By Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Ben Stenbeck & Dave Stewart
The latest issue of Baltimore was one of the best yet. While it seems that I’ve been saying this a lot lately when it comes to Mignola-fronted books, the master of horror-action and his cadre of incredibly talented collaborators continue to improve even after years of solid material. The 19th installment overall, Chapel of Bones #1 kicks off the final showdown between Lord Baltimore and his ultimate vampiric nemesis.
One of the really interesting things about this issue was the fact that Baltimore himself played a relatively minor role, yet the story remained very engaging and a thrill to read. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden capture the bleak atmosphere of the plague-ridden landscape of Europe through both incidents and dialogue that perfectly convey the overall feeling of despair. Henry Baltimore is the light slashing his way through the darkness and his grim demeanour was ever-present during his brief appearances. Even uttering only a single phrase in this issue, the title character of Baltimore has a commanding presence that dominates the story from the background. The majority of this latest installment focuses more on three acquaintances of the protagonist who have been summoned to meet him at a designated time and place. This aspect of the opening to Chapel of Bones added another interesting layer to the issue and provided a great way to setup the final encounter for next month.
A big part of these books getting better with each new issue is due to the artwork. Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart step up their game once again in the latest issue of Baltimore. While the colors in this series are always perfectly suited to the dark tone of the story and environments, it feels like the tones in Chapel of Bones were much richer than usual. This was also apparent for Stenbeck’s excellent illustrations which featured a very “smooth” style that almost soaked up the colors. The visuals were very well-detailed, lending a much fuller appearance to each panel. The character facial expressions were some of the most effective yet, particularly that of the deranged painter as he asks “Now what about that brandy?” The environmental details in this scene were quite haunting and really made the end of the issue much more intense.
Chapel of Bones has been a highly anticipated installment in the saga of Baltimore and the first issue did not disappoint. Everyone involved is at the top of their game to create a masterfully cohesive book that works on every level. For fans of the character, this is an arc you don’t want to miss.