In Review: Baltimore: Empty Graves #4

The penultimate issue of this series has plenty of horror and action to keep your heart beating for the conclusion.

The cover: The frightful faces of the self described new priests of the Red King grace this cover by Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart. Tabrizi, Morya, and Kuthumi wear the bodies of Suleiman his sons so that they may serve the master and address Baltimore and his colleagues. Corpses wearing ancient clothing always looks cool, and Stenbeck has make this awfulness awesome to look at. The colors increase the eeriness, with blue flames atop the blasphemies that walk, while a red candle in the foreground reminds the reader that this evil works for the Red King. An excellent cover. Overall grade: A+ 

The story: Revealing themselves to the heroes in last issue’s final panel, the trio of unholy priests introduce themselves and speak of their abilities and past. Baltimore could care less and interrupts Tabrizi, demanding to be told about Helena Von Hahn and the Blood-Red Witch. The monster responds with, “Gladly. Proudly…” It takes just over two pages for this tale and shows that Von Hahn was on a path to destruction, with the trio in tow, taking her to Constantinople and Tibet. After this knowledge is imparted, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden move for one page to a trio of heroes far from the action, where something is learned too late for those in Constantinople. The dead priests show they have more abilities than they were thought to possess. The Blood-Red Witch appears on Page 12 and the havoc starts. What she does to Baltimore left me gasping, and there’s more than one attack by her on the title character. While she’s tangling with Baltimore, the priests attack the others, and there’s a neat hint of danger for one member whose past is shown. This is only a two panel sequence, but it delightfully dangles some past evils that were done. There are two panels where the Blood-Red Witch speaks Russian. I couldn’t understand a lick of what she said, but that made the moment more real: she should be speaking in Russian and if they characters don’t speak that language, they wouldn’t be able to understand it either. This is a terrific way to for the reader to identify with the heroes and a great way to have fervent fans scrambling on the Internet to find out what’s said. The reveal as to who the Witch is was a terrific nod to a villain from a previous Baltimore outing. What’s doubly terrific is that if the reader never read that series, Baltimore: The Curse Bells, enough information is given by the characters to allow anyone to know that she’s a bad, bad person. Great drama and horrors. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: What doesn’t Peter Bergting get to create for this comic? The opening pages show Constantinople with its ancient architecture and modern vehicles, a secret unholy ritual nearing its finale, three outstandingly ghastly wise men, Von Hahn’s search for knowledge, animated corpses dying and reforming, and a terrific battle between Baltimore and the Blood-Red Witch. He does it all and it all looks great. The transitions between panels one and two, then two and three are cinematic: they slowly bring the reader into the setting until arriving at the ritual. The bottom panel alerts the reader that with the candles close to going out things will only get worse. The second page starts in the same manner: a gorgeous setting that moves inside the structure, until a ghastly character pulls the reader closer. The flashback sequences nicely shows off the settings and gives a definite attitude to Von Hahn as she acquires her information. Page 9 is jarring: it’s supposed to be, but it perfectly shows how hellish this story is. The arrival of the Witch on 12 is terrific and her actions on 13 great. The smile at the bottom of the page was awesome — sick, but awesome. The top of 15 was a shock; granted, I’ve seen Baltimore take more than his fair share of hits throughout his saga, but nothing like this. The third panel on the same page has Bergting nicely inserting an eye into an element that shouldn’t allow the organ to be shown, but it smartly leads the reader to look at the human response to what’s being shown. There’s some strong emotion shown in the third and fifth panels on 16. The realization that comes to a character on 20 is great, because if that character is afraid, things are really bad. The final panel is a small one, because there’s so much going on in the final page, but it’s enough to keep one’s heart racing for the conclusion in thirty days. Mr. Bergting, you’ve done an outstanding job. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Bringing the horror of the illustrations to life is Michelle Madsen. Note how on the first page’s opening panel there’s something that’s colored red and this color reappears in the third, and following panels, insinuating that there might be a deadly relationship between the two objects. The blue flame that sits atop the monsters’ heads in this book was a constant reminder of their supernatural natures and how that color represents trouble. The flashback sequence is colored in faded browns and grays, giving an instant aged feel to the story. The coloring on Page 9 is an explosion in the reader’s face, with the color blue being submissive to a far stronger color. I admit to thinking of Return of the Jedi on Page 11, but that’s because I’m a tremendous Star Wars junkie; the color is absolutely justified for being used since it was employed earlier in this issue. When the Blood-Red Witch enters the book, she dominates every panel she’s in (rightly so, since she’s the villain) and every little shred of her crimson being shows the reader how deadly she can be. Madsen deserves applause. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stalwart Mignolaverse letterer Clem Robins shows his talents in this book with dialogue, sounds, yells, an editorial note, and Russian dialogue. It’s impressive that Robins is able to get so much text into several panels without stepping on important components of the visuals, and his sounds are second to none. The noise that accompanies the Witch’s appearance is perfection. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The penultimate issue of this series has plenty of horror and action to keep your heart beating for the conclusion. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To learn more about this book and other adventures of Lord Baltimore go to http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics

To purchase a hard copy of this book or other issues go to http://www.tfaw.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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