Hell’s Bells, It’s Baltimore: The Curse Bells

Baltimore: The Curse Bell series  Written by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola, Art by Ben Stenbeck, Colors by Dave Stewart and Published by Dark Horse Comics.

Review by Shaun Daniels and Edited by Sharon Wong

When someone mentions the word “Baltimore,” it usually conjures up images of Maryland crab cakes, David Simon’s tv show The Wire and retired Orioles shortstop/third baseman Cal Ripken, at least for normal people.  For the non-normal people, “Baltimore,” brings to mind a one-legged vampire hunter who wields a harpoon.  Lord Henry Baltimore is a man on a mission to kill a vampire who may have set the end of mankind into motion.  Against the backdrop of a WWI that ended with a Europe overun with vampires, Baltimore hunts his deadly prey in a world stricken by the plague, demons and of course, vampires.

From the first series, Baltimore: The Plague Ships, Lord Baltimore set up a quest to kill Haigus, a vampire of great power.  Until the two crossed paths, vampires were an almost extinct species, reduced to feeding on carrion of dead and dying soldiers.  Baltimore, laying wounded after a midnight raid, defends himself from a giant bat who turns out to be none other than Haigus himself.  The hunter is able to spill the vampire’s blood onto the field of soldiers which presumably starts the plague, and may or may not explain why the infection kills some and why others just won’t stay dead.  Haigus does manage to stay one step ahead of Baltimore, just out of his reach.  The second series kicks off with Lord Baltimore still hot on the trail of Haigus but this time, like in the first series, finds himself with a companion claiming to be a vampire expert.

Christopher Golden’s writing shines through in this series…after all, the man has spent a lot of time inside the minds of vampires, making us wonder what he does in his free time.  From writing Buffy novels to his own book series about a former vampire, Golden has vampires down pat.  The two standouts in his writing are the pacing and dialogue.  When reading the opening scene with Baltimore dispatching a tavern full of vampires, you feel like you have to hold your breath until the end of the book where the hunter finds himself at the doorstep of the monastery to look for answers.  Golden crafts the dialogue so well that you read each character with his or her respective accent, a task very difficult to achieve.  Many writers would overuse slang whereas Golden uses the jargon for the best; for example, when Baltimore meets a man at the bar. The man yaks on and on about vampires, giving the impression that he is a highly educated man but his lack of ability to shut up lends itself to a writer of The Boston Globe (Boston is the Hub of the Universe, right?).

Artist Ben Stenbeck is fundamentally sound with his depiction of action and emotion, or in some cases, the lack of emotion in the face of the cold-blooded killer vampires.  The colors in this book are drab but intentional to give the sense of hopelessness that, no pun intended, plagues the world.

Unless you are on a plague ship, there is no excuse not to be reading this book.  And if you are on a plague ship, we’re pretty sure you’re screwed.

Don’t forget to check out our sister site www.horrorhaven.com and click on The Fright Channel, the web’s best 24-hour horror network, to see what’s playing.  Follow us on Twitter @FrightChannel to keep up with the latest news and updates, and friend us on Facebook.  Subscribe to our RSS feed and never miss an update.

Feedback is always welcomed at shaun@horrorhaven.com and sharon@horrorhaven.com

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