The B.P.R.D.(Vol. 2): The Soul of Venice and Other Stories by Mike Mignola (writer) & various writers and artists
The B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories opens with the title story, a tale about the four main B.P.R.D. agents without Hellboy: Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Roger, and Johann Kraus, who are overseen by direction Kate Corrigan. They are called in to solve the problem when pipes start exploding in Venice and domestic disturbances spike in occurrence. They are drawn to paranormal activity in a house of ill-repute back in the thirteenth century, a house that once was the site of a rich playboy and a vampire who had become friends. Spirits, and more, linger there.
In “Dark Waters,” the B.P.R.D. team is called to a small town where three dead women are found at the bottom of a pond that is being removed from the city center. Abe and Roger go to investigate the three oddly well-preserved bodies. The town, not far from the well-known city, was influenced by Salem to have their own witch hunts, and the three women seem to have been thrown into the pond because they were suspected of being witches. In the present, one minister seems to still be on a witch hunt, and he ventures where he should not. Powerful forces are at work.
“Night Train” starts off with a Lobster Johnson tale in 1939. Lobster Johnson is Mignola’s pulp-styled hero unique to his universe. In this story, we get a rare failure on Lobster’s part as he goes up against a Nazi. In the present, Roger and Liz go into the field in Alabama to look into reports of a ghost train. The best part of this story is Liz’s helping Roger deal with his guilt over having accidentally killed Liz when she brought him to life when the B.P.R.D. team first found him. A well-told story.
“There’s Something Under My Bed” opens with parents putting their young son to sleep. They assure him there is nothing to worry about because he’s the only one in the room, that there simply cannot be any monsters under the bed. Of course, this is a B.P.R.D. book, so you can predict that the parents will be proved wrong. When Bobby goes missing, along with a few other kids, the B.P.R.D. is contacted, and they send in Abe and the rest of the team. Having identified a potential next target, Abe hides in the closet of a young girl to see if he can catch the monster. He gets more than he bargained for. I like this story and the way it addresses the issue of monsters — that humans are sometimes more monsters than they appear and that, as Krauss points out, there is a difference between being a monster and being monstrous.
“Another Day at the Office,” the final story in the collection, is a short, eight-page story that takes place in England where the B.P.R.D. team meets up with representatives of the London office who tell them about the zombie problem in a small town. They soon locate an old fifteenth-century house that is being defended by a hoard of zombies. Because the story is so short, Abe and the others quickly identify the source of the problem and handle it swiftly and easily, because, as the story title makes clear, this is just like another day in the office for the B.P.R.D. team.
This is a good collection of stories, with the first story being the best, though “Dark Waters” and “Night Train” are good comics, too. Unfortunately, it ends with two weaker stories that make the volume feel a little light when it is finished. For that reason, The B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories earns a solid four stars for its best stories. Still, it is great fun to see writers and artists other than Mignola tackle the characters and world of the B.P.R.D.