Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank (February – 2013 – Dark Horse)

Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank

Baltimore returns in a one shot anthology. Two stories from Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden that as always are amazing.  I read a lot of comics, and a lot of those comments get read on break at my second job (the one where I get breaks).  Usually I’m sitting with a couple of other people, eating my dinner, reading a comic book.  I don’t say much because I mostly just want to read, but when I finished this issue of Baltimore, I slid it back into the poly bag and said out loud, “That is a good one.”  This issue collects two short tales, The Widow, and The Tank.

First is The Widow, Lord Baltimore has gotten wind of a lieutenant who though he died in combat made his way home with the men who served and died under him.  As goes the world of Baltimore the lieutenant and his soldiers are some of the vampire scourge.  After taking care of him and his cronies, Baltimore returns to the home of the widow.  The widow who has been sustaining her husband with her own blood.  He returns because though he understands that she only wanted to help the man that she loves, none of the evils that plague his world get to live.

The second story is The Tank.  Baltimore arrives in a small town in France to hear the tale of a vampire that lives in an abandoned tank on the outskirts of town.  As night approaches Baltimore confronts the creature in the tank who refuses to come out.  The creature is trapped by something that is outside of the tank.  The creature is not the killer in the town, there is something else.  Something that is about to lash out at Lord Baltimore.  During the confrontation that Baltimore has with these other creatures, the vampire attempts to make his escape, and fails.

These stories are about mercy.  They are about putting down the animal that has become unhealthy and dangerous.  Like Ole Yeller it is moving and poignant.  In these two tales you can see that Lord Baltimore must face the most human decision when he is confronting the supernatural.  He has made him self hard to confront the darkness, where the reader sees grey areas (a wife that just wants to be with her husband a little longer, a creature that hasn’t killed for a while because it is trapped), Baltimore only sees black and white.  There is only the creature, and his need to destroy it.  Mignola and Golden have their finger firmly on the pulse of what makes Baltimore special, the thing that makes this title one of my favorites.

Again the art from Ben Stenbeck and the color palate of Dave Stewart are brilliant.  The black edges and corners, the muted earth tones punctuated by deep bright reds.  It always evokes places of drab hopelessness, places that have lost the ability to even see light, let alone be illuminated by it.

If you aren’t reading the Baltimore series, this is a decent jump off.  It is a simple anthology with a couple of stories that while not explicitly introducing Lord Baltimore give you a really good idea of what he is like, and who he is.

Next Time:  Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #1

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Baltimore: The Plague Ships (TPB – 2011 – Dark Horse)

Baltimore: The Plague Ships TPB

Collecting Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1-5.

If there were any Mike Mignola character that would rival Hellboy in sheer badassery than it would be Lord Henry Baltimore.  This isn’t any normal vampire hunter, this is a vampire hunter on a mission.  While fighting in the Great War (WWI), his entire troop was wiped out, save him.  When he pulled himself out from under a pile of corpses he was confronted by giant vampire bats eating the corpses of his compatriots.  Needless to say this pushes Lord Baltimore over the edge, lashing out with his saber he slashes the eye of the the largest of the creatures.  They flee but the king of vampires returns to visit with Lord Baltimore as he recovers in the hospital to tell him he has made a grave error.

Once he has recovered he returns home to what he hopes is a semi-normal life, only to have that all shattered by Haigus (the aforementioned king of vampires) who turns Lord Baltimore’s wife into one of his own.  Baltimore declares war on the vampire, and his first kill in that war is his own wife.  All at once Baltimore becomes a driven and broken man.  He survives on the hate and pain, and his only obsession becomes the eradication of the vampire plague and Haigus.

His hunt leads him to a small fishing village where they want to hold him for questioning at the hands of Judge Duvic of the New Inquisition (with all of the sinister connotations that particular organization’s name conjures up).  With the aid of the beautiful Vanessa, Baltimore is able to escape the town on a ship.    In a storm tossed sea the two end up stranded on an island covered with strange purple plants that reveal their evil secret.

The world that Baltimore occupies is full of dangerous creatures, almost steampunk style contraptions for the elimination of the dead and transportation, but more sinister are the plagues the run rampant in the world.  It is implied the the disease that is spreading is somehow a manifestation of the corruption that Haigus brings to the land, and that some how Baltimore’s movements against him exacerbate that manifestation.  The island that they are stranded on is no safe haven.

At night the purple fungus open, and the dead rise.  Everywhere Baltimore turns there is death.

Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden know their way around this territory, they are more than willing to be brutal and raw with characters.  No one is safe, and the hero is no hero, just pure rage and pain.  The world that surrounds him is decaying and the people are all haunted by the recent memory of The Great War and the plague and monsters and now ravage the land.  All of that is reinforced by Ben Stenbeck’s art.  It is dark and black heavy, the decay of the world accentuated by the way every face looks fetid and worn, ready to split open and ooze at any moment.

This comic is amazing looking, and super dark.  The hero of the tale is mesmerizing and has a truly stunning origin story.  I know that I get a nerd boner with most everything that Mignola has a hand in, but it is because he is consistently at the helm of really, really good books, and Baltimore is no exception.

Next Time: Nightstalkers #2