Review: Baltimore: Empty Graves #5

It’s hard to write about a concluding issue without writing about the arc to which it belongs. Most of the time that last issue of a storyline is made to be the high point of the run, the moment when all of the loose ends come together. We as the audience expect not only an exciting development, but also a stage set for the next part of the story. And although Baltimore: Empty Graves #5 does succeed by placing all of the characters, both mentally and physically, where they need to be for the next plotline, it does so at the cost of what should be one of the most dramatic points in the series. {Spoilers Ahead}

The most disappointing part of this issue is sadly also the most important. The arrival of the Red King feels not only rushed but, when compared to the showdown with the Blood-Red Witch, a little repetitive as well. The first time you really get to see the Blood-Red Witch in action is back in issue 5 of The Cult of the Red King. In that issue she arrives dramatically, kills Tom Childress, and disappears in a red mist with the body. In this issue, the Red King also arrives dramatically, kills the memory of Tom Childress by taking over his body, and then disappears red mist with the body. Baltimore Empty Graves 5In both cases Baltimore is seen in almost the exact same pose, on his knees and devastated. By following the same format for both characters the Red King’s entrance loses some of its potency.

Another problem with this issue is the death of Marchand, Captain Aischros’ first mate. His recent introduction coupled with his offhanded death, feel forced. It is as though the writers needed someone to die to up the stakes of this issue and all of the development of Marchand’s character was to serve this purpose. Both problems are really symptoms of the same main issue: pacing. The arrival of the Red King and Marchand’s death both read like events that needed to happen in order to allow the writers to focus on more interesting subjects in the next arc e.g. the Red King’s plans and the development of the what is now the main cast of the series.

{End of Spoilers}

Narrative problems aside, there are still some great things in this comic. Peter Bergting and Dave Stewart are still doing amazing things with the art. Excellent facial expressions and horror from Bergting, and as for Stewart, I cannot say anything more than what has already been said about him. He’s one of the greats and continues to put forth excellent work. From an artistic standpoint, this book is more of what Baltimore fans have come to love.

It’s a difficult job to wrap up an arc, an even more difficult job to wrap up an arc with a reveal of a character so long coming. While not a major misstep, this issue does feel a little rushed, a little setup heavy and, as a conclusion to a storyline, falls short of previous concluding issues. But there is hope in this issue as well. The Red King has finally arrived and to use his own words, “there is so much more to come.”

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Baltimore: Empty Graves #5 Writer: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden Artist: Peter Bergting Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: 3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital