Following Lord Baltimore is hard, many have died in his service, and many more will, but why do these brave men and women die for him? Empty Graves addresses these loyalties, and also gives us a little peek into the world before it was completely overrun with horrors. Continuing the tradition that issue #1 started, we begin to learn the tragic backstories of the characters that remain. This issue we find Mr. Kidd the blacksmith confronting the loss of his wife to a demon, something that in Baltimore’s world isn’t that uncommon. The issue continues with the burial of old comrades, while the morose survivors tell their tales one by one. These aren’t necessarily tales of how these characters met Baltimore, but rather what event really changed them enough to prepare them for his crusade. It’s essentially an anthology miniseries, with a little bit of exposition in between stories. Mr. Kidd’s tale is another one of tragedy, his wife comes home one night with some type of demon on her back eating at her neck. Despite his attempts he cannot get it to release her, and she is ultimately consumed. Kidd is left with nothing, another lost soul wandering this utterly dark world. Personal loss seems to be the uniting factor behind all of these characters. Baltimore himself lost his entire family, which caused him to begin his quest for vengeance. Perhaps this is why they all follow him, because they see themselves in him, and that brings them hope.
After the tale is told Baltimore snaps at his friends. He tells them all that they will surely die if they continue to follow him, and if they want to attempt to live a normal life in this ruined world they should turn back. Of course they refuse to leave him, they’ve come too far to turn back. Only the priest Rigo turns away. He believes Baltimore to be a monster after witnessing him torture a witch. Baltimore may no longer be human, but if he is indeed a monster, he is a much lesser evil than what awaits them all. The Red King must be defeated at any cost, and they are all prepared to meet that end if it means giving humanity a second chance.
On one hand Empty Graves is definitely a waiting period before we get back to the main plot. Normally these slower issues don’t offer much in terms of expanding the plot, and are just filler until the next story arc. Here though they serve a much bigger purpose. Mignola and Golden have introduced quite a few new characters and this is our opportunity to learn about them. Not only that, but they give us a glimpse into the dark folklore-inspired mythology of this horror filled world. The best parts of Baltimore for me have always been seeing what kind of crazy monsters Mignola throws at our Lord Henry. Whether that be mutant crabs, chimeras, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, wraiths, or cultists, he faces them all with stoic bravery. It’s that blend of terrifying horror and pure adrenaline fueled action that keeps me coming back for more. Maybe that’s why these latest issues feel especially slow, but I guess we have to earn the final showdown with The Red King. Mingola knows just how to pace a story, and even though we have to wait for the action, it’ll definitely be worth it.
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Baltimore: Empty Graves #2 Writers: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden Artist: Peter Bergting Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: Print: $3.99 Release Date: 5/4/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital