Literature: Baltimore

The Hunter in Repose

"Why do dead men rise up to torment the living?” Captain Henry Baltimore asks the malevolent winged creature. The vampire shakes its head. “It was you called us. All of you, with your war. The roar of your cannons shook us from our quiet graves…. You killers. You berserkers…. You will never be rid of us now."

Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, is an illustrated novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, who had previously collaborated on several of the Hellboy horror novels. Going down the paranormal investigator route again, Mignola and Golden succeed in making Lord Baltimore very distinct from Hellboy in many different ways.

Born Lord Henry Baltimore, the titular character was commissioned as a captain into the British Army during World War I. After a trench raid goes wrong, he is left badly wounded on the battlefield, where at dusk, enormous vampire bats feast on the dead and dying. Defending himself from the creatures, he injures one of them in the face, prompting them all to retreat, but not before his crippled leg is infected with their breath...

Later on, Baltimore is retrieved and brought to a hospital, where his leg is amputated. He is soon visited by a well-dressed gentleman with a scarred eye, who vows revenge on him and all of humankind. By the time he is discharged from service, Baltimore finds that a mysterious plague has spread all throughout Europe which saps the life away from those infected until they are nothing but listless, "gray people". When even his family is killed by the vampire that he wounded, Baltimore swears an oath of vengeance that takes him all across the globe.

The book mainly focuses on three companions of Baltimore, who have all convened in a tavern in an unnamed city to meet with their mutual friend. While waiting, they each recount how they came to know Lord Baltimore, and just what experiences they had in their life that made them all too willingly believe Baltimore's tale of vampires and curses.

A very dark book, it deals with the atrocities of war and their consequences, specifically on those who fight in them. Yet it is an excellent story, with an ending that is truly poignant.

Mignola and Golden eventually followed it up with a comic book series, which features Baltimore's later adventures, maintaining the novel's dark tone. It is illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, who also drew Witchfinder for Mignola's Hellboy universe.

Mignola and Golden would later partner up again in the Spiritual Successor Joe Golem And The Drowning City, likewise a tale of the toll of heroism.

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Allegory Adventure - Most of the events that happen in Baltimore's portion are based on the events of the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification - Arguably, the Red Death, as it not only is the supernatural source of the plague, but also its embodiment in the spiritual world.
  • Badass: Henry Baltimore, without a doubt.
  • Baleful Polymorph - What Doctor Rose encounters during the war that convinces him that Baltimore is telling the truth.
  • Bears Are Bad News - See Baleful Polymorph above. To elaborate: Doctor Rose meets an allied Norwegian soldier who is cursed to turn into a demonic bear that kills every living human it can find each time he goes to sleep at night, because he killed the previous demon bear beforehand.
  • Big Bad - The Vampire Lord whom Baltimore calls "The Red King"
  • Bigger Bad - The Red Death, the actual Red King and the source of the vampiric plague.
  • Big Damn Heroes - During the climactic battle, Baltimore appears and begins effortlessly killing the shadow vampire wraiths that his friends were barely even able to fight off.
  • Church Militant: The Inquisition in the comic, and boy are they militant.
  • Crapsack World: Very much so in Europe, at least, and made especially obvious in the comic. The Red Plague has devastated the population, all manner of supernatural creatures have appeared to prey on humanity, and the church has reinstated a merciless inquisition to combat the vampires.
    • At the end of Chapel of Bones #2, a map in Dr. Rose's study implies that the Red Plague has spread throughout Eurasia, with crosses extending from France to Japan and from Russia to India. Also, one of Rose's guests is an Indian Sikh, strongly hinting that Baltimore's quest will eventually take him there as well.
  • Devil but No God - A very strange case of this; over the course of the book it's stated that everything Baltimore goes through is God's way of forging him into a weapon that can stop the vampire plague. Yet besides one monk who tells Baltimore this, we never actually see God (or a representative of his) actually take any direct action against the monsters. This leads to the main characters doing what needs to be done, but cursing God all the while for having to do it.
  • Eldritch Abomination - Though not of Mignola's usual Lovecraft variety: The Red Death, the true source of the vampire plague, is a demonic skeleton with a scepter and coffin, whose red wing-like cloak brings death and gives birth to undead horrors.
  • He Who Fights Monsters - While obviously still good, the experiences Baltimore goes through cause him to become just as otherworldy and threatening as the vampires he hunts. Played straight with Judge Duvic.
  • Knight Errant - A rather grim and no-nonsense one, but Baltimore becomes this in his search for the Red King over the years hunting him.
  • Nested Story: see the page's literature section.
  • One-Man Army: Baltimore stops a Zombie Apocalypse single handily.
  • Our Vampires Are Different - For one, the plague that is killing people across Europe is actually turning them into vampires.
  • Perverse Puppet: The Sea Captain Aischros encountered a whole town of these in his youth.
  • Psychological Horror - Standard for a Mike Mignola work.
  • Rage Against the Heavens - The main characters get very angry with God at times, and are very vocal about it; see Devil but No God above.
  • The Plague: The plague that's overwhelming Europe, which seems to be a supernatural version of the Spanish Flu.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: All three of Baltimore's friends meet in a tavern to wait for him when he summons them together; they spend almost the entire novel waiting and telling each other stories about their pasts.