September 27, 2007

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Baltimore: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden  (Spectra, 304 pages)
Reviewed by Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Golden and Mignola, former collaborators on the Hellboy novels hit the coffin nail on the head with Baltimore, a Stoker/Lovecraft/Paths of Gory stew.

On the fields of WW1 Lord Baltimore watches his entire company gunned down by Hessian troops during an ill-fated midnight raid. But the horror has just begun. Amidst the corpses of his brethren he sees dark shapes swoop down and feasting upon their flesh. Still having a spark of life Baltimore tries to fight off the horrid specters, wounding one and rousing an otherwise animalistic threat into a sinister and malevolent entity who makes it his duty to wage war on Baltimore’s life. Transformed by the terror of that night and the anguish of his friends and family’s murder at the hands of the vampiric nemesis, he stalks the countryside hunting down the undead.

I suppose you’re saying this all sounds a bit hackneyed, but really it works. Where Horror — and especially Vampire fiction — has fallen victim to its own fan base of awkward Goths of late, Baltimore returns to the true essence of gothic horror: the confrontation of man with terror of the dark unknown and the ultimately destructive transformations that such encounters wreak upon the human heart. There is a cold, blunt gore and shiver in Golden and Mignola’s description that enables you to brush past the expository setup for Baltimore’s vignettes in favor of that odd remembrance that yes, Virginia there is a Chthonic horror in that foreboding lake.

The authors choose their setting well, the known despair of the war and its resultant plague infuse our backdrop, and when their origins weave into the main plot the world seems satisfyingly darker. Accent all of this with Mignola’s eerie and stoic illustrations and you’ve got one of my favorite random purchases so far this year. A-Glenn Given