Monday, 17 March 2014

Baltimore, Volume 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories Review (Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck)


Set during World War 1, this is a collection of short stories featuring Lord Baltimore as he continues his hunt for the vampire Haigus who was responsible for murdering his family. While a lot of them read like Mike Mignola on autopilot, they’re not a bad bunch of shorts.
A Passing Stranger recounts the story of a soldier returned from the front, completely changed from his time at war; The Play is a meta version of Poe’s The Masque of Red Death where the Red Death and the plague sweeping the town is real; The Tank features a vampire in a tank; The Inquisitor follows the story of the crazed inquisitor on his obsessive hunt for Baltimore. There are more but you get the idea – spooky stuff goes down, Baltimore shows up to kill things.
Baltimore himself remains unremarkable – he’s like a mix of Hellboy and Witchfinder, and doesn’t really stand out as his own identity in the Mignola universe. And being so good at his job of killing monsters makes reading him that much less exciting as there’s no tension. As soon as he draws his sword and guns, it’s over, he’s won.
And if Baltimore as a character doesn’t stand out, the stories in this book fail to mark themselves as particularly original. If you’ve read Mignola’s myriad books from Hellboy, to BPRD, to Abe Sapien, Witchfinder, and this, you’ll have come across familiar stories of madmen and monsters in other, better books. A Passing Stranger reads much like you’d expect a Mignola book of horror shorts to read like and doesn’t really do anything special.
Some of the stories are more interesting than others but none are especially awful. Good or bad, they’re all pretty dispensable horror stories you’re unlikely to remember in a few months’ time, which happens to have some lovely art by Ben Stenbeck. It’s Stenbeck’s art that makes this book stand out because it’s so polished and imaginative.

I prefer the long-form storytelling of the earlier Baltimore books to these short, fragmented stories with a very basic tie between them: Baltimore on his quest to kill Haigus. This isn’t a bad collection of horror comics as they mildly entertain, but Baltimore is at his best when part of a more in-depth story rather than several light shorts.

Baltimore Volume 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories

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