Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck - Baltimore: The Plague Ships (2 stars)

Disappointing new supernatural horror comic from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Stenbeck - Baltimore: The Plague Ships

(Dark Horse)

Hellboy creator Mike Mignola continues to expand his universe of supernatural horror inspired by 19th and 20th century pulp fictions with this his latest creation, Lord Henry Baltimore, vampire hunter.

This first story arc, the first five issues of the comic book which are collected in this volume, opens in France in 1916. A terrible plague has brought and end to the First World War, but far from being a blessing in disguise, the human engineered horror of the mechanised war has been replaced by a supernatural one in the form of vampirism. And in a horrible irony, it’s Lord Baltimore himself that unwittingly unleashes the plague of undead on Europe when he encounters and wounds the king of the bloodsuckers prompting the evil one to reek his terrible revenge on war-scarred humanity.

That’s the background to this ongoing series. The first five chapters sees the heavily armed and peg-legged Baltimore (who’s a spit for Melville’s Captain Ahab) pursuing his nemesis from France to Italy by ship assisted by a witch and himself being tracked by Catholic priest.

Baltimore is, in a sense, a companion piece to its antecedent, the Victorian sleuth Sir Edward Grey, the Witchfinder, not least because Ben Stenbeck once again takes on the illustration duties. Unfortunately, Stenbeck’s work is serviceable at best and it makes one wish that Mignola would begin illustrating his own scripts once again. Furthermore, although, or perhaps because, the script is a collaboration with novelist Christopher Golden (Mignola and Golden first introduced their vampire killer in the prose novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire) it lacks the eccentric historical and mythical details and the idiosyncratic humour that have made Mignola’s Hellboy tales such a rare delight. Still, the basic concept of the book is intriguing. Let’s hope the quality of the scripts and artwork picks up in subsequent collections.

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