In Review: Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #5

This is how a saga should end. Recommended.

The cover: Hello, symbolism! Death is barely visible in the background, but easier seen in the foreground is a heart with a golden ring atop it, both encircled by a melted crown. Ben Stenbeck is giving the reader something to think about in this conclusion to the Baltimore saga. I like everything about this but the colors: my physical copy of the book has Death so dark as to be pointless, though the majority of the digital images online have the background to be brighter so that he/she/it can be better seen. Overall grade: C+

The story: The last of humanity’s generals are having a conference and it’s not going well. “The tide is turning, gentlemen…and not in our favor. We must call for a retreat or we risk losing all of Europe. If we retreat now, there’s still a chance–” This elicits a plea for more time to be given to Lord Baltimore to destroy the Red King. The setting then moves to Vatican City where Judge Rigo’s guns are blazing, cutting down red soldiers as quickly as possible. He realizes that their quest to retake the city is insane, but is told by a brother that they are not there to retake the city, but to buy “precious seconds” for Baltimore. Meanwhile, all seems to be going well for the Red Witch and her minions until they spy Lemuel, whose essence kills even the supernatural. His abilities spark an unexpected action from this villain. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have a lot to wrap up and they do so smoothly. The Red King is a fantastic antagonist and in this issue he is at his highest and lowest points. What he does on Page 12 continues to thrill me, in both its ferocity and shock. Naturally, he and Baltimore must have a final battle, and it does not go easily for either. Before their last conflict is shown, supporting characters on Pages 14 and 15 contain two surprises that had me gasping aloud. The last two panels of Page 21 have two proclamations that continue to amaze, while the final two on 22 are heart breakers. Yet, the story is still not done. The fate of one character is revealed on the penultimate page and it’s both fitting and terrible. The final dialogue on 25 is long due and it places a solid conclusion to this character’s odyssey. An epic, fitting conclusion. Overall grade: A

The art: The opening page has artist Peter Bergting starting the end of the world dramatically: a city street in flames, filled with bodies and soldiers of both sides firing upon one another, while witches fly above and abominations hover in the distance. Humans fall before the onslaught on the damned in the streets and their planes are torn asunder by the giants of the air. The war room for the generals is the only refuge for humanity. The battle in Rome is amazing: the architecture is great, the numbers involved huge, and the magic frightening. The Red Witch and one of her minions are shown first using unholy abilities, hovering above the carnage, but Lemuel’s powers is something they’ve never seen before as he graphic dispenses final justice on their masses. The ceremony that the Red King partakes is a frightening thing to look upon, as his state isn’t human and those that follow him are masked and terrible. His glory days are shown in a flashback on 9 and he is indeed the dark god that that his follows have said of him. The actions he takes upon one follower on 10 are grotesque, yet there was a voice within me that said, “Good!” and then Page 12 has quite the visual jolt. When the Red King realizes that Baltimore is closer than he thought, his face looks fantastic. The final confrontation between these two characters delivers after several years of building to it. As epic as their fight was, it was the final two panels on 21 and 22 that I’ll remember — they capture so much emotion unleashed after so much time. The visuals compliment this finale in excellent form. Overall grade: A

The colors: Throughout all the Baltimore books, red and orange have symbolized death. But in this issue Michelle Madsen has a sickly green represent a more horrific form of death. The shade of this green instantly raises the hairs on the back of one’s neck. Green is also employed as a saving shade of magic, much brighter than that of the one first seen on 3. This green is a brilliant emerald and becomes a focus every time it appears. It is interesting to note that when red or orange leave a panel, dark black and browns remain, usually when the humans have triumphed. What does this say about humanity’s lack of colors? The Red King’s face employs grays, violets, and reds to create a nauseous combination that shouldn’t be on any living creature. Page 21 uses colors to represent who is being addressed and even without the text, a reader will know who it is that’s being called upon. This page has the brightest, most natural colors I can recall seeing in a Baltimore tale and it is wonderfully ironic that it occurs at this point. Madsen brings Heaven and Hell to this book quite well. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins is responsible for this issue’s dialogue, sounds, yells, death rattles, screams, and whispers. I appreciate that certain characters have italics in their speech so that a reader can know where the emphasis is in their dialogue. This is especially important when the antagonist speaks. Sounds have always been a high point for Robins’s work and he has some fantastic ones, with SHUNK FWASH being outstanding. Robins is always aces. Overall grade: A

The final line: The final confrontation between Baltimore and the Red King is a must read book. This is how a saga should end. 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.
    One Comment
  • Jonny Reid
    16 June 2017 at 11:57 am -

    My thoughts..I liked some of the action in this, but fundamentally this issue was hampered by the overall idea of this final series. Why introduce a great gang of characters only to then have no development for any of them, nor any for Baltimore? The seeds were sown for lots of cool characters a few series back and then they sort of neglected them in the end, and baltimore didn’t really need them for anything other than body-fodder. Shame, because the Baltimore series has been one of my favourite comics ever but i get the impression that the cast expansion was kinda pointless when it comes to the final showdown. Looking back on his adventures overall, its most fun to think of him exploring solo, going against the weird baddies in their creepy black towers of shadows, he certainly won’t be remembered as a humane ‘leader’ with depth in that regard. I’m glad that I just found the Joe Golem series, that’s a good remedy for my malaise! fare thee well baltimore !

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