"Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank One-Shot" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
$3.50, 25 Pages
Comic released on February 20th, 2013
It's been far too long since I had a taste of sweet vampire vengeance in Baltimore. The peg-legged WWI vet has been searching for the vampire named Haigus, who was responsible for turning Baltimore's family into bloodsucking members of the undead. After dispatching with his loved ones, the man is ready for revenge. Unfortunately for him, the European countryside is plagued with vampires and other monsters that distract him from his goal. He has his sights set on Haigus, but that trail leads him through all these small towns where he meets people that needs his help. He wants to ignore them but he feels a sense of obligation to help them. This one-shot, The Widow and The Tank has two short stories featuring Baltimore doing what he does best: kicking vampire ass.
The Widow has our antihero looking for Albert Yeardsley, a soldier that died in the war. It seems that he's returned and Baltimore believes that Haigus is the one responsible. This could have been a basic comic where Baltimore finds this guy and kills him, but authors Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden made it much more. Yeardsley's widow is in denial about her husband. She wants so much for him to be alive that she's able to look past the fact that he can't go out in the sunlight and has a craving for human blood. The closure of this story is somewhat touching as this woman comes to grips with what happened not only to her love but to herself. There's also a badass moment with Baltimore standing over a corpse as he's telling it, "It's going to be a beautiful day," with a sad look on his face. Killing vampires isn't always a straightforward job. Sometimes it can pull on your heartstrings, even if you are a hard-nosed veteran at the job.
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The second half of the book has Baltimore coming across a vampire that has trapped himself in an abandoned tank in the middle of a field. The creature is preying on local livestock and anyone that's foolish enough to get too close. Baltimore is passing through and decides to take care of the menace and finds something far creepier lurking within the ground nearby. An army of mud gremlins comes out to attack. It's like he's being swallowed alive by filthy infants that he must hack his way through.
Ben Stenbeck illustrated both stories in this one-shot. He can make something look simultaneously horrific and beautiful. For example, the abandoned tank is a symbol of death and destruction, but it's sitting in a nice-looking field with gorgeous flowers growing around it. You know that there's a vampire living inside it, but it's such a quaint little area that it's almost unbelievable.
The action in The Widow and The Tank creeps up on you. It's sudden, violent, and bloody. Baltimore's weapon of choice is a harpoon that he uses to impale vampires. He whips out a sword when necessary and is handy with both. Although he's got a peg leg, the man can move when it comes to killing monsters.
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Colorist Dave Stewart helped make this issue really pop. Baltimore's world is a bland one with a lot of greys. This changes whenever there's blood. That stands out on the page in a bright, vibrant color that immediately catches your eye. The aforementioned roses and the vampire's eyes all have the same red. It's used sparingly but done very well.
Baltimore isn't a character that jokes around. He's very serious when it comes to vampire slaying. His entire life is dedicated to finding Haigus and exterminating him. Despite this one-track goal, his conscience constantly pulls him to help others and stop monsters that are lurking nearby. In that respect, he's a reluctant hero but still somewhat noble. This is what draws me to the character each time and leaves me wanting more. I want to see Baltimore reach his goal and finally get some closure but all he knows is suffering so I don't think it will ever happen.