While I have added all these to the Hellboy Chronology, I haven’t reviewed them yet, so here we go. Some spoilers.
ABE SAPIEN: The Secret Fire by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie and Sebastian and Max Fiumara (cover by the latter, all rights reside with current holder) was a disappointment for me. It’s mostly Abe dithering and worrying about his role in the end of the human race — something he’s been doing since the series started — and getting lots of advice from various mystical people. Meanwhile the sorcerer Gustav Strobl, who’s been hunting Abe all through the series, continues hunting him. It felt like filler that didn’t advance the story, didn’t stand on its own, but did stretch things out a few issues longer.
ABE SAPIENS: The Desolate Shore (same creative team) stars better as Abe discovers the BPRD’s Professor Bruttenholm knew all about Abe’s human past two decades before Abe learned his origins. Why did he stay silent? And what exactly did Abe’s former self, Langdon Caul, discover in the depths of the ocean. Having raised the questions, we get more brooding (apparently they’ll be wrapped up when Abe rejoins the BPRD for the mythos finish), which got frustrating. And while I like Strobl’s agenda (the mage believes he should be the template for the next age of man, not Abe), his final showdown is over so abruptly it retroactively makes Strobl pointless — why exactly were we wasting time reading about this guy? I hope the BPRD series wraps up better.
On the other hand I really enjoyed BPRD: Hell on Earth: The Exorcist (Mignola, Cameron Stewart, Chris Roberson, Mike Norton) which introduces almost-new BPRD agent Ashley Strode (she had a brief cameo in an earlier book). In the first story in this collection, she confronts a demon and becomes an exorcist as a result of her trials; in the second, she’s now traveling across country exorcising evil things in the old Hellboy manner (only with ritual rather than a right to the jaw). The stories were good, and it’s nice to have a relatively optimistic character in the spotlight for a change. I believe Strode is also the first gay protagonist in the mythos, but I can’t swear to it.
The Exorcist proved a slight challenge to the chronology as the two stories take place fifteen months apart. I’m guesstimating that the second one happens “now” or as close as we can get (as I’ve mentioned before, I think the rapid pace of events puts the timeline several years behind our own) and fitting in the first story based on that.