FCBD Preview - - - books worth seeking out - - - Part 3

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: BALTIMORE - - A PASSING STRANGER (Dark Horse, May 2011) Story by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. Art by Ben Stenbeck. Colors by Dave Stewart.  Letters by Clem Robins. . . .  NOTE: This is a FCBD Flipbook, backed up with . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: CRIMINAL MACABRE - - CALL ME MONSTER   Story by Steve Niles.  Art by Christopher Mitten. Colors by Michelle Madsen.  Letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot.

As the cover blurb claims, if you like “supernatural horror” this is a double dose of the good stuff “at it’s finest!”

BALTIMORE: A PASSING STRANGER

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I’ve often wondered if I should check out Mike Mignola’s latest creation - - Lord Henry Baltimore - - and this book provided me with a quick and inexpensive way to do so.  Now, my wish list just became bigger as I realize I want to read more of his adventures, including the novel.

More intense than Mignola’s HELLBOY and B.R.P.D. tales, the 14-page BALTIMORE preview here spreads a darker tone over its somber atmosphere as a prelude to even blacker days to follow.  Stenbeck’s art nicely enhances the mood that scripters Mignola and Golden have established.  Stewart’s color work here is a study in grays and darker tones, with usually just variations on a single hue on each page.  When some light is let in or blood flows, it really pops off the page.  Dreadfully effective.

Amidst 1916 World War I, the town of Tulingart is beset by a plague with contagious evil elements, as seems to be the case with the entire country of Germany. Those survivors of both war and plague now conceal themselves to hide from a vampiric infestation.  “Only old folks and women and children are left in Tulingart.  We have no one to protect us.”   The townsfolk gather what provisions they can and hide away in groups in shuttered attics.

Young Maxie and his friend Rolf dare to venture out at night, scampering across the rooftops and daring to spy on any activity in the streets below.  They see a lone stranger (Lord Baltimore) as he investigates several suspicious sites, presume he is a hunter of vampires, and secretly follow his trail.  During the process Maxie learns a valuable lesson regarding trust and sees for himself the depths of evil in the town.    Grim, grim and grimmer - - - it’s a nice (but grim) introduction to the world of Baltimore.  I want and dare to see more.

CRIMINAL MACABRE: CALL ME MONSTER

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Cal McDonald is a character I am familiar with, and very happy to read this original short story.  Cal is a supernatural detective /vigilante, an amalgam of Ash from Evil Dead, Phillip Marlowe and other hard-boiled detectives, and a little similar in his choice of drugs and vice as well as smart-aleck outlook a la John Constantine / Hellblazer.   His stories are always first—person narrations so you can always count on a good dose of McDonald’s grim and cynical worldview every time.

That attitude is immediately conveyed on the opening page when Cal is visited by a new (but familiar to monster lovers) client.  McDonald’s words reflect his mood better than anything I could summarize here:  “I heard the client coming about two minutes before I saw his broad silhouette in my door window.  His footsteps were like cinderblocks dropped on wet carpet.  I knew he was trouble.  I could feel it rush like a limp tingle over my alcohol-deprived, dehydrated brain.”

It’s “The Monster”  (as in Frankenstein) and he’s tired of running for two hundred years and seeks Cal’s help.   A humorous exchange ensues between the two before McDonald decides to help him.  He  thinks twice before lighting up another cigarette, and asks The Monster  - - “You’re not going to freak out if I light this, are you?”   Reply:  “That is a myth . I do not fear fire”.  Cal: “Good. Because I was going to give you endless crap about it.”  Reply: “No need. Fire good.” 

The descendents of Victor Frankenstein consider The Monster to be family property and have been hunting him.  In deadly fashion, McDonald convinces the family to abandon their pursuit.  CALL ME MONSTER is a fast and funny eight pages of macabre mirth.

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