on 27 August 2013
We get to see other agents and members of the B.P.R.D. in action here, not the main characters of Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and the rest of the gang.
While the major events are playing out in the great cities across the globe, that does not mean the highways and byways and backwaters are free of trouble either. With everyone's attention on the big incursions, smaller happenings get less attention, shorter shrift, then they might have done when things were quieter and the B.P.R.D. had time and attention and personnel to spare to investigate them fully.
That tends to go badly for the lower level agents sent out to do a quick recce and report back - sometimes (often) what seems a harmless (by comparison with the huge giant monsters wrecking Germany and Russia) routine assignment you send a rookie out on to get experience is far from that.
BPRD is generally a great series and Hell On Earth, the current story arc, has been an interesting ride so far. Occasionally with these books (along with other books in the Hellboy universe) Mike Mignola and his team will put out a standalone book of short stories that can be really awesome to read like Hellboy: The Crooked Man which readers who haven't been following the main Hellboy story can just pick up and enjoy by itself. The Pickens County Horror and Others is just like that, where we get three standalone tales featuring vampires and Lovecraftian monsters except this one turns out to be one of the least interesting collections Mignola and co. have put out in a while.
The first story, The Pickens County Horror, is by far the best. Some nondescript BPRD agents - most of the famous ones like Johann, Liz and Abe have disappeared for various reasons, so we get what are essentially a series of Star Trek red shirts - investigate a vampire family living in rural South Carolina and the source of a mysterious green fog. It's not the most original of setups but Southern Gothic as a genre and that kind of horror imagery of the woods at night and lurking monsters with glowing eyes, or even just a hut in the middle of nowhere being attacked by nightmarish figures, is just catnip to me so even when it turned out to be not even an average vampire story, I didn't mind all that much.
The Transformation of JH O'Donnell goes back in time to when Hellboy was still around as he and the titular character investigate a haunted library containing old, rare forgotten volumes. Hellboy punches a monster, O'Donnell sees some scary spirits, that's about it. Very forgettable.
The Abyss of Time is by far the least involving story here. Some more nondescript BPRD agents investigate an underground vault and one of them goes into a trance - his body remains in the present while his mind/spirit/soul goes back in time where he (or his ancestor) was a barbarian prince. He leads his barbarian horde to fight some evil monsters, the end. It reminded me a lot of Pat Mills' Slainé books where we also had a time-travelling barbarian but this version was a lot less interesting mostly because it's exactly as I've described with nothing surprising thrown in - great art from James Harren as ever though.
BPRD is usually a great series but The Pickens County Horror is a blip in that it's not very good. Full of generic "horror" stories that are very forgettable and boring to read, don't judge the series on this uninteresting volume and pick up Volume 4: The Devil's Engine instead, skip this, and go straight on to Volume 6: The Return of the Master.