Thursday, May 29, 2008

BALTIMORE by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire
is an illustrated gothic horror novel by Christopher Golden and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. This is the tale of Captain Baltimore, who encounters a vampire in World War I, and of his three friends, who meet and share their own experiences of gothic horror while they wait for him.

Thusly this volume is, more or less, a bunch of smaller tales that are connected. Many of them draw heavily on folklore, which is vintage Mignola. And most of them are entertaining, although some are fairly predictable. None, however, is more predictable as the novel’s climax and ending, which also manages to be rather anticlimactic. On top of this, the characters are not particularly well developed.

While the story is lackluster at times, the authors have done an excellent job with the tone. The writing, while overwrought at times, captures the gothic horror atmosphere for nearly the entire novel.

Mignola does the illustrations here. They are stark, black and white pieces, often extreme close-ups of objects, that do much more to help set the mood of the novel in a general way than specifically depict any particular scene. So even if the art is somewhat underwhelming, it still works.

A work of gothic horror like this cannot help but address religion. In Baltimore, faith is weak, and Christianity seems particularly neutered. The authors have thrown religion by the wayside in favor of hack-and-slash encounters with the supernatural.

Baltimore, then, is a decent but unspectacular gothic horror novel. It should appeal to fans of that genre, as well as fans of the authors, but probably not beyond that.