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Review Group Week 234 - BALTIMORE: THE PLAGUE SHIPS #1

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Victorian Squid
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Postby Victorian Squid » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:05 pm

Bump because I just read this.

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Postby john lewis hawk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:27 pm

Like Hellboy and B.R.P.D., this is another great thing from Mike Mignola. The story was very good and the art was almost better than Mignola's. Helluva good thing.

8

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Postby Victorian Squid » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:30 pm

john lewis hawk wrote:Like Hellboy and B.R.P.D., this is another great thing from Mike Mignola. The story was very good and the art was almost better than Mignola's. Helluva good thing.

8


I agree, my only qualm being exactly how much like Hellboy & B.R.P.D. this was.

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Postby Eli Katz » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:14 pm

BALTIMORE PLAGUE SHIPS #1, the new horror-fantasy book written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, is an uneven and disappointing opening issue. The biggest problem with this book is that, after reading it, I don't know enough about its main characters or care enough about its creepy world to be interested in picking up the next issue.

The book is set in an alternate universe, where plague and vampires have overtaken World War I Europe. Lord Henry Baltimore, the title character of this five-part miniseries, is hunting down a particularly nasty vampire in a dark French town and, in the process, risks not only his life but also a jail sentence. There is something intrinsically compelling about such a macabre atmosphere and premise. Who doesn’t enjoy a good old-fashioned horror story, filled with foggy streets, dark alleyways, and all the other fun Gothic gimmicks?

Unfortunately, there is nothing behind these gimmicks to give this story any substance. The characters In PLAGUE SHIPS #1 are all cardboard cutouts -- especially the protagonist. We are shown that Lord Baltimore is a highly driven man, who will stop at nothing to kill vampires. But why exactly is he so driven? Who knows? I guess because vampires are bad and Baltimore is one of those really obsessed van Helsing-types who all too often populate horror stories. Rather than provide some explanation or greater character background, Mignola and Golden decide to write an opening chase scene that is mostly wordless and takes up nearly half of the first issue. That’s right: you can flip through the first half of PLAGUE SHIPS in thirty seconds and not miss any plot points.

This type of opening works well in movies and TV shows, where hair-raising stunts can by themselves be entertaining enough to sustain a viewer's interest for several minutes until the exposition catches up to the action. But in the opening issue of a comic that costs over three bucks, no thanks. This is weak storytelling. As long as comics are going to be sold as singles, creators owe it to readers to provide them with over twenty pages of fun that are worthwhile on their own and not simply teaser material that might, eight months down the road, read well once it's part of a larger collection. Yes, a comic doesn’t always need words to tell a rich story. But it helps, especially with an opening issue where the characters are unfamiliar to readers and the world is ill defined.

Because so much of the book is without text, the best part of PLAGUE SHIPS is the art. Ben Stenbeck's illustrations are indeed solid. They evoke the Mignola style of art, without simply being weak imitations of that style. They are reminiscent, in other words, but at the same time original. Stenbeck also does a great job of making France look appropriately sick and dark and trapped in an occult past. Best of all, he makes the vampires in this book look ugly and monstrous. There are no sexy vamps here, just evil-looking bloodsuckers. Yet, as good as the art is, it isn't good enough for me to recommend this book.

STORY: 3.5
ART: 7
OVERALL : 5.25

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Postby Victorian Squid » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:35 am

So, who else didn't know this issue's content was taken from the middle of a Baltimore novel Mignola co-wrote?

I suspect that's why the writer seems to think the character and setting are better established than they are to a new reader.

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Postby Hermit_Sage » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:38 am

Victorian Squid wrote:So, who else didn't know this issue's content was taken from the middle of a Baltimore novel Mignola co-wrote?

I suspect that's why the writer seems to think the character and setting are better established than they are to a new reader.


I didn't know that. Good to know

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Postby Victorian Squid » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:59 am

RG people, please vote for John Snow and/or Bluestreak in the MVP thread. Before a very bad thing happens.

http://www.theouthousers.com/forum/view ... 9&start=30

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Postby Eli Katz » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:40 am

Victorian Squid wrote:So, who else didn't know this issue's content was taken from the middle of a Baltimore novel Mignola co-wrote?

I suspect that's why the writer seems to think the character and setting are better established than they are to a new reader.

