In Review: Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #5

A strong ending to a strong series. Why can't all horror be this good?

The cover: The confrontation that this series has been building to is shown on this cover by Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart. A gigantic red woman stands before Baltimore, and she is obviously not human. She is the Red Witch and she wants the one legged soldier dead. The power and evil that is exerted from this figure matches its size. Baltimore’s weapons look useless against its stature, but I do love that Stenbeck shows the Lord to be carrying a cross in his belt, as if that will be used for a last resort. Spectacular coloring by Stewart with red being dominant on this cover, dooming Baltimore in his tracks. Overall grade: A+

The story: Joaquim Rigo, the priest, has learned the source of the witches’ power: they have made clay dolls of all the people whose lives they control. With a prayer, Rigo throws a Molotov cocktail into the room’s center and it’s quickly set ablaze. As he makes his way to the door, he’s stopped by an arm that leaps out and grabs him by the throat. The unseen antagonist says, “I wonder…” The action then cuts away to Baltimore and his allies battling the possessed men as the coven watches. Suddenly the mob falls to the ground, like puppets with their strings cut. Neither Baltimore and his friends or the witches know what to do. That’s when the witches begin to burst into flame. The story then resumes to Rigo’s plight as he’s being attacked by the Red Witch. He’s tossed into the flaming room as the entity spews anger at how much the priest has undone and how his blood will be the first used as an offering, with Lord Baltimore next. Before she can kill him he springs out a window, saying that “…Baltimore cannot die!” The witches don’t go down easily, but, once again, the setting shifts elsewhere; now to Carthage. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are closing out this series with every once of tension and shock they can manage, and there are plenty of them! The confrontation on Page 7 is fantastic, as the antagonists fall victim to their own allies. However, someone in the group decides to sacrifice themselves to allow the others to escape, and it’s a heartbreaker! Page 12 has another two characters go down, with one being a gut kick. 16 has the confrontation the cover teased, and it, too, takes a turn. Page 20 releases another soul from this mortal plane, and his passing may foreshadow that all that Baltimore and his group seek to accomplish is for naught. This was an excellent ending. Overall grade: A+

The art: I really like the visuals of Peter Bergting. His opening page is dramatic as Rigo burns the witches’ dolls, but look at the details he puts into each panel: the settings are fully decorated, Rigo and his scars look magnificent, and the flame is a vivid character as it spreads. In fact, the fire begins to go beyond the borders of the panels: notice the flames at the bottom of the page that are rising up — that’s such a cool addition to the art! Outside, it isn’t clear what will kill the heroes — the mob or the snowstorm. The uncertain glance by the character in the final panel on 2 almost makes her almost sympathetic, which only makes what happens to her and her comrades all the more gruesome. Page 5 has two graphic slayings of a pair of evil women, but it’s necessary, not excessive, to end their reign of evil. In Carthage the cultists are absolutely chilling as they look for the heroes in that city. I have to restate something from my review of Issue #4: the masks used by the cultists must be made by some cosplayers to wear at Comic-Con! Heck, I’d buy one if Dark Horse made them! The carnage that breaks out on 7 is exactly like a classic turn of the century pulp novel, with the villains being killed by their allies — I loved this! The final panel on Page 9 was a heartbreaker. The text makes it painful, but the visual by Bergting, with the black tendrils touching that individual are soul rending. The deaths on 12 are equally powerful and surprising, and the reaction from Baltimore echoed my own response. Every single page by Bergting has the supernatural being fought or flamed and it’s magnificent. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Dave Stewart continues his reign of excellence in the Mignolverse by finishing up this series. The flames from Rigo’s fire are brilliant in yellow and orange, but look how Stewart continues Bergting’s fire that’s outside the panels: the borders are colored as well, with the flames changing colors the higher they go up the page. Simply outstanding! Such bright colors make the cold Russian exterior all the chillier when the page is turned. Everything is muted by the cold air, until the witches begin to catch fire. The red robes of the cultists are also eye catching, as they stand out strongly against the dark Carthage night and their even darker allies. This is a brilliant job (and if you’re hungry for more from Stewart, take a look at Space Dumplings, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson and colored by Stewart. It’s an amazing book with an excellent change of pace for Stewart!). Overall grade: A+

The letters: Also closing out this book in excellent style is Clem Robins. He provides dialogue, a lot of screams and yells, and a ton of spectacular sound effects: SHUK and SHUNK are my favorites. It’s hard not to love a letterer who makes the sounds so enjoyable. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: If you rattle the cage, something will bite, and Baltimore has rattled the ultimate evil and it’s doing much more than biting. A strong ending to a strong series. Why can’t all horror be this good? 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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