Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #3 Review: Mignola Reminds Us How Good He Is


Baltimore Cult of the Red King #3 (of 5)
Writer: Mignola, Mike
Artist: Bergting, Peter
Cover Artist: Stenbeck, Ben
Published by Dark Horse

So maybe I approached Baltimore: Cult of the Red King from the wrong direction. If you read the first two issues of this series (or my reviews here and here), you know that Mike Mignola and his team take their time in developing this story. Aside from Lord Baltimore himself, character motivations and their interactions between each other went largely untouched or left ambiguous in nature. The end game that everyone has been fighting toward was left vague. And the bad guys have been largely faceless, their deviltry mostly generic in nature. What I had forgotten, or at least failed to think too much about, was that Baltimore: Cult of the Red King is a five-part story. Not remembering the last time Mr. Mignola crafted a storyline that went on for more than an issue or two, I lost track of the fact that sometimes it takes a little time for a tale to begin to lock together. Those mammoth stories that he used to write for Hellboy and B.P.R.D. seem like a long time ago. Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #3 has reminded me that given time and several issues with which to work, Mr. Mignola is one of the best storytellers we have working today.

It’s not that the tone or structure of the story changed in issue three. From what I can tell, the world-building and character development that Mignola and his team worked to give us in the first two issues simply begins to pay off here in the third issue. It would have been great to see more action, or to have felt more connected to the characters in the first two issues, but Mignola does a splendid job of delivering both in Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #3.

The two separate groups on the trail of the Red King begin to realize they may have gotten too close to their quarry. The group in Carthage, led by Captain Aischros, has already beaten back one attack by otherworldly wraiths. Trying to avoid further losses, they hurry in their search for the Red King’s original temple. They believe that if they can find it they may learn something about where the King is now and perhaps how to fight him. Relying on their unique interpretation of an aged book concerning the Red King, they discover the ancient temple. Nothing helpful readily jumps out to them, but the Cuneiform script carved into the walls and pillars of the temple give them something. Unable to read it, however, Captain Aischros transcribes much of the text in the thinking that they may translate it at a later date. Before they are free of the temple though, members of the Cult of the Red King appear, dressed in red robes and wearing frightful masks. They were not aware that this old temple celebrating their horrible master existed, but the trail that Captain Aischros and his team left led them straight to it. They are extremely excited with their find. Captain Aischro and his man, so far, go unnoticed.

Meanwhile, Lord Baltimore and his group find that St. Petersburg reeks of the followers of the Red King. He has lost one of his crew to a witch’s charms, and another crew member suffers terrible injuries at the hands of a seemingly possessed priest. The Cult of the Red King, it appears, has become aware of the threat that Lord Baltimore poses. They go on an offensive of their own.  While the crew continues to track down clues that may get them closer to destroying the evil of the Red King and his cult, Lord Baltimore hunts the streets of St Petersburg believing that the Red King himself may be in the city. The end of the comic has Baltimore falling into a trap set by the witches of the Red King. Taking what looks like several mortal blows, the last image we see of him is lying bleeding and broken on the snow-covered street.

It has taken us three issues, but Baltimore: Cult of the Red King has begun to take off. We see now that Baltimore may be a bit unhinged in his hate for the Red King. I can see him as an Ahab chasing his White Whale, perhaps. The desperation of all of our protagonists has become palpable as well. These men and women have left their lives behind in order to track and destroy the Red King and his followers. That cost and their determination has become tangible in this story. You can almost smell the cigarettes they smoke, the cold sweat that getting closer to their prey has covered them in. While I was more or less ambivalent about how this series started, Mr. Mignola and his talented creative team have succeeded in drawing me in. I look forward to what terrors await our heroes in the next issue.

From Dark Horse:

"Lord Baltimore attacks a coven of witches to free his friend, but the witches will not give him up so willingly. Alone and freezing, Baltimore can now only save himself. Will he survive the wrath of the witches?"

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