Overview

Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1

Review

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Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1

Credits

  • Words: Christopher Golden
  • Art: Ben Stenbeck
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Aug 10, 2011

Golden and Stenbeck create an accessible tale about a grim man looking to kill some vampires.

Originally a prose novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden*, Baltimore was turned into a comic by the same pair with the successful The Plague Ships, and gets off to a great start with the second story arc, The Curse Bells. The story follows a gaunt man named Lord Henry Baltimore, who is on the hunt for Haigus – the vampire responsible for his family’s death. Equipped with a long vampire-stabbing spear, a wooden leg, and a permanent grim look on his face, he travels through dark forests and empty towns looking for revenge.

While Haigus does not make an appearance in this issue, his presence is felt. Baltimore seems hot on his trail at one point, and Golden makes us feel his frustration when the trail goes cold. Haigus leaves a gruesome surprise for Baltimore after every leg of the journey and Stenbeck does an excellent job creepily rendering a courtyard full of headless bodies, a forest full of demonic monsters, and bed full of sexy vampiresses with stylistic detail not unlike Mignola’s own pencils. He keeps the violence down to quick, bloody flourishes and never loses focus on the main character’s plight throughout.

Whereas The Plague Ships was not new-reader-friendly, this arc takes its time filling in the back story to just how Baltimore got to be so pale, moody, and adept at stabbing with that spear. The exposition is juxtaposed perfectly against the desolate land ravaged by the vampire plague as Baltimore makes his way closer to his target. Stenbeck does a great job at pacing out the quick fights but also knows how to take the time to let the story breathe as he depicts a lonely farm, a grassy hillside along a town, and an eerie castle overlooking a quiet city by the water.

While the setting, supporting characters, and plot are all perfectly synced to create a horrifying, enjoyable read, it’s the title character that is lacking. To say his personality is bland would imply he has one at all. His story about how he lost his family and is now seeking revenge is compelling, but his dialogue is expressionless and lacking the flavor of an engaging protagonist. He’s fighting the undead, yes, but it’s he who seems lifeless. He’s Blade without the badass edge; he’s Buffy without the one-liners; he’s just no fun.

The artwork fits in perfectly with the tone Golden has set with his scripting, making for a satisfying vampire tale that even makes time for some macabre humor – I’m looking at you, tavern wench. If the rest of this story arc proves Baltimore to be more than an expressionless guy who likes to stab vampires, then it will definitely be one to keep an eye out for.

*Actually, the character Baltimore originally came from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which inspired Mike Mignola to create a story about the character.

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