Thursday, November 02, 2017

Baltimore by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden


I used to scoff at comics. 

Well, maybe not scoff per se. Perhaps I was just intimidated.

That was before I realized they weren't just about super heroes, and while I like super heroes, they have so many different story lines and variations of the same characters that it's all very difficult to keep straight.

Is Superman dead? Did he come back to life? Is he a zombie now? Did he eat Lois Lane, then?

And what about Batman? With all the variations out there, will the real Batman please stand up?

There's Batman and then there's the Dark Knight. Are they even the same person?

What about Spider-Man..does he work alone? Is he an Avenger? I mean, I've seen the movies -- it looks like being an Avenger is more of a part-time gig, but still...it's all too much.

Don't even get me started on the X-Men...there's one billion variations. Thinking about it gives me a headache -- even if I were to start reading these comics, where do I even begin?

I'm one for chronology, so should I start reading the first issue from 1963? I mean, that's 50-plus years of X-Men story lines. It's almost as old as "Days of Our Lives" and the plots are equally as twisted.

The room is beginning to spin.

Do you have a glass of water?

Let me sit over here where there's a comic that started while I was actually alive.

Ah, "Baltimore." A tale of a scorned man searching for a great evil that killed his family. He met this man on the battle fields in Europe during the first World War. There's history. There's old world Europe, and Baltimore fears nothing. Let me flip through it and see what it's about...

Why, isn't this a dark comic. The artist uses mostly grays and browns to paint the panels. There's some kind of plague, it seems, and evil, like vampires, have started spreading like wildfire throughout Europe's country side.

This comic has promise. Let's flip through a few more pages...

Goodness, that's a lot of blood. I mean, besides the gray and browns, the only other color the artist uses is dark red.

And there's so much of it...

So. Many. Bodies.

The body count is high within the world of "Baltimore," but when you're fighting the evil that started all other evil -- well, no prisoners are taken. This comic series, with which I've only read five so far, is pure horror -- of the classic fare. We have an anti-hero fighting the grotesque evils looking to find justice for his murdered family. Eventually, he realizes he is connected to the great evil that has ignited throughout Europe because of the World War...and dying isn't an easy task for him.

It's almost as if he can't die...

Baltimore is on the search for his nemesis, the vampire Haigus, whom he met on the battlefield. Due to some spat, I can't remember what, something about accidentally eating the wrong lunch or whatever, Haigus goes after Lord Baltimore's family, killing them. Baltimore, at some point, loses his leg, so he's walking around on a wooden peg, which is kind of badass all on its own, and decides to hunt down Haigus. Baltimore ain't turnin' no cheek.

He is going to make Haigus pay.

The first few comics regale the trials of Baltimore as he traipses through Europe, searching for Haigus. Like any story, the authors don't allow for him to make a b-line to Haigus. I mean, that would be too easy. Instead, we join Baltimore as he fights evil, after evil, after evil. It's exhausting, and the food looks terrible, and there is barely any sleep.

The bread is stale. The water is stale. The air is stale.

Regardless of how I feel, Baltimore is on the lookout for his enemy, but he can't let the sad, bewildered people of small European villages die, either. They know something is up, but zombies and vampires? That just can't be...can it?

It doesn't matter because Baltimore will save them. Baltimore, the anti-hero's hero.

It's also a comic series I will read through to the end. It honors classic horror, and while I haven't read all those tales of terror, I respect the generous nods the writers and artists of "Baltimore" are giving them.