B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs (#1 – 4, ‘Revival’ from MDHP; B.P.R.D. #44, 51, 57, 63) – John Arcudi

4 out of 5

Inconsequential in the scheme of things, but a quality Arcudi read.

The whole frog war arc in B.P.R.D. is kinda funny: it’s something Arcudi inherited from the Hellboy books when he took over, and instead of facing it head on, he moreso shushed it to the background while he built up other things of consequence around it.  B.P.R.D. kept fighting frogs inbetween panels, inbetween books, and Zinco and The Black Flame stepped to the forefront in the meantime.  This introduced an appreciable concept that would carry forward during John’s era: when he took time to focus on characters, or ‘his’ plot points (yes, Mignola co-plotted or what have you, but things shaped up notably differently once Arcudi was on board), the book really worked.  Whenever he had to rewind to bind to Mignolaverse lore, B.P.R.D. – to me – would feel marginally less interesting and involving.

The War On Frogs books are, humorously, another take on John’s method of dealing with the frogs on the sidelines, while masquerading – thanks to that title – as a big ol’ conclusion to the creatures’ threat.  It’s none of that: it’s not an event book; there’s not a big war; it’s four, standalone issues – each focusing on a different character, drawn by a different artist – during which, yeah, frogs are killed, but we moreso get to reflect on how this battle is affecting our various B.P.R.D.ers in snapshots.

Herb Trimpe gets to focus on Roger in issue one, and is the first artist to sorta fearlessly make it clear that he’s pretty nude all the time – lotsa butt shots – and he and John give us an effective romp that highlights Roger’s inevitable outsiderness.  John Severin is basically tossed a ship-bound corridor shooter just to show off his artistic skills in issue two, and so the issue sticks out for not really moving the needle on any known characters, but damn does Severin’s work look fantastic.  Karl Moline takes on Liz’s issue (also, I think, introducing Ashley Strode), and Liz continues to be a muddle – her role in upcoming King of Fear events make her bit here just a proxy for the more interesting Strode to be bounced off of.  A whole series exploring her growth within B.P.R.D. would’ve been (still would be…) worthwhile.  Lastly, Peter Snejberg has Johann’s issue, in which some recently-turned frogs turn out to still have souls which Johann can see.  Much like the Roger issue, this plucks at some emotional bits and pieces we’ve seen before, but the focused nature of it makes it really effective.

…I didn’t have these issues, for whatever reason, when I was collecting B.P.R.D., and on my reread, I thought, for sure, that I was missing some key components here.  That wasn’t at all the case, but Arcudi’s writing reminded me of what drew me to the book at the time, and each issue’s art match was extremely well chosen to suit the various moods.