In Review: Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #4

The end is near in this sensational penultimate issue.

The cover: The Red King sits on his throne. He is hunched over, looking possessed, as if about to spring from it and attack. Flames dance around his head and he tightly grips the arms of his chair. Ben Stenbeck is the artist of this piece, making evil seethe out of this illustration. Having the background as a solid black makes the crimson of his clothes really stand out. Overall grade: A

The story: The penultimate chapter of Baltimore’s saga begins with him and his comrades in the worst of situations: surrounded on all sides by the forces of the Red King. Just as the antagonists move in, an ally pops a hidden door in the floor providing a means to escape. The only problem is that some of the men are going to have to remain behind to stall the villains so that Baltimore and his group can leave. Baltimore doesn’t want to abandon any men, but is convinced when the individual who emerged from the trapdoor says, “A lot of people are going to be killed here. Signore, they expect their lives to mean something.” The evil army storms the house, and all inside are killed, but Baltimore is nowhere to be found. His location is revealed on Page 5 and this is followed by a startling death by a long time character on 6. The grief from this person’s death is momentarily put aside to focus on Judge Rigo, who is not happy with his mode of transportation and even more unhappy when he sees who is accompanying his group. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have much going on, yet nothing seems rushed.  Where Rigo and his peers end up is an incredible sequence. The location and the number of characters involved makes it James Bond finale epic. There’s a great surprise involving Baltimore toward the end of this book that had me squirming in anticipation until its conclusion. And where is the Red King? The last two pages show what he’s doing and it leaves me absolutely clueless as to how Baltimore is going to stop him. I’m on fire to see how Mignola and Golden are going to wrap this up and I can’t wait. Overall grade: A

The art: Peter Bergting provides the artwork for this issue and he’s got a lot to do this issue: human characters, supernatural characters, a lonesome farmhouse, dirigibles, boats, a dock, an airfield, planes, the Vatican, and the final setting. I’ve often complemented Bergting for his ability to dress a panel well for the time period, and he continues to earn praise for this issue. The first page shows a huge number of men, and two hovering witches, surrounding a farm house. The two panels that follow show the cramped quarters within and how tense its occupants are. As the heroes are making their escape, Bergting gets to interrupt their plight with scenes of the villains getting closer. When the antagonists do enter it’s incredible: the violence is swift, dramatic, and undeniably exciting. However, nothing can prepare the reader for the shocking panel that begins Page 6. Bergting makes it quick, but the results are plain on everyone’s face. Rigo’s sequences are great, with tension building slowly and going into overdrive when he notices who’s accompanying him. The action that begins on 12 is outstanding. The entrance of the heroes is spectacular and the confrontations that result are outstanding. Rose’s apology on 14 falls upon deaf ears given the others’ state in the second panel. 15 is great, with bullets and magic flying everywhere. The final two pages are completely representative of the grandeur of the evil lead and I’m hoping that Bergting gets to illustrate more of this location in the final issue. I love the look of this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors on this book are faded, aging the story and placing it in the correct time period. Only the red clothes of the many villains pop off a page, and this is completely appropriate, because it does seem as though life is soon to end on Earth. The sounds are also bright, creating a good punch into any scene they appear. Page 15 has my favorite coloring of the issue from Michelle Madsen: greens, reds, oranges, and yellows punctuate the battle for the Vatican. Overall grade: A

The letters: Whispers, sounds, screams, dialogue, yells, laughter, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Clem Robins. Everything is neat and easy to read, with characters’ yells and screams leaping off the page. The best sound of this issue is the SPLUTCH on 6. I won’t be forgetting that sound for a long time. Overall grade: A

The final line: The end is near in this sensational penultimate issue. Action, scares, and the supernatural combine to make for a thrilling read. Recommended. 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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