Horton, Steve (Writer) and Dialynas, Michael (Artist). Amala’s Blade. Dark Horse [Milwaukie, OR], 2013.
Mignola, Mike and Golden, Christopher (Writers) and Stenbeck, Ben (Artist) Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank. Dark Horse [Milwaukie, OR], 2013.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine, if you will, that you’re watching a James Bond movie, one where Roger Moore is Bond. If you’re not a Moore fan, you could probably substitute any movie where Jason Statham plays the protagonist for the same results. In this movie, however, despite retaining – or perhaps even amplifying – his sassy sense of humour, he’s now a young woman and, instead of fighting the evil minions of an arch-nemesis, she’s smacking pirates around. She’s not sleeping with attractive (yet humorously named) female characters, either – instead, she’s talking to ghostly companions.
Amala is a tough-as-nails lady who may or may not be destined to smooth out the war between the Purifiers and the Modifiers, two factions embroiled in a bitter, ugly conflict. In the first issue, she’s fighting a big, burly Modifier who looks like a steampunk version of Dr Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog, whilst talking to her ghostly father about her mysterious past, and current goals and motivations. It’s a clever way to start up a series, but it also makes it seem like not a ton happened in the comic. If only the first and second issues could be combined – then we could know backstory and be more drawn into the present situation.
There’s a sort of lifeblood that runs through the veins of stories, and the same tongue-in-cheek, campy-yet-clever action that I absolutely love in certain movies courses heavily through the arteries of Amala’s Blade. The art reflects the feeling of the writing deliciously – sharp, sarcastic and full of action. Basically, if you like pirates, ghosts and butt-kicking, smarmy protagonists with a sense of humour that’s lethally sharp, go get your hands on a copy of Amala’s Blade right now.
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ord Henry Baltimore, however, is a much more refined sort of butt kicker – definitely as lethal but more precise and less messy. Baltimore turns busting heads into an affair as organized and exact as brain surgery. This is a different kind of exciting – inside this comic are fine and delicate workings much like those you would find inside a clock. Instead of keeping time, though, Baltimore‘s machinery is designed specifically to breed unrest in your heart, a task it does with delicious efficacy.
Lord Baltimore himself is every dashing-yet-aloof adventuresome protagonist from the past century all rolled into one stiff-upper-lipped package. He balances exquisitely on the fine line of seriousness without ever tumbling into the vast abyss of campy ridiculousness. This in and of itself is a feat deserving of many awards, since he’s fighting monsters and vampires, and that’s hard to do without being absurd with any protagonist, much less such a starched gentleman.
Baltimore’s blandness – and I assure you, despite his ability to beat the snot out of monsters, he has about the same personality as the color beige – is actually one of the best things about this series. It’s not about Baltimore himself – he’s just a vehicle to introduce you to these monsters, to let you into their lives, let you hear their stories from their own mouths. Baltimore is the titular character in stories that aren’t actually about him at all – which shouldn’t be surprising in the least for anyone who has read the book about him co-authored by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. It’s neat, then, that the precedence of Baltimore not being present is kept up, even when he’s physically there.
The Widow and The Tank, the two delightfully dark and haunting stories found in Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank, both feature beautifully tragic monsters. Their stories are delicious: vile creatures made human through loving artwork and tender writing, their atrocities somehow understandable because the failings and virtues of these monsters are so genuinely human. It is a fantastic comic that has the soul of Edgar Allen Poe.