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ADVANCE REVIEW: Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 (Tristram's review)

Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2011
By: Tristram Taylor

Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden
Ben Stenbeck, Dave Stewart (c)
Dark Horse
ADVANCE REVIEW! Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 will come out on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.

I could tell almost immediately that Iím going to really enjoy Baltimore: The Curse Bells, which follows Lord Henry Baltimoreís single minded hunt for one particular vampire through Europe in 1916. Baltimoreís motivations are very personal, though that doesnít stop him from taking time out to destroy any other unholy creatures that cross his path, and apparently Europe is riddled with them.

In this alternate history, the Great War was ended abruptly by the emergence of a plague that swept the planet. With the plague came the emergence of vampires and other demonic monsters. Whether the vampires caused the plague, or the plague awoke the vampires, is a topic of debate among the people who are willing to admit that vampires even do exist. This sets up one of the many nice little mysteries that this issue presents, along with what the actual history is between Baltimore and his prey, Haigus. Between Baltimoreís narration and the dialogue, itís obvious that his quest to destroy Haigus is all consuming, and heíll stop at nothing until itís accomplished. It also seems like Haigus is afraid of Baltimore, as he is constantly running, hiding, and setting traps instead of facing him.

This promises to be an fantastic series. The world that has been created here is dismal and creepy while simultaneously beautiful and fascinating, which is classic Mignola. Baltimore himself is also a classic Mignola protagonist; strong and stoic without being one-note or cliche. He is a man on an unalterable course who is lethally efficient, but not cold. I do have one minor quibble. A personal pet peeve of mine is when the hero is in a dire situation, but the very next time we see him he is free and well, with no explanation as to how he escaped. This always bothers me, mainly because I want to see the action. I know that this is really just a matter of personal opinion, and this doesnít affect my score at all.

The art here is damn near perfect. I applaud Stenbeck for being able to draw a dark and shadowy world while still including a beautiful amount of detail. Whether itís a battle with dozens of vampire, or a close-up of a pock marked drunkard at the tavern every scene is intricately detailed, which is not always the case with horror books of this nature. A lot of the time, shadows dominate the art, but here they enhance it. Thereís one scene in particular, where Baltimore and his quirky sidekick-to-be are having a conversation with a beautiful woman in the tavern. In one particular panel, the shadowing of Baltimoreís face telegraphs his next move so well. This is a man who is obviously about to strike, though there is very little detail to the face but the shadows. Beautiful work.

I am completely invested in this series, and I canít wait to see what happens next. The dark nuns that we saw only briefly here are incredibly creepy, and I look forward to Baltimoreís inevitable encounter with them. Mignola and Golden have created an intriguing world here that is ripe for great stories.

Ray Tate also reviewed Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 Read his thoughts, too!

Tristram Taylor lives in Scranton, PA. No, he does not work for Dunder Mifflin. He occasionally writes stuff at Delicious Zombie Food and can be found on Twitter as @TristramAugust.

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