Review: Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1

Published on August 8th, 2010

Along with Hellboy: The Storm #2 (which was phenomenal), Mike Mignola also has another comic on the stands this week, and it goes by the name of Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1. Along with fellow writer Christopher Golden and artist Ben Stenbeck, Mignola and co’ give us the first issue of a 5 issue mini series focusing around the character Lord Baltimore.

baltimore

I am aware that Mignola and Golden have worked together before on an illustrated novel about this very character, though I must admit I’ve never read it. Truth be told I’d never heard of Lord Baltimore before I had caught word that this series was in development. I was very excited for it to hit the shelves, as I was expecting it to be right up the same alley as the sort of stories from within the Hellboy universe, which I love. But were my expectations met?

I’m afraid not. Unfortunately this left quite a lot to be desired, even by the standards of a usual first issue.

The pace of this comic was so fast it could give the speed of sound a real run for it’s money. It was over before you could say “Lord Baltimore“. The events within this issue happened just as quickly, and mostly happened without reason. Lord Baltimore is a vampire hunter from what I gather, and the issue starts with him hunting vampires through the French coastal town of Villefranche in 1916. One thing already that got me scratching my head, even at five panels in, was how the narative implies that in 1916 it had been half a year since the war ended. Now I know Mignola knows a lot about history, but come on, even I know the first world war didn’t end in 1916. Perhaps the continuity in this universe is a bit different, I hope it is, to save the writers and editors any embarrassment. Anyway, so he eventually kills all the vampires and is taken in by some crazy old mystic lady who has a smokin’ daughter (what the father saw in his wife in this relationship beats me). Lord Baltimore explains that he is looking for a deadly vampire called Haigus. He doesn’t get to do much more explaining after that because he’s being beaten up by a mob of townsfolk. Their reason for beating him up, is that “he could be the devil”, even though they all saw him drive out the vampires and kill them. Stupid townsfolk, I hate it when I get accused for being the devil. Baltimore is put in jail, and he could be there for a while. But the beautiful young lady of the crazy women who I mentioned beforehand shows up and offers to free Lord Baltimore if he allows him to take her with him on his quest to find Haigus. The issue hastily ends there.

I was dissapointed by this issue for a few reasons. It was the general lack of background on the characters and the complete lack of development in coherent plot. It’s a story without navigation at the moment.  It is all quite obvious upon reading.

It also had some real headscratcher moments which I found humourous due to the fact they are so universally dumb. Like for example, the villagers who jump to the outrageous conclusion that Lord Balitmore could be the devil in this story, and the way that the vampires were unable to outrun Baltimore, even with his wooden leg.

The artwork by Ben Stenbeck is nice, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story. It’s not particulary dynamic in any great way, and some of the panels which show a lot of movement and fighting appear to be quite stiff and solid. The colours are nice by Dave Stewart. Ben Stenbeck’s art fits nicely, and on the whole is ok. It’s just when it comes to those action panels, it could be a bit more loose.

I do hope this series gets more entertaining. I cannot say either way whether it will or not, but as much as I have shown my dislike to this issue, I am still going to stick around for the following 4 issues for sure!

Rob Andrews
Rob@comicimpact.com