I knew it was based on a novel. But since the novel doesn't come with the comic, I expect the comic to provide characterization and not rely on the source material to fill in gaps.

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Postby Victorian Squid » Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:41 pm

Eli Katz wrote:I knew it was based on a novel. But since the novel doesn't come with the comic, I expect the comic to provide characterization and not rely on the source material to fill in gaps.


As would I. But it sounds like you missed my point by an inch--not that it was based on a novel alone but that it is taken from the middle of the novel where one would imagine the character has already had some establishment. It's an odd choice. But it's exactly what this read like, a middle chapter of something.

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Postby Eli Katz » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:13 pm

Victorian Squid wrote:As would I. But it sounds like you missed my point by an inch--not that it was based on a novel alone but that it is taken from the middle of the novel where one would imagine the character has already had some establishment. It's an odd choice. But it's exactly what this read like, a middle chapter of something.

I guess they were going for in medias res. It could have worked, if the opening sequence were shorter.

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Postby Victorian Squid » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:21 pm

Baltimore Plague Ships #1

Imagine my surprise when I read elsewhere that the source material for this introductory issue was taken from a Lord Baltimore novel Mike Mignola wrote in 2007 entitled Baltimore,: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. (The title of the prose book may actually tell one more about Lord Baltimore than the entire comic!) This wouldn't be very interesting if not for the fact this comic picks up somewhere in the middle of the novel, allegedly, which made a lot of sense to me after reading issue #1. Because on page one, it even says "Lord Baltimore's quest continues.." after a brief caption box telling the reader this is France in the year 1916, and another mentioning a plague ending the war (presumably WWI).

And Lord Baltimore if off and running--I confess his prosthetic leg didn't really register with me much on the first read through. After silently dispatching a couple fiends, the panel with the vampire addressing himself in 3rd person as Max confused me since this is the first dialogue in the book--another example of an odd starting point.

The scenes with Baltimore efficiently dispatching his foes are interspersed with occasional panels of an old woman scrying at him in a bucket or something. When the remaining vampires seem to flee to a damaged zeppelin (more questions of what has already happened), Baltimore confounds things even more by shouting "..Not until you tell me where he is!" Who? Who?? Later I gather it's the head bloodsucker he's after, but the scene is made even more baffling when a red bird is shown flying from a dead vampire's craw. What the hell?

LB hooks up with the witch and her daughter, and his cursed past is alluded to as we learn at least that he is pursuing Haigus, some sort of vampire progenitor who spreads plague wherever he goes. LB is then attacked and jailed by the paranoid locals, which sort of came out of nowhere but served to ally him with the witch's daughter and give him a probable antagonist as well, an inquisitor sent for by the town.

The art was exactly what you'd expect from a Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comic if a little stiff sometimes. Part of the problem with the book is how similar it is to those and other Dark Horse offerings--it's not clear here in issue #1 who Lord Baltimore is or what territory the book will explore that hasn't been done several times over in those other books. One isn't given enough info about the main character to understand or empathize with him much, which is what makes Hellboy or Ape Sapien and the others in the B.P.R.D. interesting characters and comics, not just the cool horror backdrops alone.

Since my reaction to issue #1 falls somewhere between Hawk's and Katz's, I give it a score to match:

6.625

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Postby Victorian Squid » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:32 pm

I think I like V8 Fusion juice & vodka more than almost anything right now.

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Postby Starlord » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Baltimore: The Plauge Ships #1

I've only read the first trade of Hellboy by Mike Mignola and thought is was okay. It didn't wow me like it did most people so I wasn't sure what to expect with this. Unfortunately after reading it twice I really don't have any real solid feeling either positive or negative.

The art was really good, and is what will probably raise my score a bit, but the story just didn't have enough to grab me. I'm a bit burned out with the whole vampire genre at the moment and the protagonist was not somebody I really became interested in... at all.

If you are a huge fan of Mignola then I have no doubt you are going to enjoy this thourougly; but I am going to stick with Hellboy and eventually BPRD.

Story: 5
Art: 8
My Score: 6.75
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Postby Zero » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:45 am

Got this sat in front of me, ready for a mediocre review. I wish I'd picked Crossed #3, it was so morally bankrupt it's not even funny.

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Postby Victorian Squid » Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:53 am

Good morning dead review group thread.

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