In Review: Baltimore: Empty Graves #3

Be afraid, because "Everybody has to die!" Absolutely recommended!

The cover: Baltimore leaps into action to stop a magical apparition from attacking one of the sultan’s wives and sons. Look closely, that’s not a creature made of sand but of plant matter. How does one stop a plant being in Constantinople in 1920, when it looks like a sword won’t do? You’ll have to get this book to find out. A good tease from artist Ben Stenbeck and colorist Dave Stewart of an actual event in this issue, a rarity from most comics. Overall grade: A

The story: Constantinople, 1920. Professor Murad leaves his students after class to retire to his apartment. He’s startled to see two of Baltimore’s associates already in the room. They assure him that they have no opinion on his politics, but instead want him to look at the book they found from the First Temple of the Red King. He’s able to read the text and they ask him to locate any passage that says how to destroy him or keep him from returning to this world. He tells the men they are wasting their time, the Red King’s “influence waxes and wanes, but he’s never been unaware. Never really been asleep, only resting…only waiting.” He will do what he can, though he has already found a passage new to him in his studies: “The Father of Monsters will return when the door stands open. The House of the Red King is the cold heart of man.” One of the men believes it sounds like a prophecy. Meanwhile one of the sultan’s wives and sons is traveling home, but something has happened to their engine. Writers Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden then have the book’s first supernatural scene occur, which was shown on the book’s cover. How the creature is able to kill its victims is pretty horrific, and though it’s dealt with, there is an excellent panel of fallout at the top of Page 8. After this event, Baltimore reminds his group that a dying witch told them they should seek out Princess Rukiye. They do and things go horribly wrong. It’s always extremely entertaining to watch Baltimore and his band go in to a situation thinking they’ve thought everything out only to be confronted with something completely beyond them, and that’s exactly what happens here. But Mignola and Golden aren’t done. The band then goes somewhere else and though it may seem it was all for naught, the final person who speaks will have readers on the edge of their seats for thirty days, waiting to see where this is going. Another outstanding installment. Overall grade: A+  

The art: Peter Bergting sets a scene excellently. The first page uses every panel to establish the setting of Constantinople, moving from a distant view, to a street, to a dead man, until moving to the university and settling on Murad leaving his students. This page moves the reader into the environment completely. When he’s confronted by the pair of men in his apartment, the look on his face tells the reader what he believes the men to be, and the final panel on the page shows the consideration he must take before making a decision: both make him a better rounded character, especially that last one that is textless. The third page has him become distanced from the heroes, his face shaded and his eyes closed, as if the knowledge he has casts a shadow over him. The top of Page 4 is a spectacular nightmare landscape of the creatures he believes the Red King will bring with him to their world. It’s a terrifying scene that rivals anything shown in any other Mignolaverse book. The creature that attacks the wife and son is a creepy entity that kills in the most disgusting way; it’s not graphic, just disturbing. Those top two panels on 8 are excellent. The confrontation with the princess is the highlight of the book as the things that occur are the most shocking the group has confronted since The Cult of the Red King story line. This sequence starts very slowly and subtly until exploding on 13. The most frightening aspect of the conflict occurs to Sofia whose distress is still uncomfortable to look upon. The resolution to this is also a good shocker, and the escape by the heroes excellent in a three panel sequence on 18. The architecture of every setting is marvelous, with the final four pages being deliciously creepy. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Assisting the art by expanding the mood are the colors by Michelle Madsen. The first page is glorious with a blood red sky, instantly filling the reader with dread. Pages 2 and 3 employ tans and browns to give the book an aged feeling, as if a reader is actually looking at dated events. This pair also serves as a good precursor to the shock of crimson that’s atop 4, which makes the visuals jarring. The creature that attacks the team is brilliant in moldy green and its destruction harsh oranges. The absence of colors as the team makes their way into the princess’s bedchamber makes the bright colors that do appear, in the background and in sounds, all the stronger. The candlelight of the final setting brightens just enough for the characters and the reader to see, heightening the tension. Madsen is doing an excellent job. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and yells are crafted by Clem Robins. When characters yell, a reader will be able to hear the bellow go beyond the page, and the sounds make every slice and shot resonate. Especially memorable are “You have no idea what I am!” and “They’re just ordinary men!Overall grade: A+

The final line: A frightening tale from 100 years ago that will have you keeping the lights on at night. Be afraid, because “Everybody has to die!” Absolutely recommended! Overall grade: A+

To find out about more adventures of Baltimore go to http://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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