An elusive evil, a man obsessed, a journey through darkness. This is what the universes overseen by Mike Mignola are: places where obsession drives everything. From the rotating cast of B.P.R.D to Baltimore to the over the top pulpy fun of Lobster Johnson, Mignola and his co-writers and artists tell stories of unshakable drive, even if it is at times ethically or morally questionable for the protagonist.
The Vampire team presents a first issue of startling skill in compositional and narrative economy to create a sense of darkness, solitude, and loneliness. This will be a series that requires an appreciation of patience, as the team of Ba and Moon (whose Daytripper is a must read for fans of South American magical realism ala authors/poets such as Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) judiciously use silence on the pages of this first issue to let the reader hear the sounds in the mind—the sound of a river flowing through a snowy wood, the footfalls of an empty stairwell, and the muted sounds of an empty train car filled only with the thoughts of a man on a mission. If I was to make a comparison to another medium, the work exhibited by Ba & Moon is grounded in the post modern cinema of Europe in the ’50s and ’60s, a cinematic movement concerned with the patience of letting the natural surroundings set the scenes in real time, letting as much reality as possible slip into the frames and thus into the consciousness of the viewer.
Another reason that I keep coming back to read titles falling under the Hellboy universe umbrella is the unbelievable consistency of the look of the books. Much of this is contributed to the color work of Dave Stewart, who is credited with a large bulk of the titles. This is significant for me as a reader/viewer of the comics because it allows familiarity to set in fairly quickly and saves my brain from having to process too much new information. To clarify: when Dave Stewart colors, say, seven concurrent titles from the Hellboy universe, then the night time always has the same shade of night and the offices of the B.P.R.D have the same shade of woodwork finish. These are things we, as readers/viewers, can take for granted because a familiar palette, one we have grown accustomed to, allows us to sip back into that world that much more quickly, and we can focus on other details. Think about how a director of photography works with a director on a trilogy (e.g., the recent Dark Knight films). The palette, the colors, are consistent; it is a universe all to its self. Comic universes can (and should to a degree) function the same way.
I don’t think you have to have read the previous B.P.R.D. that Vampire functions as a sequel or next chapter for in order to be up to speed on the story. Mignola, Ba, and Moon give just enough back story to get you up to speed, although the completionist side of me will tell you to go spend a few extra bucks if you have it so you can do some compare/contrast. What you get here is a comic that you will enjoy coming back to re-read again, and that is an accomplishment that the Hellboy universe of books continues to do quite well.