B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice

Written by Miles Gunter and Michael Avon Oeming, with Mike Mignola
Art by Michael Avon Oeming
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

What happens when you’ve got more cool characters and ideas than you know what to do with? In the case of Mike Mignola, it seems, you let some other talented creators play with them. That’s what goes on with the Hellboy supporting cast when the lead character isn’t around, in Dark Horse’s recent B.P.R.D. mini-series and one-shots. And when you see who’s on board for the one-shots, well, you’ll see why any Hellboy fan still needs to get these.

Venice’s canals are drying up. This is no ordinary drought, though… so it’s up to the members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to investigate. Abe Sapien’s less than thrilled, having bad memories of the pollution of Venice’s waterways. He’ll probably be even less happy when he finds out that finding what happened to the soul of Venice will take more than a dip into the water, though.

When reading B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice I couldn’t help but wish that Miles Gunter and Michael Avon Oeming had more than just a 32-page one-shot to play with their story ideas here, because I’d have cheerfully read a whole mini-series of this. The end result is a pretty compressed story involving spirits, demons, and one of the coolest cities on the planet. What’s great is Gunter and Oeming are able to fit in a lot about the paranormal history of Venice, something important for a story called The Soul of Venice. In the end, though, everything feels a little rushed… almost like Gunter and Oeming have too much story they want to tell. Which isn’t a bad thing, if you think about it.

Oeming’s art has a nice iconic feel that is perfect for a Hellboy spin-off book. Having visited Venice a couple of years ago, I feel confident in saying that it does a great job in capturing the look and feel of the city. Oeming’s hand at horror is just as good as real-world settings, though. The group’s decent into the center of the evil affecting Venice is suitably creepy, and with the help of colorist Dave Stewart there are some genuinely creepy moments, like when Abe finds himself crying blood, or the climactic showdown at the end of the book. There are some really nice touches just in general, too; I loved the two panels of Abe Sapien’s idea of what swimming in Venice’s canals would be like compared to the reality, complete with fish and submerged statues in the fantasy turning into less desireable elements in the real world. It really surprised me at how well Oeming was able to keep his own style that we see so often in Powers while still making it look and feel like an issue of Mignola’s Hellboy.

With two more one-shots on the near horizon, as well as a trade paperback of the earlier Hollow Earth mini-series (to say nothing of the Hellboy: Weird Tales mini-series), there’s definitely enough B.P.R.D. material to keep people busy for a bit while Mignola works on the upcoming Hellboy movie. I found myself a little hesitant at first to read B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice, but these creators understand what both the soul of Venice and of a good Hellboy comic are.

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