The story of Lord Henry Baltimore, the title character in the aptly named comic book Baltimore, is a horrifically tragic tale. Lord Baltimore was a captain in World War I. He led a battalion into battle only for everyone to be slaughtered, except Lord Baltimore. On the brink of death and very badly wounded, Lord Baltimore awakes to witness giant bat creatures eating the remains of his comrades. One of the monstrous bats attempts to eat Lord Baltimore. Baltimore slashes the creature’s right eye out, scarring it. In return, the creature slices at Lord Baltimore’s left leg, mangling it. The creature that Lord Baltimore blinds is so furious about losing his eye, that he unleashes a plague upon warring Europe. Little does anyone know that the plague is an indirect form of vampirism. Those unfortunate to be infected, rise up and become vampires. After being saved and having his leg amputated and replaced with a wood jointed peg, Lord Baltimore returns home to find his family is dead from the plague, and his wife is murdered by Haigus, the Red King vampire, the vampire bat who attacked Baltimore and the reason behind the mysterious plague.
Baltimore is now a man with only one mission in life, the death of Haigus. That’s the premise of the Baltimore story. Lord Baltimore is out to get his revenge on Haigus and save the world from the vampire curse. Lord Baltimore unfortunately doesn’t understand just how powerful and resourceful Haigus is. In the two story arcs published so far – The Plague Ships and The Curse Bells – Haigus has managed to escape from Lord Baltimore at the last second. In this new one-shot, Baltimore: The Play, Haigus is funding a play, ‘La Morte Rossa Trionfante’, which means ‘The Red Death Triumphant’. The title is taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death, a tale about a prince who tries to hide from a plague known as the ‘Red Death’ that’s sweeping across Europe. The actors in Haigus’ play are all vampires and while the play is in town, the local population begins to dwindle as the mysterious plague starts to spread and an undead army grows. Hot on his heels, Lord Baltimore follows the trail of the “one-eyed devil with a scar on his face.”
Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola continue to co-write this epic tale of the never-ending battle of good versus evil in this 13th issue of the Baltimore series. Unlike Hellboy or members of the B.P.R.D, Lord Baltimore has no sense of humor. He’s a straight forward revenge-driven bad-ass. Although Lord Baltimore may not have a funny bone in his body, unlike his “Mignola-verse” counterparts, the surrounding townspeople and villains manage to make with the funny more than once. The bloody and violent gothic horror that Golden and Mignola create together is just an example of how well the two writers work together, and the fact that Mike Mignola with John Byrne, John Arcudi or whomever, is a dynamic writer and with each writer he pairs himself up with, they compliment each other and bring their writing styles to the next level.
Ben Stenbeck‘s artwork is the cherry on the cake. His clean and crisp lines make slit throats look amazing. The blood drenched madness of the vampires feeding or the boil-ridden plague victims look outstanding. Stenbeck’s artwork brings the book to a whole other level of awesome. It not only complements the story, but draws the reader in and keeps them waiting for more with baited breath.
Baltimore: The Play is a great one-shot story and gives you some insight into Haigus and his inner-workings. The story itself mirrors a short story from the master of the macabre himself, Edgar Allan Poe. The references and coincidences between Baltimore and The Masque of the Red Death are uncanny. You would never think these two stories and characters have anything in common, but having it thrown in your face you sit back and wonder how you never saw the comparisons. A great story with a fantastic crew putting it together. This book is great for anyone who’s looking to jump in and has no knowledge of the characters or the previous stories. I’m excited for the next two one-shots scheduled to come out in 2013 and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Lord Baltimore next.