Baltimore: Empty Graves #2

It is impressive for its frightening tale and its terrifying visuals. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Mr. Kidd bears a glowing pair of pliers and a equally bright sword in the making as he looks for a loved one. This person he seeks is not alone, for she bears a creature on her back that is making her do ghastly things. If only Mr. Kidd would look behind him, the person and her passenger are there. This is a very suggestive cover by Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart that shows readers what to expect, but gives no explicit facts, which makes its reveal in the story surprising. Overall grade: A 

The story: The group’s work in Odessa is almost done: creating graves for the fallen. Unfortunately there are no bodies, so all they are doing is creating empty graves. Looking upon Hodge’s cross, Mr. Kidd wonders who’ll carve his name one day. A question of prayers being said comes up, and Sofia wonders if Rigo would be willing do so, given he is a priest. The man of God surprises the woman by offering a chance for her to run away with him and leave Baltimore to his ruin. Sofia responds to him by saying, “There’s more than one sort of monster, father. Whatever Baltimore may be, at least he never tries to hide it!” As this is occurring, Baltimore offers up a pistol that he and Thomas learned to shoot from. “It’s a pitiful thing to bury in his place, but it is a good memory, at least. Precious few of them remain.” He tosses the gun into the grave and it’s buried. Mr. Kidd is then asked to tell his tale, since Harish has told his (in the previous issue), and tell his tale he does. Mr. Kidd’s story reveals why he is such a muscular man and why he fights so vehemently against the supernatural. It’s a heartbreaking origin for this soldier in Baltimore’s troop. His statements that follow the telling are painfully biting. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have again captured the emotional impact of a hellish event, justifying why one person has joined the hunt for the Red King, and allowing the reader to peak within a character’s soul. After this story, the group’s next step is decided upon with one member leaving and another saying what their fates will be. It’s hard to tell which is more jarring: Mr. Kidd’s tale or the characters’ resolve. Either way, it’s one hell of a story, and hell it will be. Overall grade: A+  

The art: Peter Bergting wonderfully captures the early twentieth century with his illustrations. The look of the characters gives them a lot of their personality. Mr. Kidd’s facial hair is fantastic, and his clothes wonderful, though he is obviously a man with a soul, as shown by his actions on Pages 9 – 16. Baltimore’s cheek stubble shows him to be a man uncaring of how he looks before others. Rigo is a scarred holy man, who’s flawed exterior matches his interior. The setting that Kidd is first shown in during his tale is fantastic and set up so perfectly that the door that one character enters through creates a terrific sense of anticipation. The supernatural character in this issue is an absolute horror. It’s not seen clearly until it’s final appearance, and that makes it all the more frightening: a bit of a mystery in the creature’s appearance forces a reader to really spend some time taking in the visual, trying to comprehend just exactly what it is that’s been shown. However, by the time it is revealed, it’s too late — its deed has come to fruition. Before the creature can exact any true visual harm, Kidd does something shocking in the final panel on Page 10 and I’m finding myself continually wincing each time I look at it. The response to his action is just as shocking, but Bergting is only beginning to show the what the creature is capable of, culminating in a monstrous scene of inhumanity on 12 and 13. That’s a definite “Wow!” moment, and it’s not “Wow! That’s cool!”, it’s “Wow! Did that just happen?” The first four panels on Page 16 are the soul of Kidd’s tale and they are amazing. Having witnessed what this character has gone through in his past, only to see how he now regards it, in the present, in the fourth panel, says so much visually about this man. This art does not disappoint. Overall grade: A+

The colors: I was surprised to see that Mignolaverse regular colorist Dave Stewart is not responsible for this issue’s colors, but Michelle Madsen of Angel & Faith and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has stepped in. One would not know there has been any change, Madsen continues in the same style of Stewart. Each page has a dominant color scheme, with grays and blues most common during the scenes in the graveyard and burnt oranges and roses comprising Kidd’s tale. It’s during the latter’s scenes that the book is the most charged, and it is due in no small part to the coloring. Using such bold colors increases the energy of the art and makes the pacing of the story seem quicker. Sounds also stand out nicely under Madsen’s reign, with a scream of “NOOOOO!” being an explosion on the page. Madsen works her magic well on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins is responsible for the book’s scene settings, dialogue, sounds, whisper, and yells. It’s the dialogue (and yells and screams) from the female character in Kidd’s story that is the most memorable of Robins’s work on this issue. Each word is constructed for the reader to feel and not just hear, and it works exceedingly well. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is the best book of the week. It is impressive for its frightening tale and its terrifying visuals. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Collections of Lord Baltimore’s adventures may be located at www.darkhorse.com

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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