Baltimore: The Plague Ships by Mike Mignola
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Plague Ships is bonafide horror. Not only does our intrepid hero battle vampires, but he also battles Hessian zombies infected from nasty fungal blossoms! Baltimore is a relentlessly driven man with a soul full of vengeance and hurt. An act driven out of fear leads to his whole life being destroyed and the subsequent quest for vengeance against all vampires, and in particular one with a vicious scar on his face.
Mignola is an auto-read for me. His imagination is expansive and he plumbs the nightmares and dreams of the collective consciousness, offering up his resulting creations for the reader's enjoyment and consideration. This graphic novel is actually more true horror than his Hellboy stories, which straddle the dark fantasy line as much as horror. But the visions in this novel are right from the darkest depths of horror. The horror is of the more overt kind: vampires, plague and zombies, but also emotional. The endless quest of Baltimore and his non-healing heart wound from the loss of his family through his own well-meaning actions. The fact that he can never go home again, either emotionally or physically.
As much as the writing is a strength, so are the illustrations. They have a clarity and a concreteness, even though they are all almost monotonal (blacks, tans, reds). They convey action beautifully, making this graphic novel as much an action work as a horror work. The dialogue is rather spare, but the pictures give you the whole picture even when there is no narrative.
For readers who enjoy the enigmatic, dark loner on a quest for justice, knowing that he can no longer call any place his home, this is worth reading. I also recommend it to readers who enjoy the more traditional brand of horror, where the monsters aren't human, and where good fights against evil, even though man often struggles against the evil in his own heart.
It doesn't feel like a five star book, but it's definitely close.
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.
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