Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

Both Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are premiere writers on their own.  Mignola created the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. (The Bureau of Paranormal Research & Development) and Golden has written the thriller series Body of Evidence (as well as several Hellboy stories), so when their talents come together for Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire it is nothing but pure magic.  This is an illustrated novel with images by Mignola himself.

Lord Henry Baltimore is a soldier of World War I who accidentally awakens the wrath of sleeping vampires on the battlefield.  This first encounter leaves him forever scarred yet also marked by the vampires who become a plague upon mankind.  Years later he secretly gathers up three individuals whom he has encountered who would believe in his cause and might help him stop this plague once and for all.  As these three individuals await Baltimore’s arrival in a tavern each relay their own encounters with Baltimore and why he has become obsessed with ridding the world of the vampire plague as well as why they were all gathered in the first place.

Mignola and Golden uses the recollections of Baltimore’s associates to paint the reader a picture of who Baltimore is and how he became the ruthless vampire killer that he is.  Using the WWI as a backdrop for the origins of the story is a new twist on this style of adventure (but nothing new to Mignola who uses WWII as a backdrop for the origins of Hellboy) as well as using the vampires as the reason for the plague that kills indiscriminately from town to town.  There are many parallels between Baltimore and Hellboy besides their origins.  Both have a deformity, Hellboy with his right hand and Baltimore with his left leg (which he lost during the war and has now been replaced by a wooden contraption that allows him easy mobility).  Both have myth and legend interwoven within the story.  Hellboy uses elements of myths and legends from all over the world while Baltimore is infused with references from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier among the typical vampire lore.

Baltimore is one of those books that doesn’t just infuse it with the myths and legends of the past but it also becomes a part of those stories of myths allowing Baltimore himself to become a legend.

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