Lord Henry Baltimore is back in a three-issue miniseries that looks set to change everything.
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
Colors by Dave Stewart
Lettering by Clem Robins
While Baltimore hides out in Budapest awaiting the arrival of the sadistic Judge Duvic, a strange woman shows up with a bizarre invention she promises will rid the world of vampire plague.
In the letters column for this issue, editor Scott Allie had this to say, “Welcome to what will become volume 4 of Baltimore, and bring the story full circle… The story is really going somewhere, so if you’re not up to date, go back and read anything you missed, and make sure to stick around for these next four…” (meaning the rest of this miniseries, and the following two-issue miniseries)
Sounds like good advice to me. Not only would you be up to date, but you’d have read fifteen issues of damn fine comics. That said, this comic is still new reader friendly. Baltimore’s inner dialogue provides enough details so that the plot is simple enough to follow, but you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with the series already. And you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve read the illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire.
Simply put, big things are in play in this miniseries.
The story picks up less than a month after the events of The Inquisitor with Lord Baltimore arriving at Budapest. Baltimore’s taking a brief sabbatical from hunting Haigus to deal with the over-zealous Judge Duvic of the New Inquisition before he becomes much more of a hindrance. Budapest has become a city surrounded by an enormous wall with strict quarantine procedures in place. No one is let into the city until they are checked by doctors and purified by holy men (fortunately the purification is a very tame affair, nothing like Duvic’s purification). As a result, Budapest is a city with relatively few vampire incidents. As you can imagine, that quickly changes.
I have to say, it’s nice being back with Baltimore, seeing the world through his eyes again. In the stories that come out between The Curse Bells and this one, we readers visited Lord Baltimore as an outsider, with the viewpoint characters being the people he met while stalking his quarry. That was a fun way to tell those stories, but it is distancing. With this issue we’re back living the story alongside him as he walks around with a scowl on his face thinking things like, “I cannot die. The creator holds fast the skeins of my fate like a puppet’s strings, and he will not let me fall until the final act. Until the last drop of blood is shed . . . The bastard.” How can I not love that?
The other side of Baltimore it reveals is the fatigue setting in for him. For the last two years, revenge and anger has been driving him onward, but in this issue I feel like Baltimore’s starting to feel the absence of the man he was. He’s starting to feel the pain of being of empty. That’s the thing with Baltimore, he’s so hardened, sometimes it’s easy to forget there’s still a person in there. And then a frame like this comes along:Continued below
It’s moments like this where I really appreciate Ben Stenbeck sticking with the book as the sole artist. What could’ve easily been put down to a different artist’s take on Baltimore’s emotional state instead plays as a stark change without being overstated. There’s a certain level of nuance in comic story-telling that can only be achieved with a single artist, and a book like Baltimore is all the stronger for it. I’ve read the novel, I know where this is headed, and with each step closer, I become more and more convinced that Stenbeck is more than up to the task ahead of him, as daunting as it must be. It’ll be good to see Childress, Aischros, and Doctor Rose again…
Much of this issue is spent establishing time and place, and putting all the pieces on the board for what’s to follow. The focus is clearly on building tension. Sure there’s some vampire fights in there, but they play out differently from usual. What Baltimore discovers about the Infernal Train in the final pages should make for an exciting second issue. I can’t wait to see where Mignola and company are going with this.
Final Verdict: 8 – Buy… and if you were ever going to read the novel, now’s the time!