In Review: Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #3

Forget pins and needles, I'm on daggers reading this book because of the tension. Recommended.

The cover: The Cult of the Red King show their faces, albeit mostly hidden beneath masks, as they make their way to worship at an altar in Carthage. A crescent moon is surrounded by eleven stars. This can only mean trouble for the heroes of this title. Although there’s nothing supernatural in this image by Ben Stenbeck with Dave Stewart, it’s creepy enough because of the masks, the flesh — if that’s what it is –showing on the characters’ chins, ancient setting, and blood red colors. Overall grade: A

The story: In Carthage, Mr. Marchand is asked by a member of the crew if he believes in vampires and the Red King. “If you don’t believe the stories,” he says, “I’d call you a lucky man…” The seaman recounts an experience he had when he went home to Senegal after WWI. There are only nine words of dialogue in his telling, and it’s a creeper — Heck, this could be one-shot tale on its own. Suffice to say, Marchand closes this flashback with “When evil comes for you…when it opens its jaws and you see its teeth, then you will believe.” The action then moves to St. Petersburg where Father Stanislas revealed himself last issue to be possessed by an entity: his teeth have become fangs, his eyes red, and his strength doubled. Joaquim Rigo has had his face slashed by Stanislas, but he’s able to beat the man to the ground. He has plans for the holy man, and they will not be pretty. I’m completely enamored with how writers Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden cut back and forth between both locations with the two groups on the same quest but in different places. Just as it seems one story is about to get intense, they maddeningly go to the other location, and repeat the same process. This is the mark of outstanding storytelling, if the reader is hooked into each story so strongly. Events in Russia escalate as Baltimore makes a move on an individual, and Aischros, Kidd, and Hodge in Carthage find something that’s going to have major repercussions for everyone. You know you’re enjoying the story when you’re talking to the characters, begging them to run from something they can’t see. Overall grade: A+

The art: The swing between reality and the supernatural is stupendous by Peter Bergting. The first page is a dark night on a calm sea that could happen anywhere, today. However, when Marchand’s flashback begins the fog of memory and horror seeps into the imagery. Page 2 could happen in the real world, as could the first panel on Page 3. Beginning with the second panel on that page, there’s a turn to horror, and it starts with a graphic image and then progresses perfectly into that of madness that Poe and Lovecraft wrote of. The fourth panel on Page 3 is a close-up of individual that is tilted to show how reality has become skewed and it’s got a border around it to offset it from everything else shown so far. This is awesome, and the listener’s face in the final panel shows how grotesque this memory of Marchand’s is. Events in Russia are equally insane, given the state of Stanislas. Even when there’s a momentary calm in the storm, look at how Bergting shows the readers in the final panel on 6 how wrong things remain. Page 12 is very reminiscent of scenes from Hammer horror films with its settings, content, and mood –with those final two panels inducing nervous fidgets. A new character arrives on Page 20 and she’s a doozy! The visuals on this book continue to delight and scare. Overall grade: A+

The colors: It’s impossible to read this book and not recognize the contributions by Dave Stewart. The first page sedates the reader into the normalcy of the real world, but with the turn of the page the backgrounds become burnt rose, suggesting an unworldliness. Crimson red appears, for obvious reasons, and is used for a border on Page 3 to hammer home to the reader that this is Hell on Earth. The same red is used for possessed Stanislas’ eyes, reminding readers of his state. The colors of Carthage are pale whites, tans, and grays, instantly aging the location. Using these colors allows Stewart to show off the bright color that appears at the end of Page 8. The walls shown in the setting on 11 increases the unease that the occupants inflict on this series. And if readers think that red will be the only disturbing color of this book, yellow gives it a run for its money starting on 12. Sound effects nicely ring throughout the book due to the colors Stewart assigns them. The colors are a major component of this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins creates scene settings, dialogue, sounds, whispers, yells, and screams. The sounds gloriously resound in big capital letters, with St. Petersburg having the most spectacular sounds. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The tension of this book can fill a room because each turn of the page could reveal some unknown horror capable of killing all. Forget pins and needles, I’m on daggers reading this book because of the tension. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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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