for a book that might help resurrect their homunculus friend. But in-between the other team members come to together for a round-robin session of story-telling. We find out a little bit more how the Captain came to be dead for three days, and then not. It involves a military mission into the depth of a South-American forest; it involves a Jaguar cult.
It's another one of those loose threads that may be picked up later down the road for another story. Maybe.
The Universal Machine is pretty self-contained in its storylines. There are none of those big, looming plot threads this time, just a few short stories to tell. But Abe Sapien shares a little story of a previous mission with Hellboy in Ontario of 1990. So in flash-back, Hellboy makes a guest appearance. It is a case of a Wendigo, and Hellboy settled it with his usual streetwise panache. And it was nice to see the big guy again, looking at a pile of flesh and bones, and just summing it up, "I think it's puke."
How I missed Hellboy. I wish Mignola would write more Hellboy comics, featuring the big red demon prince himself. And for a brief moment B.P.R.D. felt a little diminished without Hellboy. It felt like just a spin-off.