ADVANCE REVIEW! Baltimore: The Curse Bells #3 will come out on October 12, 2011.
When we left the steadfast tin soldier Baltimore and the journalist Simon Hodge in issue #2, they were standing on the walls of the Abbey about to be swamped in a horde of vampire nuns. And while Baltimore was hunting the one-eyed vampire Haigus, he was also being hunted by Andre Duvic, Judge of the Inquisition. Prospects were not good.
Baltimore: The Curse Bells #3 is the middle act of the five-issue series. A lot of stuff comes to head here, setting the stage for the final confrontations in the last two issues. The plans of the cult leader who has been feeding a pregnant woman ashes and the blood of Haigus come to fruition in a shocking way. It goes without saying that an evil cult leader only wants a pregnant woman for one thing, and it isn’t to ensure she can deliver a nice healthy baby in comfort and warmth.
The Inquisitor judge Duvic shows his hand here as well. He is a hard and cruel man, perfectly willing to destroy the innocent if it helps him to get his hands on the guilty. His drive and single-mindedness make a nice parallel to Baltimore. In fact, the one thing that links together all of those characters; Baltimore, the cult leader, and Duvic, is “a sense of purpose and an iron will.” Coupled with the fact that, as Baltimore says, “the lives of innocents are not my most pressing concern.” They are all dark characters for a dark book.
Mignola and Golden are doing a bang-up job with Baltimore. I was worried that the comic book version couldn’t live up to the book, but Baltimore is a visual character and works great in this format. This third issue had some real elements of horror that you don’t see as much in Hellboy or B.P.R.D.. There are some really terrible (in a good way) scenes here that I don’t want to ruin for you. At least one page I had to go back and read again because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Artist Ben Stenbeck has been on the Baltimore series since the beginning, and I am glad to see that he seems to have become the permanent artist for the series. That has allowed Baltimore to develop its own look away from Mignola’s B.P.R.D. universe. As always, the King of Colors Dave Stewart provides the continuity of tone and feel so necessary to a Mignola work.
Stenbeck handles the horror elements with style and delivers some serious chills. I loved his vampire nuns who burn themselves with crosses to show that God has no more power over them. The only thing I don’t like about Stenbeck’s art is his depiction of Baltimore himself. Stenbeck’s Baltimore is just too young, too pretty, to be the war-warn soldier that I think of from Mignola and Golden’s book. He is a little too Josh Hartnett when I want Clint Eastwood. I have a hard time buying Baltimore as this ultimate bad-ass the way Stenbeck draws him.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the ’90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.