By Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Ben Stenbeck & Dave Stewart
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, the final showdown between Lord Baltimore and the evil Haigus. Being a huge fan of anything Mike Mignola creates wasn’t enough to prepare me for the epic scope of this issue. Chapel of Bones #2 accomplished a lot for the Baltimore title and did so with powerful grace.
“So long as man endures, we will be his red shadow.” This revelation was particularly poignant as a reader, as it was for Lord Baltimore himself. The final confrontation with Haigus was a powerful series of moments that have been long sought for 20 issues now. Again though, as with Baltimore’s own epiphany, the writing conveys the sense that the plague will never really end, and this showdown hasn’t solved the matter entirely. This aspect of the story was executed with profound precision and really allowed the reader to feel what was going through Baltimore’s mind. The protagonist’s companions who appeared last month realize the purpose of their summons: to retrieve the hero’s remains after his fall. However, much like the vampiric plague, Baltimore is not yet ready to rest and makes this very clear through an incredibly shocking display that you’ll have to read to believe.
The true enemy has now turned his gaze towards Lord Baltimore’s meddling, and the set up for the Red King in Chapel of Bones #2 was fantastic. Everything about this aspect of the story was epic in tone and just very powerful overall. Furthermore, it didn’t detract from the conclusion of the Haigus confrontation in the slightest. There was no sense that the writers had jammed the setup for future stories into this issue, and instead these aspects served to enhance the scope of the book.
A big part of this latter point was conveyed through the excellent illustrations by Ben Stenbeck. The style throughout his tenure on the Baltimore series has been very consistent and particularly well-suited to the work of Mike Mignola. There are hints of Mignola’s inspiration in Stenbeck’s work without taking anything away from his own unique presence. The characters in particular look better than ever in the latest installment. The backgrounds are typically draped in a single tone which helps emphasize the dynamic action that really carries a number of panels in this book. Some of the more deep and epic aspects of the writing are masterfully underscored by Stenbeck’s visuals, especially when Baltimore’s attention is continually drawn to the painting of the Red King, accompanied by expressive character facial reactions and some astonishing large-scale panels of the King himself. The story continues to come back to this image and the artwork really helps convey the depth of this aspect.
Finally, while it’s been said time and time again, Dave Stewart’s color work is practically synonymous with Mike Mignola comic books. He is a master chameleon capable of perfectly adapting his style to match that of any illustrator. His work in Chapel of Bones #2 is again top-notch and really helps to convey the depth and tone of this story.
Baltimore has been a wild ride, but things are clearly not over yet. The latest installment was perhaps the best issue in the series so far or at least among the very best. There was a ton of depth and the whole book was suitably epic. There are a couple of developments in this issue that were unexpected even for a series like this, and things are only going to get more wild in the future. If you’ve ever read any Baltimore, do yourself a favor and check out Chapel of Bones. This was a perfect close to this chapter in the saga of Lord Baltimore, but certainly not the last!