DUELING REVIEW: Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 (Advance Review)

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ROBOT OVERLORD: I have seen many a monster in my day, and save for Matthew, the worst by far is the dread vampire. Mike Mignola has returned to his horror to see what Lord Baltimore is hunting next.

WARNING: This book arrives in stores on August 10, 2011. Matthew and Stephen may indeed spoil certain aspects of the story. Consider yourself warned.

BALTIMORE: THE CURSE BELLS #1
Writer: Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Francesco Francavilla, Mike Mignola
Letterer: Clem Robins
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.50

Previously in Baltimore: Captain Lord Henry Baltimore lost his squad during World War I. Having been left for dead, Baltimore awakens to find a large bat-like creature feasting on his men. When he slashes at the creature, scaring its face, he unintentionally causes the vampire to unleash a the vampire plague across Europe. Not only do thousands die across Europe, but Baltimore arrives home to discover his parents and sister turned into monsters, and witnesses his wife getting her throat ripped out by Haigus – one of the wise and cunning ancient ones. Thus begins Baltimore’s hunt to end the vampire’s reign.

STEPHEN: Nothing like a little vampire genocide to start an issue off. Baltimore has been tracking Haigus for quite some time, but the horror he finds in the small town pretty much tells the reader that this is one bad mutha…

MATTHEW: SHUT YO’ MOUTH!

STEPHEN: I’m just talking about Haigus…

MATTHEW: I can dig it… and it’s fun to say it with a thick Scottish accent so that it sounds like ‘haggis,’ laddie.

STEPHEN: Seriously, Lord Baltimore is a one man killing machine that would put Blade, Buffy, and Van Helsing to shame. He’s a man driven, and he’s cutting down any and all monstrosity that stands in his way.

MATTHEW: Having never read a previous issue of this book, I was quite impressed with how quickly the story drew me in and how easy it was to pick up. Monsters exist! BOOM! They killed his family! BOOM! Now, he hunts ‘em! BOOM!

STEPHEN: Is it odd that Baltimore doesn’t use a car to track his prey?

MATTHEW: In 1916? I don’t think so. I’d probably be more distracted if he did, honestly. The odd period touches make this story feel much older than just the turn of the last century, and there’s a subtle rumbling throughout the book of ancient things hidden beneath the baseboards and such.

STEPHEN: For me, the story is a good setup, and of the three stories told so far (Baltimore: The Plague Ships, the FCBD Baltimore: A Passing Stranger, and now Baltimore: The Curse Bells), this one has the best hook to get the reader into the story quickly. I like that we’re lead to believe that Haigus is hold up in a convent, and Baltimore’s reaction of “Death is the cure,” let’s us know more carnage is on the way.

MATTHEW: Having seen ‘The Plague Ships’ going into the back issue bins some time back, I agree with you totally. I had no idea what those issues were about, and didn’t even feel the urge to flip through them to find out why. I was under the impression that Baltimore was a pirate series or something. I have to say I’m sorry I didn’t, based on this issue…

STEPHEN: On the art front, while I like people who can mimic Mignola’s style, I think this wasn’t quite was I was hoping for. There are two ways to approach doing the art – either go all the way and get Mignola to do his own stuff, or get someone to do it up in the style of the old Creepy and Eerie Comics from days long gone.

MATTHEW: The art was okay for me, reminding me of (of all things) earlier issues of IDW’s Doctor Who franchise, with strong use of blacks and background scenery, while the facial features of the characters on panel remain roughed in, intentionally. Some of the specific breakdowns bugged me (if the woman’s bite marks were as obvious as they seemed when they were revealed, Baltimore is either blind or fatally unobservant) and overall, there was a vague sense that the artist was keeping that Mike Mignola style in mind, but it didn’t feel like a straight imitation.

STEPHEN: Bottom line for me… I like it. The first series seemed to take a while to get started, but here, the action is right in our face. The art is okay, but it seems that this is the style we get in every Mignola penned book where he doesn’t do the art. It works, and it is a recognizable look, but in the end, I wouldn’t mind seeing something new. Overall, Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 gets 3.5 Stars out of 5 from me.

Rating: ★★★½☆

MATTHEW: I agree, for the most part, as the book leapt out of the blocks early and ran through a lot of action as we went. That said, other than a conversation in a pub, this book is all about stalking elusive monster prey and big-time badassery from Lord Baltimore, without a whole lot of whys or wherefores (which are actually the same as whys, now that I think of it) being brought up. The visuals were strong, but it was the main character’s narrative that kept everything on track, leaving me satisfied and curious about more Baltimore. As much as we hate agreeing on things, Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 gets 3.5 out of 5 stars overall from me, as well. This is a pretty strong first chapter, and even thought I haven’t had much experience with the character before, it’s a book you can quickly (you should excuse the expression) sink your teeth into.

Rating: ★★★½☆

ROBOT OVERLORD:  Well, consider your Robot Overlord surprised.  All of my calculations had this review slanted quite a bit more than it was.  Turns out Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1 is worth picking up this week.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