“Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank” from Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Ben Stenbeck is a great standalone pair of horror tales that evoke the tone and mythos of the great macabre narratives of years gone by. “The Widow” involves a war widow grieving for something worse than death and “The Tank” is an inventive tale with a pair of neat twists that keep readers hooked until the end.
Each of these two great tales have enough space and time to invoke their mood and pace. It is a brilliant way to execute a short-term chill and scare, and the stories are large with a loose and artistic tempo. Horror needs the right ambience on the page to be effective and both of these tales get exactly what they need. This book is effective and tight because it doesn’t attempt to overextend its reach.
Ben Stenbeck’s art is suitably atmospheric and brutal. He deals with period fare in these tales so his world is bleak and bare, especially with the superb color work of Dave Stewart helping to bring these pages to life. Stenbeck is able to deliver chilling moments with very little because it is the emotion on the page that comes first. He is able to make a vampires body explode after a horrific stabbing but he’s also adept at making you feel more by showing you less. He uses storytelling to make mood rather than just in-your-face gore.
“The Widow” is about a war widow dealing with a little more than the loss of her husband when the details of his demise in battle become clear. Baltimore arrives to investigate and eventually solve this problem. This is, above all else, a poignant tale. Then “The Tank” delivers an even higher concept as Baltimore is sucked into a case of a vampire living in an abandoned tank on a lone hill. It soon transpires that the particulars of this case are stranger than anyone could imagine. This tale is a more visceral affair and yet the creative team manages to wring a certain touching element from what shouldn’t be a situation to affect us. Both stories have great storytelling in their words and art.
“Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank” is a horror comic fan’s dream with smart tension and slickly delivered chills. These tales are also punchy enough to know they should do what they do best and then end. Nothing is overdrawn here. If you like classic horror pulp literature anthologies, then this comic is a must buy. It does what many modern horror comics attempt to do and fail at, it brings a sense of wonder and joy at new ideas that make you think while also feeling the hairs on your neck move a little.