In Review: Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #1

If the terrors of this first issue are only precursors of what's to come, this is going to be an epic series.

The cover: The Red King, the supernatural character that has consumed Baltimore’s existence since he first saw him on the battlefield, embraces the Earth, setting it aflame with his hate. This image by Ben Stenbeck perfectly sums up what this creature’s ultimate goal is for any reader. He looks frightening, gaunt, and utterly inhuman, while the world burns. Stenbeck struck gold for this one and this should be the cover for this series when collected. Overall grade: A+

The story: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden begin this series in the best way: giving a quick summary for new readers, yet entertaining those who have followed Lord Baltimore’s quest from the beginning. The Prime Minister receives a confidential letter from Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair stating that something horrible rose after the end of WWI. Sinclair states “Our greatest sin was that we did not believe it when the Red King’s worshipers began to wave his banners.” Slowly, his followers began to take cities, raise armies, and now nations have bowed before him. The admiral goes on to state “…we will never turn back the tide. We will hold Europe for six months at best. We must find and kill the Red King himself, or fall beneath his boot.” The story then moves to Switzerland where four members of the New Inquisition beat down a holy man to gain entrance to a monastery to find a “prodigal son.” Whom they seek is no stranger to long time readers, but even new readers will become familiar with this character, who learns, with the reader, the horrific state of the world. The war that men are engaged in is a nightmare that makes WWI a distant memory. Familiar figures are on the battlefield fighting all types of creatures, realizing they need “him” to succeed. But “he” is not there, so they make do with what they can, killing as many of the “bastards” as possible. The last five pages take a terrific turn, ending with a fantastic reveal that will make every reader cheer. I’m on fire to see where this is going! Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals on this book by Peter Bergting expertly capture the time period, 1925, with the settings, characters, and weapons looking perfect. Seeing these places, people, and things side-by-side or fighting with the supernatural characters is unsettling. Pages 1 and 2 are a nice tease of what’s to come in larger panels, as the admiral’s letter to the PM is given snippet visuals. These small images wonderfully whet the reader’s curiosity, especially as the letter gets more and more dour. Pages 6 and 7 are a startling double-pages splash truly showing a hellish battle, with the humans are seemingly outnumbered by a wide array of creatures. Bergting pulls in close to several heroes to show how they’re reacting to the horrors, with some terrified and others more determined to strike the nightmares down. I admit to being startled by how grotesque some of the creatures were, such as the things on 9, as I don’t recall seeing those before. The bottom of 12 is an outstanding “Now what?” moment. The visuals give so much punch to the story, showing that humanity is doomed, yet they fight on. 15 and 16 display the impact of the Red King’s army upon the world and it’s staggering. I can’t decide which panels paint a worse picture: the fourth on 15, the second on 16, or the final on the same page. Anyway one looks at this, the world has reached a crisis. The character that appears on 21 had me cheering before I read that individual’s dialogue. Bergting ends the issue with a fantastic gigantic image: the issue was building to it, and it’s just bad ass, there’s no other way to put it. I love the look and the stance. I’m on pins and needles for a month. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Michelle Madsen nicely sets this book in the time period by giving it dark browns, grays, and muted reds, making it seem as if the pages are faded due to age. By sparingly using bright colors, Madsen puts a nice punch into certain panels, drawing the reader’s eye, such as in the first page’s third panel to accentuate the blaspheme and the fourth panel to show the turning tide. The sick green on the second page gives the visual a noxious flavor. Switzerland has believable dark colors appropriate for the setting and they provide an excellent calm before the reveal of 6 and 7, which is awash in orange, red, and brown. Sounds are also given colors, but they too are dim, signaling that even sounds are not unnatural in this tale. Madsen puts a sick twist on this tale with her work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: A letter’s text, scene settings, and dialogue (all three the same font), sounds, and yells are the creation of Clem Robins. I prefer books to have different fonts for the first three elements I’ve listed, but this is the style that this series began with and I’m used to it, so I cannot grouse. The sounds are strong, even if their colors make them delicious aberrations. Plus, you can’t help but love Robins’s CHUKKACHUKKACHUKKACHUKKAOverall grade: A+

The final line: If the terrors of this first issue are only precursors of what’s to come, this is going to be an epic series. The Red King is taking more than his pound of flesh and only Baltimore and his allies can stop him. Perfect reading for fans of the supernatural. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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