In B.P.R.D. (Vol. 13): 1947, at an air force base in New Mexico, the Russian Varvara, a little girl, is able to mysteriously appear to the professor late at night in his study. She questions why he has not revealed to Hellboy the larger mysteries surrounding him, but the professor says it is too early. And at that moment, Hellboy comes in, Varvara disappears, and we realize just how young Helloby really is: He certainly is too young to understand the enormous forces that want to use him for their own purposes. The professor then walks the young Hellboy off to get a glass of milk before going back to sleep. It’s 1947, and Hellboy is not old enough to go into the field. This story, after all, is about early B.P.R.D. days.
The professor is concerned about the mysterious killings going on in Russia and sends a crew of four men to go into the field to see if they can locate the man behind these deaths. First, the men go to France to seek out a cold lead that gets hot as soon as they start seeking out the truth behind a two-hundred-year old opera house getting burned down; unfortunately, only one of the four men goes to examine the house the night before they are supposed to. He is led there by an enigmatic woman.
Will this group of men find Baron Konig, who is supposed to be a vampire and responsible for the blatant, grotesque killings going on in Russia? And if they do, what hope do they have of standing up to a vampire who can kill so many men, so viciously? How will the lone B.P.R.D. agent handle his plight compared to his fellow agents who have remained together as a trio? The answers to these questions allow the brother artists Moon and Ba a chance to really show off their talents, particularly in several scenes with multiple vampires.
I really liked this volume: It’s great to see Mignola telling old stories from the early B.P.R.D. years when Hellboy was young. And throughout the story, we keep going back and forth from scenes in the field to the professor’s office at the base in New Mexico. And back at the base, we keep getting small scenes with the young Hellboy: His pestering the professor during work, his eating pancakes, his reading Lobster Johnson comics, and his playing catch with his dog. Because of these scenes, it feels like a Hellboy comic even though it is a B.P.R.D. comic.
I also like the final chapter/issue in this volume because it deals with the aftereffects of the men’s journeys: The professor has to call in another supernatural expert to perform certain rites and to give advice. The advice given goes beyond what is asked for when Hellboy’s life is considered. Should the professor be raising the devil in his own house? We know that he, indeed, does raise Hellboy into adulthood, but now we find out that the professor was given dire warnings about the choice to even let Hellboy live at all.
This volume is not to be missed by Hellboy fans. It can be read in any order since it is not attached to any of the plot lines unfolding in the larger Hellboy universe of the present (when this volume was written). This volume is also a good reminder that Hellboy comics are horror comics. The writing is as good as always, and the exceptional art leads me to give the full five stars to this volume.