Perhapanauts vol. 1: First Blood TPB (Black Caravan edition) – Todd Dezago

3 out of 5

Paranormal investigators. Dark Horse Comics. …It’s hard not to think B.P.R.D. when you hear that, and that Todd Dezago’s / Craig Rousseau’s Perhapanuts team has some undeniable nods stuffed in there – BEDLAM is the group’s namel; just so happens to share the same starting letter; we got a big chap on BEDLAM’s “Blue Team” in the form of cryptid Bigfoot; and a lady with some psyhic powers – Arisa – team leader; and why not throw a somewhat lizard-looking dude in there who wears goggles, though apparently that’s a chupacabra named Choopie – well, you have to assume our creators are leaning in to this all at least a little bit.

But while the pulpy influence is there, Mignola leaned into shadows and lore, and Perhapanauts is all in-yer-face primary colors and Scooby Doo camp, totally leaning in to the “I would’ve gotten away with it…!” goofiness of the latter, despite having plenty of life-ending stakes and blood-sucking baddies, tempting Choopie back to the dark side. This tone works in the comic’s favor, allowing for a lot of amusing patter, but it also renders deeper investment fairly moot; even with a To Be Continued to the first storyline collected in this trade, the BEDLAM Blue Team never quite takes off between their one-note serious / silly / mysterious / etc. character attributes, and the vague application of supernatural lore for the baddies the team investigates is exactly that – vague.

Rousseau’s art and Rico Renzi’s bright color is fun to look at if somewhat web comic-y shallow – nil backgrounds – and when Rousseau colors himself in an included bonus story (taken from a republished edition of one of these originally-DH-published comics), he drops even more detail, leaving it to the colors to formalize thing. I know it sounds like I’m picking on the book, and I do wish its art felt more consistent (the fourth issue in this comp feels rushed and looser, for example), it’s also a very identifiable look, and helps to plug in some detail that’s perhaps missing in the narration. Regarding which, while Dezago never varies from a breezy flow, the presumed self-lettering is confusing at times as to when it’s internal narration and spoken aloud – another consistency flub – and, as mentioned, every character is exactly a single attribute. But… as long as you read it as sort of a Sunday comic – i.e. rather purposefully one-and-done – all of this fits together well, and makes the occasional appearances of world- / character- building rewarding instead of lacking.

Collecting a self-published oner (“Non-Gigantic Color Special”), the aforementioned bonus story, and (I think) every cover from all of those, the $20 price tag feels pretty good, providing us kind of Hellboy-lite; the most accessible version of paranormal investigator comics that doesn’t have decades of lore to catch up on, and can be dropped in on at any point with ease, which has its own special value.