Overview

Baltimore: The Plague Ships #2

Review

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Baltimore: The Plague Ships #2

Credits

  • Words: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
  • Art: Ben Stenbeck
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Sep 1, 2010

Last month, I went out on a limb by saying Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Baltimore: The Plague Ships was one of those truly special comics that only come around once in a blue moon. Maybe not so bold a statement, when you consider who the creators of the book are, but a bit of a gamble when speaking of any first issue.

I’m pleased to say that the second issue of Baltimore more than lives up to the high standards established in the opening chapter. Mignola, Golden, and their artistic collaborator Ben Stenbeck continue to lay down some of the most satisfying pages of the year with their haunting horror tale of obsession and vengeance.

This issue witnesses the origin of the titular character during the bloody trench warfare of World War I and the beginning of his dark, lonely quest to kill the vampire, who cost him his leg and his humanity. This is the beauty and the horror of Mignola and Golden’s protagonist. If Hellboy is essentially a human being trapped in the body of a monster, then the opposite holds true for Lord Baltimore: He’s become an obsessed monster trapped in the body of a human being. It is this constant struggle that simmers beneath the surface of the character – his desperate need to regain the humanity he lost during the war, no matter the cost – that defines Baltimore and drives the action of the plot.

Baltimore’s chilling origin is brilliantly rendered by Stenbeck, who captures the futility, desperation, and horror of early twentieth century warfare through the use of atmospheric lighting, beautifully spotted blacks, and expressive faces that always seem to teeter on the brink of madness, even while at rest. His style is reminiscent of Steve Dillon, only channeled through the brush of Mignola himself.

The writing team relies on Stenbeck’s talents heavily in this issue, the majority of Baltimore’s origin unfolding without the benefit of dialogue or narration. Stenbeck translates their script with intuitive ease, confidently constructing his pages with clarity and precision. This is, quite simply, some of the strongest visual storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this year.

Although the content is refreshingly original, cleansing the palate of good guys and bad girls dressed in silly costumes, it’s the fine craftsmanship of the entire creative team that makes this book a success. Intensely satisfying and a veritable primer on how to produce a brilliantly realized creator-owned property, Baltimore: The Plague Ships so far supports my assertion that it possesses a certain unique quality that sets it apart from much of the retread flotsam crowding the shelves today.

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