Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Vampire
Lord Henry Baltimore first appeared in 2007's Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Vampire published by Bantam Spectra. An illustrated novel, it was created by Mike Mignola (of Hellboy fame) and Christopher Golden. The two collaborated on the story, with Golden writing the finished book and Mignola illustrating it.
In the Baltimore novel, Lord Baltimore is serving as a Captain during the First World War. Baltimore tousles with vampires after a disastrous night raid. Thanks to the encounter, the vampires' leader is mutilated, while Baltimore loses a leg.
Incensed, the scarred vampire, Haigus, soon spreads vampirism – under the guise of a deadly plague – across Europe. When Baltimore's own family succumbs, he begins hunting vampires, Haigus in particular, to exact his revenge.
Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1 picks up soon after the Baltimore novel. Lord Baltimore is in France in 1916, by which time the plague has put a premature end to the war. After a battle with some Zeppelin-flying vampires, Baltimore is nursed back to health by a wizened old woman and her granddaughter, Vanessa.
As Baltimore tries to regain the track of his nemesis Haigus, he is waylaid by villagers who blame him for the plague that has struck the country. Baltimore is imprisoned, to await judgment by an Inquisitor. But Vanessa, longing to escape her village, regardless of the danger, frees Baltimore on condition that he take her with him.
Where Will Baltimore: The Plague Ships Go?
Unlike the first of Baltimore's adventures, Baltimore: The Plague Ships is a conventional comic. Mike Mignola's art graces the cover of Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1, but Mignola is only co-writer (again with Christopher Golden) on this project. Ben Stenbeck takes over illustration duties.
Stenbeck's art is workmanlike, and near enough to Mignola's style to satisfy fans of his unique look. Yet the action and layouts are a bit stiff – one hesitates, on account of the subject matter, to call them lifeless.
Incidentally, it would be unfair to fault the Baltimore project with cashing in on the current vampire craze, as anyone familiar with Mignola's Eisner Award-winning work on Hellboy and B.P.R.D. would know that his interest in the occult far predates any fad. Christopher Golden also has a long list of similar credits, including Hellboy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer tie-ins.
However, Baltimore: The Plague Ships #1 is a confusing read for anyone not familiar with the Baltimore novel. Little backstory or context is given in the script why Baltimore – looking, with his peg-leg and harpoon, more like Captain Ahab than Van Helsing – does what he does.
Vanessa's teaming with the reluctant Baltimore at the end of the first issue is hardly surprising either, leaving little suspense to encourage readers to continue with Baltimore: The Plague Ships #2. While things may get more interesting when the duo sails to Livorno, for now only die-hard fans of Mignola, Golden, and Stenbeck are likely to want to go along on that voyage.