The story of Lord Baltimore is set during the post-World World I era and centers on the former British soldier turned monster hunter’s obsession with Haigus, an ancient vampire who set a plague upon Europe and ruined Baltimore’s life. In The Widow and the Tank, a 2-story one-shot, Lord Baltimore travels to Londonshire, England to interview a confirmed dead soldier who has somehow returned home to his wife (in “The Widow”), and then to the Aquitaine region of France, to a field of beautiful red flowers littered with the skeletal remains of what he believes to be vampire victims, where he discovers something more disturbing than the vampires he loathes (in “The Tank”).
Baltimore, who you’ll recognize from his wooden peg leg and trusty harpoon, has nothing to live for, except to eradicate Haigus and his preternatural creations, which is why he consistently puts himself in harm’s way to confront these deadly creatures. Sometimes he’s striking down all undead in his path with his aforementioned and frequently bloodied harpoon, as well as with his guns, knives, swords, and other weaponry strapped to his back; other times, he’s an angel of mercy. But in the end, his mission is clear: find Haigus and kill him.
Lord Henry Baltimore and his vampire-populated universe comes from the mind of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, who co-writes the Baltimore comic book series along with novelist Christopher Golden. But unlike Mignola’s other famous creation, the big red paranormal investigating demon Hellboy and some of the other characters in that universe, including those in the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), Lord Baltimore is devoid of humor. He doesn’t crack wise, doesn’t make jokes – basically, he’s not here to amuse you.
If you’re a fan of Mignola, then you’ll definitely enjoy Baltimore. If you’re disappointed when the art in a Mignola book is not rendered by Mignola, I hear you and I understand, but artist Ben Stenbeck and colorist Dave Stewart do a beautiful job on the Baltimore series, creating that familiar Mignola atmosphere while adding their own style. Just look at the cover they did for Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank – man, it’s gorgeous! And there’s more of the same inside the issue, too.
I would read this comic even if it was just Lord Baltimore hopping around on his peg leg, taking tea with downtrodden British people, and punching out menacing street punks. There doesn’t even need to be blood-sucking creatures of the night in this series to make it interesting, but the premise of Baltimore does involve vampires, which have saturated every entertainment market over the last few decades, and let’s face it, once they started sparkling, those of us who grew up loving Dracula kind of got turned off, didn’t we? Thankfully, the vampires in Baltimore take a backseat to Lord Baltimore himself and really, any human or preternatural foe could be swapped out for them. And since this is early 1900s Europe, it’s definitely closer in tone to Dracula than say Twilight and its paranormal romance knockoffs.
If you’ve never read a Baltimore comic, you might hesitate to pick up Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank, but since there’s no on-going Baltimore series (just several mini-series) and it’s a one-shot, it’s easy to jump right into this tale, especially since it does give you enough back story to know what’s going on. Also, Dark Horse does have their Baltimore/Criminal Macabre Free Comic Book Day 2011 issue, which has the “Baltimore: A Passing Stranger” story in it, up on their site for FREE, so definitely go read that. I’m sure reading the freebie will be enough to hook you in, so below are links out to the previous series.