In Review: Baltimore: Empty Graves #5

Things go horribly wrong for the heroes and the saga has never been more enjoyable.

The cover: Knee deep in crimson fluid, Baltimore makes his way forward to fight his foes. His body has been pierced by several knives, several of which are still stuck in him, but he continues on his path of vengeance. Outstanding final cover for this series from Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart. I love the look on the title character’s face and having a hero stomping through a location that’s filled with blood is gruesome goodness, and the colors are outstanding with everything tainted in red. A beautiful nightmare if ever there was one. Overall grade: A+

The story: Dr. Rose and Mr. Kidd are still with Professor Murad, trying to get information on the Red King. Rose realizes they’ve been so focused on the phrase “Mother of Monsters” being an individual that they might have overlooked it referencing a location in the city. This spurs Murad to think of the Basilica Cistern where “there are two columns whose bases are carvings of the head of the Gorgon, Medusa, who some legends call–“, and Kidd interrupts, “The Mother of Monsters.” They now know where to go. Meanwhile, the Blood-Red Witch and her minions are making mincemeat of the heroes. Were it not for a sound, I have no doubt that the all the protagonists would have died, but they are given a respite. One character stumbles up to taunt the fleeing villains and it’s a strong moment from Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. I didn’t expect that character to react in that way and shows how similar this character has become to Baltimore. And where is Baltimore? He’s been taken by the Witch and he’s is in the belly of the beast, the location where the Blood-Red Witch and several others are making the final incantation over a fallen friend whose body is being used for something. This isn’t a spoiler, as every issue of this series has shown this character being prepped for “something” and with this issue “something” finally occurs. Baltimore’s actions are predictable but continue to spur the reader’s heart to follow him. Page 13 has something happening to him that’s stunning. Pages 16 – 18 have everything hit the fan, with a stunning revelation on 19 and 20. Something (Are you getting sick of my use of this word yet? I have to use it so as not to spoil the story) epic occurs in the final panel on 21 that will make a reader gasp, but the real surprise is the final page. This is not ending to the Baltimore saga by any means, but a strong emotional pause where one of the characters has an outburst at the futility of his actions. Wow! The empty used in the title of his series may reflect one person’s soul in the final panel. A strong, harrowing conclusion. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: The visuals on a story like this must capture the time period and the supernatural terror of what the characters are fighting against. As with previous issues, artist Peter Bergting begins with a establishment shot of Constantinople with a zeppelin in the sky, and then moves in closer to where the heroes are. The interior of Professor Murad’s study is amazing. I would love to have explored more of what was in this space, but the story demands Kidd and Rose move quickly to assist Baltimore. It’s just a little thing, but I love that the image of Medusa that the trio looks at is upside down, giving it a very sinister feel. When the story turns to Baltimore battling the Blood-Red Queen, the art becomes frightful with reanimated corpses attacking the heroes, led by their Queen who’s surrounded by swirls of energy. When one character is taken down in the third panel on Page 5 it’s an incredibly dramatic moment. One character’s final scene atop 6 is stirring and immensely sad. Baltimore’s journey on 10 is terrific; I loved the fourth panel on the page, with the addition of the animals perfect. The look of determination on Baltimore’s face in the panel that follows is outstanding. What occurs to Baltimore on 13 was jaw dropping — I really believed that those individuals were killing him. Pages 16 and 17 are amazing action sequences that make the proceedings seem absolutely frenzied. As much as I love the action, the final panel on 17 is the stuff of every modern nightmare involving the supernatural: it is a fully realized scene from hell. A turn of the page shows that this panel is merely the precursor to the ultimate horror; it’s this point where a Lovecraftian hero would go insane. When the action has ended at the Basilica Cistern, Bergting gets to continue with the epic visuals with the final panel on 21; I just love this! The final panel of the issue focuses on one character who is consumed by guilt from their lack of ability to help a friend. Perfect, perfect art. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Three very different settings allow Michelle Madsen to shine. The first three pages have the wonderful yellow and brown tint of a den filled with books. Even the characters have this tint, making them seem similar to the paper they’re examining. The graveyard where the Witch and Baltimore battle is dark, but is given a gray sky so that the reader can see the actions that are commencing. The reds of the Witch and the blue flames above the priests of the Red King create focus in every panel they appear. Page 7 has a sound at the top of the page that is given a rusty color that taints what’s normally a positive sound. Madsen really uses colors fantastically on 10 – 20. You’ve never seen reds used so sinisterly until you’ve seen these pages. This is sensationally disturbing work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, yells, moans, and distant chanting are brought to life by Clem Robins. The sounds on this book match the horrors well, but I really liked the distant chanting that Baltimore heard. Using a smaller font made the words seem far away and made the moment seem even creepier. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Things go horribly wrong for the heroes and the saga has never been more enjoyable. A major character finally appears, while another falls. Some characters feel they’ve made the right decision, while another feels very differently. Just like life, only time will tell if the right decision was made. The right decision a reader could make is to pick this up. Absolutely recommended. Overall grade: A+

To order a physical copy of this book go to http://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Profile/Baltimore-Empty-Graves-5___505814?utm_source=darkhorse&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=darkhorse_buy&utm_term=buy+Baltimore%3A+Empty+Graves+%235

To order a digital copy of this book go to https://digital.darkhorse.com/profile/6977.baltimore-empty-graves-5/

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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