In Review: Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #2

I'm enjoying this, but I'm waiting for something--anything--to happen.

The cover: This cover is the perfect example of how less can absolutely be more. The Red King, primarily in silhouette, stands before a white curtain that bears his logo. As the reader’s eye goes from the crimson skull, to the individual with similarly crimson eyes, his or her eye will fall upon the bottom of the curtain, stained in rusted reds. This suggests that paint was not employed in the creation of the King’s hallmark, but blood. Powerful and creepy image from Ben Stenbeck. Overall grade: A+

The story: April 18, 1925. At an undisclosed location two soldiers arrive bearing books. The man who opens the door for them belittles them, but quickly turns apologetic, “You’re frightened, I know. They’re all frightened. The guards who took the previous shift abandoned the door an hour ago.” The men aren’t specifically nervous about what’s occurring outside, but more so from being in such close quarters “…with him.” Against a wall, with his back to them, sits a man feverishly writing and reading from a stack of books. When the soldiers state they should be going back outside to guard the door, the man who’s studying the books grows angry, his concentration broken. He swings his arms, scattering the books and papers about. He turns to face the men, revealing he’s wearing a plague mask. He proclaims, “I am searching for the secrets of history for every scrap of information on the Red King, to make certain that when the time comes, we can save the bloody world! And you have made me lose my train of thought!” This cause the soldiers to run out, leaving the researcher with the man who let them in. His final words to the man aren’t reassuring. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden start the issue out with a lot of suspense, but the final line on the fourth page gives it a humorous bent that distracts from what was built. This is followed by three strong scenes of the devastation that’s occurring between the forces of good and evil, but then it’s back to talking, talking, and some more talking. I understand that there has to be some build to this final confrontation between Baltimore and the Red King, but readers are now 2 for 2 in this department. Granted, there’s some good back and forth with the Red King and another character, that does reveal something interesting, it just feels like the opening and closing of this issue don’t have any impact on the conclusion. Future issues will show if I’m right or wrong, but, as it stands now, there’s lots of plotting, not much doing. Overall grade: C+

The art: The visuals of this book are still engaging and Peter Bergting is to be congratulated for making them so. The walk into the dwelling builds suspense well, as does the tease of the researcher at the bottom of Page 2. The second panel on 3 nicely gives an angry edge to the man who allowed the soldiers in, and his turnaround in the fourth panel built up fear considerably in the proceedings. The reveal on 4 is great, showing that this book always has some outstanding visual surprises in store for the reader. Pages 5 – 7 show the absolute Hell on Earth occurring in the battle. Bergting then has two very tricky scenes to illustrate: the heroes making plans at a table and the Red King speaking with an associate. The conversation with the heroes is fine, as there’s not much that can really be done to make this visually interesting. There’s a lot of back and forth, with the point of view switching to focus on who’s speaking, but that’s it. This is exactly how the scene would look if it were being filmed. Better is the conversation with the antagonists. The Red King is a naked cadaver of a man, who’s a visual abomination, yet also carries much strength. The way in which one character escapes the other’s wrath on 14 was captured very well. I also liked seeing the Red King continually looking out windows, insinuating that he’s a prisoner in his own house. This is followed by more heroic plotting, a nicely executed dramatic sequence, and then it’s back to the researcher that began this issue, who visually shows his abilities. Bergting is an excellent artist and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to produce once things start moving. Overall grade: A-

The colors: The colors on this book by Michelle Madsen are good with the opening done in various shades of brown and tan, helping age the story appropriately and increase the feel of the secret location. Bright orange is used for the researcher’s fury on Page 3, making his anger truly change the environment. Pages 5 – 7 are dreary browns and reds, to highlight the bleak future of man’s existence. Only red stands out on these pages, especially because it is one character’s only coloring. When the scene shifts to the heroes the change is colors is somewhat shocking, because bright colors appear. This is a good visual clue to the reader to suggest life, and that’s what the protagonists are trying to preserve. The Red King is a wonderfully moldy gray to emphasize the state of the body he inhabits. Madsen’s work on this book is good. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, yells, and sounds are Clem Robins’s work for this issue. There’s quite a bit of yelling from the opening character, and Robins rightfully increases the size of the speaker’s words and italicizes those that deserve emphasis. The sounds are also well done, with some strong ones on 18 and 19. Overall grade: A

The final line: I’m enjoying this, but I’m waiting for something–anything–to happen. This book’s grade may improve when the series is completed, but on it’s own it didn’t really do much for me. Overall grade: B+

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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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