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“Baltimore: The Plague Ships,” the first comic in the Baltimore series by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, focuses on Lord Baltimore’s journey to find and kill the evil vampire, Haigus. Both volumes of the comic series are based on the book “Baltimore: The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire” by the same authors. Set during the events of the book, they offer a deeper look into the world of Baltimore.
With him on his journey is a young woman named Vanessa Kalderas that he met in the town of Yillefranche, France. Wishing to flee the plague, and the feelings of hopelessness that accompany it, Vanessa insists that Baltimore bring her with him when he leaves the city.
Her grandmother has a number of supernatural abilities, which she uses to help Baltimore fight off vampires that are attacking the city. But despite her willingness to help him, she believes wholeheartedly that Baltimore is a cursed man. As a result, when Vanessa expresses her desire to leave with Baltimore, her grandmother is very concerned about her welfare.
After leaving the city, Baltimore confronts a horde of fungus-covered plague victims that rise from the depths of the ocean. Baltimore is faced with seemingly insurmountable odds when given the task of dispatching a seemingly endless wave of enemies armed with only a crucifix, a sword and a pistol.
Unlike Mignola and Golden’s “The Curse Bells,” “The Plague Ships” goes into greater detail about Baltimore’s past, the origins of the plague, and just why he is so focused on tracking down Haigus and finally killing the vampire. Baltimore tells Vanessa of his first meeting with Haigus on the battlefield against the Hessians when he lost his leg and the plague began.
For those who have not read the book that both comics are based on, this inclusion of the back story is a pleasant addition. For those who know the original story, it is exciting to see the events from the book unfold visually. The artwork, done by Ben Stenbeck, is superb and it adds an important element to the telling of the story. When the vampires are in their bat form they are quite intimidating, and the drawings of the plague victims covered in a strange fungus are both grotesque and compelling.
The story moves along at a fast pace, drawing the reader in with intense action sequences between Baltimore and his foes. Baltimore’s origin story, as well as the inclusion of Vanessa’s character, serves to create a greater depth to the story and make it more than just a simple revenge plot. An added layer to the tension is the man from the Inquisition who begins to hunt Baltimore down for his violent actions.
Written by one of the same authors as the popular “Hellboy” series, “The Plague Ships” tells the story of one man’s struggle to find revenge, while also trying to absolve himself of his part in the creation of the plague. Often forced to balance his need for revenge with other’s insistence that he use his abilities to help those around him, Baltimore is a complex character within a riveting story. “The Plague Ships” is recommended for anyone who enjoys action comics coupled with three-dimensional characters.