I had a secret fanboy moment in this issue of Baltimore: The Infernal Train. In one of my old reviews I said that this series was the epitome of Nietzsche's quote "Battle Not with Monsters, Lest Ye Become a Monster." I'm not saying Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden got the idea from my review. It's a well-known quote. But …. when Lord Baltimore drops the line at the climax of his battle with Inquisitor Duvic—let's just say I got the chills.
The Infernal Train has been a short but wild ride, with a huge impact on the Baltimore story that reaches beyond the grasp of this 3-issue mini. In the first issue of The Infernal Train (actually issue #18 in the Baltimore series) Scott Allie said that this series was going to be a turning point for Baltimore. He wasn't kidding. Things have changed. In a big way. Some things happened this issue that I would never have guessed. There are some big shocks, and some double-shocks, as things play out one way, then shift gears and play out entirely differently—I don't know how else to say it without giving away spoilers and I wouldn't want to spoil any of the surprises this issue brings.
Lots and lots of cool stuff happens this issue, but I'm not going to tell you anything about any of that. Let's just say I thought I knew where the story was going, but as of Baltimore: The Infernal Train #3 I officially have no idea.
And I'm not too thrilled about all of these changes. One of the things I love so much about Baltimore is the personal nature of the story. It had the small scale of a personal vendetta taking place against the backdrop of a wider conflict; in this case the destruction of the world coming apart under a plague of vampires. This approach was similar in style to Victor Hugo's Les Miserables or Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. I am loath to see this intimate scale widen. I don't want Lord Baltimore battling abstract concepts like the Red King or doing something as ridiculous as saving the world.
Writer Christopher Golden assured me via Twitter than the plan is still to keep things personal, even while raising the stakes and the scope. He told me that the seeds of the Red King were planted back in the original Baltimore novel, and I am sure he is right. With The Infernal Train being such an important mini-series, now is probably a good time to dig out my old issues and read everything again from start to finish. I have a feeling the series will flow pretty smoothly (which is all the more reason to give it a nice, beautiful Library Edition like I have always wanted).
The art in The Infernal Train #3 is the usual level of awesome that I have come to expect from Ben Stenbeck and Dave "King of Colors" Stewart. For all my bitching about the Red King, damn but do Stenbeck and Stewart make him look cool. It was weird, but I almost say a little bit of Mignola in this issue, as if he had done some of the prep work or the monster designs (which is highly possible). All of the scenes of the Red King and Haigus as the highest of the High Priests are just cool. And that final scene (the one I'm not going to tell you about) … just brutal. I loved it. If Dave Stewart didn't work entirely digital I would say he wore out his red pen on those last few pages.
At the end of Baltimore: The Infernal Train there is a quick ad for the next series, Baltimore: Chapel of Bones, which promises the big showdown between Lord Baltimore and Haigus. I would almost think that meant the series was drawing to its inevitable conclusion, but with all the hurly-burly introduced in The Infernal Train, maybe it is more like the close of a chapter. We'll see.