B.P.R.D. (Vol. 9): 1946 by Mike Mignola (writer), Joshua Dysart (writer), Paul Azaceta (artist), Nick Filardi (colors), Clem Robins (letters)
Hellboy first appeared in 1944, a result of German paranormal experiments. B.P.R.D. (Vol. 9): 1946 takes place two years later, when Hellboy’s father figure, Trevor Bruttenholm, takes a trip to Berlin on the part of the two-year-old B.P.R.D. He wants to investigate the paranormal work the Germans were doing during the war, but the Russians have arrived first, claiming all the artifacts and papers that Trevor wants to examine. He goes to the Russians to ask for cooperation, and he meets the young, mysterious Varvara, who is in charge of the Russian operations even though she looks only twelve-years-old. She has uncanny knowledge, and she seems to know Trevor’s thoughts before he speaks. And she knows of his young ward, Hellboy. She will play a major role in what is happening in the current events of the B.P.R.D. series.
Bruttenholm follows a paper trail that leads him to an abandoned psychiatric asylum where all the patients were killed in 1939. When they go explore, we see eyes peering out of the dark corners of the asylum, but Bruttenholm and his fellow scientist are unaware of their presence. Instead, we see with them the horrible rooms of torture where the patients were experimented on by the Nazis. Once they find out even more about the asylum and return to it, they are not as lucky as the first time, when they walked out easily. This time, however, they also have Varvara and her soldiers with them as backup when they return to the asylum. Varvara, it turns out, offers more safety than even her soldiers can provide.
This is a great volume, and in it, we get the connection between Hitler and vampires, as told to us by Varvara who researched Hitler’s project Vampir Sturm. The connection between Vampir Sturm and the asylum is an interesting one that adds depth to the story, but even more gripping is the story Varvara tells of her own background, a key piece of Hellboy history that is essential to fully understand what motivates Varvara when the B.P.R.D. runs into her in the years during the current time period of the B.P.R.D. series. Because of her presence in this volume and because of the stories she tells, B.P.R.D. (Vol. 9): 1946 is better than it would be otherwise. We also get to see Varvara in action, and really, she is the reason I give this volume a five-star rating. Without her, it would earn a four-star rating. Definitely do not miss reading B.P.R.D. (Vol. 9): 1946. (This volume is now collected in an edition featuring three initially separate volumes: 1946-1948. See the image at the start of the review.)
This sounds deeply atmospheric!