Maison Du Burns is full of books. Many, many, books. Many books that have been read, and many more waiting on their respective shelves to be picked up and perused. I don’t always have a clue what makes me want to grab one book and not another; why I may tear into one new book upon purchase and wait to delve into another one for an extended time.
That’s what happened when a good friend of mine gave me Baltimore – or The Steadfast Tin Solider and The Vampire, an illustrated novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. That particular book has been sitting on my shelf since Christmas 2007, waiting for me to crack the spine and experience the words within. The time finally came this past week, and I admit I wish I hadn’t waited.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen short story (reprinted at the back of the book), Baltimore is one of the finest pieces of storytelling I’ve experienced in years, and that goes for books or comics or television or film. The story revolves around World War I soldier Henry Baltimore, who encounters a vampire on the battlefield. Without giving away too much, that meeting sets a series of events into motion that lead too a plague seemingly far worse than any war. We learn about what has happened to Europe and Baltimore himself through a series of stories told my three of the soldiers associates as they wait to meet with their friend once more.
It’s these tales that are the heart of Baltimore. While I was always eager to learn more about the title character and what became of him following the early chapter’s, I was always entranced by the supernatural and mythological stories of his friends. The fact that it isn’t just vampires that are the dark creatures makes the world of Baltimore seem larger than I anticipated when I first picked up the book.
Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, supplies some nice artwork throughout Baltimore, but the strength of the book is the storytelling of Mignola and co-writer Christopher Golden. Baltimore wouldn’t lose any of its charm without the art.
I think that notion of an “illustrated” novel gave me pause about reading Baltimore when I first received it. I was under the mistaken notion that this was a story designed for a younger audience. While it should be appealing to all age groups, Baltimore is not just a kids book. It has a level of sophistication and appreciation for mythology that only an older reader would fully appreciate.
Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Solider and the Vampire is highly recommended, especially for this time of year. Better late than never, I say.