The historical fiction with magic, monsters, and sword fighting continues this week in Dark Horse Comics’ Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens #1. It’s a series that expands on the Baltimore universe, and has been in the works since 2007! Originally slated for a June 10th release, the pandemic moved that date to this week. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden bring the next adventure with artist Bridgit Connell and color artist Michelle Madsen set during World War II in a narrative still reeling from the acts taken in Baltimore: The Red Kingdom set during World War I.
Historians and lovers of things that go bump in the night will need to read this one. It opens on Sofia, widow of Lord Baltimore, in Bruges, Belgium in 1938. She’s taken up the mantle of ridding the world of monsters as she faces off against a very powerful witch. Armed with a sword and a gun, Connell’s art paired with Madsen’s colors are exciting and fun. The book is sharply drawn and keeps you in the fight with Sofia every step of the way. The monsters the witch calls upon to attack Sofia are detailed — just look at the weird eyeballs — and rather unnerving. For that, this first issue gets the monsters and action down pat.
Soon we’re introduced to Sofia’s supporting characters, like a good-witch Imogen, a slightly mysterious priest named Rigo, and a soldier type named Charlie. They’re all on the same mission: prevent the Nazis from pairing up with witches to take over the world. It’s a plot we’ve seen many times over under Mignola, but it never seems to grow tiresome thanks to the new settings, characters, and mechanicians the baddies undertake to destroy good in the world.
This first issue sets up the complexities of Sofia and her group, the danger of the Nazis collaborating with witches. All the while, it’s a continuation of Lord Baltimore’s story, more or less, as Sofia is directly connected to him. The book does run into some exposition-heavy trouble after the opening action scene, setting up the characters and their dynamics and never really zooming out to show us where we are though it is said. For that reason, this first issue is a bit stuffy and could use the second or third issue to really get going.
Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens lives and dies by Connell and Madsen’s art with creepy and uniquely drawn monsters and tight action. The story is familiar, especially as a Mignola-driven series, but the characters make this a unique enough experience. While the story does drift into heavy exposition for the second half, it has promise and should be picked up by Mignola fans who delight in the combination of history and the supernatural.
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