In Review: Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #4

Supernatural perfection. Recommended.

The cover: A beautiful snow covered bridge has two individuals upon it at somewhat of a distance from the reader. Baltimore stands proudly, the wind whipping his neck wrapping and in his left hand is a blood covered sword. On his knees before the Lord, is a man with a fresh red wound on his chest. His head is down, appearing to be taking his final breath before collapsing and marring the white downy covering. Excellent cover by Ben Stenbeck with Dave Stewart. I really like that Stenbeck chose to move the characters so far from the reader, making him or her work a little harder to see what’s going, which increases the drama and the reveal. This could have been a bloody mess on the bridge, but the subtle crimson by Stewart is more shocking against all the whites. This is excellent. Overall grade: A+

The story: Baltimore has been stabbed and fallen out a window. Unconscious, with snow beginning to cover him, a voice tries to rouse him. “Oh, get up, you fool. Death has passed you by. I’m not quite sure what you are, a wanderer, yes, but not like me. You have flesh. You can still fight.” His eyes flutter open to see a woman in white before him. He calls her a witch, but the real witches are being instructed by a female figure in crimson to fetch his body. Back on the street, the woman tells Baltimore her origin and then begs “…destroy the dolls first. Release Vadim so he does not die with them.” He has more questions, but she has left. He rises and sees the men who stabbed him, and they see him. He tries to knock them out without killing them, but that proves to be difficult when they all have blades. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have this battle end on 5 and then transition back to Carthage when the cultists have entered the First Temple of the Red King and decide to do something to prove their loyalty to their god, just as Rose, Kidd, and Hodge are trying to escape unseen. You know that’s not going to happen. Page 10 has a really cool realization made by one character that’s going to change things for our heroes. Pages 15 – 18 are a fantastically tense situation — I actually exhaled audibly when it ended because I was holding my breath. Don’t think that things in St. Petersburg aren’t as intense; in fact, the number of antagonists are even larger, making the odds to overcome them more dangerous. My favorite lines of the issue are in the two last panels on Page 21: if this were a film, this is when the audience would cheer. The last page of this penultimate issue has things moving quickly, so quickly I don’t know how everything can be wrapped up concisely, but having being guided through this supernatural tale so smoothly by Mignola and Golden, I’m sure I won’t be let down. Overall grade: A+   

The art: The best type of visual horror is not the gore, it’s the mixing of the unnatural in the real world. The world that anyone can recognize has to be established to bring the reader into the story before it can be violated by a strange or odd element that frightens or shocks. Throughout this series Peter Bergting has expertly created a reality that anyone can relate to and then slowly — wonderful — twists it a little to make something stand out as wholly wrong. Case in point, the first page has Baltimore laying in the store with a woman speaking to him. She is the physical opposite of him, not just in gender, but in appearance — he is rough, scarred, and on his back, while she is beautiful, untouched, and upright. Their conversation is interrupted by a panel in the middle of Page 2 that features objects that make their conversation go from abstract to concrete, with the final image on the page being a horrific act that is witnessed by many. The cultists wear masks, telling readers that they’re just men, but the design of the masks is outstanding; I would love to see a group of people wearing them — not at night, but at a comic book convention. Pages 15 – 18 are my favorite of the issue because they’re just so creepy. I could feel the fear and anxiousness of the characters on each page as the gamble was taken. There are no sounds on 17 and 18, but I could hear the silence on 17 and the relief on 18. The last two pages of the book are the most eerie, with that individual looking fantastic. Awesome artwork. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Nighttime in St. Petersburg and nighttime in Carthage leaves Dave Stewart seemingly with few opportunities for bright colors. This is not the case and he makes Bergting’s illustrations real and supernatural. The opening page has the wonderful contrast of blood on snow, with the woman and white appearing. The Russian sequences often have a lot of crimson, due to the number of individuals who fall before Baltimore’s sword. Each time the reader sees red it doesn’t stand for a color but a life taken. The reds used for the individual on Page 2, who appears on several other pages, drives reality right off the cliff into the supernatural, with the bottom of Page 3 being beautiful and oh so wrong. There’s a nice flashback panel on 2 that’s done with yellows and mustards to age the tale. Reds are also dominant with them being the colors of the cultists’ robes. Their eyes and colors match the orange of their candlelight and the flames; trails, making everything about these characters threatening. When moments get tense, Stewart makes the backgrounds pop in solid colors and sounds explode in their own shades. This coloring is fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins provides scene settings, dialogue, moans, whispers, sounds, and yells as the story builds to a head. The sounds look really strong on this issue, as there’s a lot of gunplay and a lot of physical contact. Page 21 has a good mix with fun BLAMs, a WHUD, and a KRAK. They’re perfection. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’ve loved the previous issues and I love this one. A discovery has been made on one continent, while others on another are surrounded by possessed hordes. Supernatural perfection. One of my favorite titles whose ending I’m already mourning. 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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