Monday Review – Baltimore TPB Vol. 1 – Vol. 4

Good morning,

I recently binge read the first four volumes of this series created by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, with art by Ben Stenbeck. Baltimore follows the story of Lord Henry Baltimore and his hunt for the vampire that killed his family in years surrounding World War 1.

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Story

The first four volumes of Baltimore (Vol. 1 The Plague Ships, Vol. 2 The Curse Bells, Vol. 3 A Passing Stranger and Other Stories and Vol. 4 Chapel of Bones), follows the titular characters hunt for the vampire that he met in the trenches during his time in the Great War. The plot is an alternative history story that follows a new plague that causes most soldiers to desert to spend time with their families before people all fall victim to this supernatural illness.

Writing

The writing of Baltimore is very much like Mignola’s other work were there are lots of allusions to Lovecraft and Poe whilst putting a twist on the usual vampire stories we are so prone to seeing in the media nowadays. However unlike his previous works, Baltimore was originally an illustrated novel that was co-written by Golden.

I have also come to quite appreciate Mignola’s oft sparse writing style against Bendis who I have personally come to find reading difficult due to the shear amount of dialogue he places in his panels. With Bendis I often find myself skimming his writing just to get to the important pieces of information. In fact in the first TPB of Baltimore there is six or seven pages were there is no dialogue and the art paints the story which was really nice to ‘read’.

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Art

Stenbeck’s art is beautiful. Not much I can say about it. It feels very much a Mignola story. The interpretations of how the monsters look seem like they have come straight out of Mignola’s subconscious. It clear, the characters are distinctively different allowing me not to have to guess who I am looking at and overall it just works. I can’t fault it.

Colouring

So the colouring is one of the reasons you know your reading a Mignola book. Dave Stewart is on colouring duties as he has been doing for years now with Mignola on the Hellboy universe. And the very stark contrast with one colour backgrounds and use of blacks really makes the story feel dark and scary.

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I’ve talked about Clem Robins in a previous blog and once again he really makes his mark.

Conclusion

This was a great read and I would recommend you pick up the first four volumes if you fancy reading a horror story set during the Great War.

Regards,

N.S. Paul

Monday Review – B.P.R.D. Vol. 14 – The Exorcist

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Bassed in the general Hellboy universe, B.P.R.D. Vol. 14 – The Exorcist is a standalone read that collects the aforementioned three issue short as well as issues #140 to #142 of B.P.R.D. – Hell on Earth. Ashley Strode, our protagonist and recent new player to the Helloverse (till I can think of a better name) finds herself over her head as she goes from green recruit to seasoned exorcist pro.

Story

*Minor spoiler ahead*.

I have a confession, I am avid lover of everything to do with Hellboy and its expanded universe. In fact I say its one of my biggest influences in my own creative writing. This collection is a classic tale from the Helloverse (is it sticking yet?) which see’s Ashley Strode, a minor named character from a previous story, get the limelight. The story itself is enjoyable as a standalone read and you do not need to have read any other material to fully enjoy this book though it will make you want to read more of Mignola’s Helloverse. Written by Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart and Chris Roberson and illustrated Mike Nortan, The Exorcist is a great volume that everyone should read.

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The story had an excellent sense of pace and I was loath to put it down when I had other house things to do. Ideas like having a spiritual sword, whilst not a new one, fits very nicely into the physical and spiritual conflicts Ashley finds herself in. Or even taking the classic haunted house idea and giving it a new lick of paint works wonders here.

Art

The artwork is very much like the other art that has been seen in B.P.R.D. even though Mike Norton is not the usual B.P.R.D. artist. I do have to praise Nortan for unlike John Arcudi whose art can be difficult to follow sometimes (don’t get me wrong I love it), Nortan has fused the best styles of Mignola and Arcudi and given us a very clear and concise visual storytelling that suits the overall Helloverse.

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Another thing I quite liked about Norton’s style was that the panels all had this, almost corrupted edging which I thought could be interrupted to show the edging of the demonic world onto the material human plane. Of course I could be reading more into it than is actually there.

Colouring

The colouring by veteran B.P.R.D. Dave Stewart was excellent and regardless of the shifting art styles the consistency in the colouring does make it feel like it is a Helloverse comic. Really makes want to try colouring myself as it does really add so much to a comic.

Lettering

The lettering was neatly done by Clem Robins and I was surprised and how large the lettering was. I have become increasingly aware of how little dialogue there is in a comic unless you are Brian Michael Bendis (go ahead, have a look, the blog will still be here). It does make the letterers job much more important as too much dialogue can cloud the art.

I also really liked how Robins uses ineligible writing to suggest alien languages or characters communing with something dark and terraible. Robins, like Stewart, has been a long term contributor to the Helloverse and his specific approach to lettering again gives consistency to the different writers and artists.

 

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Side note, I am really surprised by the lack of followers Robins has on his twitter account. Go now and follow him!

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this next instalment to the B.P.R.D. franchise which is growing quite rapidly. If you are a fan of mystery supernatural stories then pick up this book and whilst your at it, pick up Hellboy Vol. 1!

Join me next Monday for our next comic review.

Regards,

N. S. Paul