By Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Ben Stenbeck, & Dave Stewart
Although Mike Mignola has a number of titles which exist within a shared universe, his consistent departure from the world of Hellboy is in the excellent Baltimore series. Recently, the story of Lord Baltimore has been released sporadically in a couple of one-shots. Although both were great books, it is nice to see some additional continuity in the story. Appropriately enough, the current three-issue arc, The Infernal Train, picks up where the previous single issue, The Inquisitor, left off. Lord Baltimore is arriving in Budapest on the advice of Hodge, in order to deal with Judge Duvic. However, upon arrival it is clear that there will be a lot more on Baltimore’s plate than a single lunatic.
The plague-carried outbreak of zombie-like vampirism seems to be breaking out in Budapest, one of the last European safe havens. Aside from this ever-present issue, there seems to be some sort of clandestine activity in town regarding the plague and the risen dead. Throughout Infernal Train #1 there are a number of pages completely devoid of text, but Mignola and company consistently excel at visual story-telling. Every page perfectly conveys the overall tone of the story and communicates the action and suspense of each sequence. However, the dialogue which is present largely consists of Baltimore’s narration, which itself furthers the overall grimness inherent to the book, as well as providing some excellent introspection regarding the character’s personality and pessimistic outlook.
Given the relative lack of dialogue, the visuals do a magnificent job of conveying the action and mystery, whether the protagonist is calmly stalking through a horde of monsters with blade in hand, or skulking in the shadows as he approaches the intriguing center of the Infernal Train, an eerie gathering of ancients. As with any great tale of horror or suspense, the shadowing can make a big difference, and the work in the latest installment of Baltimore is impeccable. Furthermore, the accompanying colors are fantastic, as always. Dave Stewart really knows how to set a grim, bleak mood while simultaneously portraying realism and attention to detail.
One of the great things that make Baltimore so accessible to new readers is the nature of its releases. Although previous arcs will certainly help readers better understand the overall plot and the history of its development, each new one-shot or mini-series serves as excellent stand-alone reading. The Infernal Train is no exception to this, despite the exciting tie-ins to earlier stories. The writing, the pace of the story, the overall tone, and the artwork are all terrific, as we have come to expect from the Mignola crew over at Dark Horse.