Baltimore and his team continue to plan their next move against the Blood-Red Witch, and readers learn of the horrific history of the team’s foe.
Previously in Baltimore Empty Graves: Baltimore’s hunt for the Blood-Red Witch has lead the team to Constantinople, where the Turks and the Ottoman’s fight for control of the country. Their search has lead them to the royal family, where Princess Rukiye is discovered to be the mother of the Blood-Red Witch. (scary times, kids).
CHILLING, SCARY, HORRIFIC, GRUESOME
Over the last couple of months I’ve been pondering the nature of scary stories, and if there is a delineation between chilling, scary, horrific, and gruesome. For me, chilling tales are ones that give you goosebumps over the thoughts of something happening. Scary stories can be fun and make you jump at just the right time, but there isn’t much blood and violence. Horrific tales have a bit of violence and gore, but only at key points in the story to drive home the nature of the tale, while gruesome stories are bloody gorefests of carnage that end up desensitizing the audience. I’m not into gruesome tales, but do like to see something that freaks me out at just the right point in the tale. This is why Baltimore Empty Graves falls squarely in the horrific category – bloody violent moments when warranted, but leaves the real horror to the imagination.
At its heart, Baltimore Empty Graves is a classic monster hunting story, full of shadows and things that go bump in the night. The first two issues gave readers a chance to hear tales around a campfire, but here, the campfire is the tomb, and the campers are… the spirits that possess the dead sultans (DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!). The tale this month is the origin story of Helena Von Hahn and the Blood-Red Witch. A simple tale of a Russian princess obsessed with the occult, who was given a chance to hone her powers, but ultimately turned to the dark side. There is also great world building in this issue as the dead mystics try to convince Baltimore to give up his quest, as there are things far greater in the universe than his simple mind can imagine, including the true relationship between Von Hahn and The Blood-Red Witch. This issue builds and builds until the party (and the readers) put the puzzle pieces together, finally revealing the Big Bad.
Of course this series has always featured heroes hunting monsters, and the Blood-Red Witch’s appearance, and the battle that follows, is down right horrifying. The sequence is well paced, and the exchanges between heroes and monsters add even more to backstories of some of the companions. Best of all, the final reveal and last panel have me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how Baltimore will come back and prevail against an old foe. There’s only one issue to go, and things don’t look good for Baltimore and company.
While I truly enjoy Mike Mignola’s art, Peter Bergting brings a fantastic aesthetic to this book. Whether it is the clothing worn by Baltimore, or the rendering of the architecture in Constantinople the attention to detail is much appreciated. While it has been used in other stories, the blue flames above the mystic’s heads is a very nice touch that subtly tells us more about the characters than a paragraph of text would. Of course, if you don’t know what the blue flames signify, you’ll have to spend some time doing an online search. Don’t think this is a fault of the writers or the artist, however; rather the details that show the creators of the book have spent a lot of time putting the research into the book.
Complementing Mr. Bergting’s line work, is Michelle Madsen on colors. Her color palette brings the needed mood to the book – dusty, old, worn, to name a few. The colors enhance the horrific nature of the tale, so when a monster needs to spring from the darkness, or blood is spilled (or in this case the appearance of the Blood-Red Witch) , the added color makes the action jump from the page. It can turn the mood in an instant. I love it when a colorist truly gets it.
BOTTOM LINE: GRAB THE SERIES
Jumping in to the penultimate issue of a series is going to be a tough one, and while this is really part 34 in the greater Baltimore tale, I suggest picking up the first three to get a thorough grasp of what is going on. I love the dead mystics spinning their tale, and warning Baltimore to give up his quest to kill the Red King. Baltimore’s steadfastness and refusal to back down time and time again, gives us a hero with a purpose, and his companions who blindly follow along give readers a different view of the events happening around them, making this another must read from the Baltimore creative team.