Despite the ever enduring popularity of the Hellboy universe, one of the best tales that Mike Mignola has gifted the comics world is his extended "Outerverse" which previously encompassed characters like Baltimore and Joe Golem. Mignola and his collaborator Christopher Golden have now gone back to what seemed dead and buried, reviving this world with the new Lady Baltimore. Given the larger reboot/gender swap craze of comic books it could be easy to dismiss this as a cash grab, but it's clear from the jump that there's something larger at work in this tale and that Mignola and Golden returned to the Outerverse because they still had stories worth telling.
Picking up thirteen years after the last Baltimore comic, Baltimore: The Red Kingdom #5, Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens hits the ground running. Though readers of the original title will no doubt recognize elements and pieces from the previous batch of comics, it's clear a lot has happened in that time frame. A hidden talent of Mignola's is telling a story bound within a larger universe without requiring all of that extensive context for new readers, and he flexes that muscle in The Witch Queens. References to what happened before are scattered throughout, but the narrative of Lady Baltimore's world is the driving force and it requires no other knowledge of what happened outside the pages of issue #1.
To that end one of the biggest contributions to making Lady Baltimore feel complete, while also very much its own thing in the Outerverse, is the work of series artist Bridgit Connell. The opening panel of the issue sets the tone for the entire comic, focusing on Lady Baltimore's face with an expression that reveals someone simultaneously at the end of their rope still possessing a playful streak. Connell's emphasis on the expressive nature of faces throughout the comic is a strength that tells this story in ways thought balloons never could.
That first panel leads into the first few pages that further establish the clear modus operandi of what she, Mignola, and Golden, are working toward here, as the larger dynamic movement of the series and its action begins on page 1 and does not stop until page 10. These pages feel alive and the activity seen from panel to panel is only complimented by the outstanding monster designs throughout. Even as the issue dives into those quieter moments where plot takes the front seat away from action, Connell is doing tremendous work along with great coloring by Michelle Madsen. Again, the character's expressions remain a high point, but on the whole this is a world that lives, breaths, and fights within its own existence.
Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens #1 feels like Mignola and Golden never left the series behind. Admittedly, the original Baltimore stories hold a special place for me and are among my very favorite horror comics, but this doesn't have any of the trappings of a years later sequel and instead presents the next, natural chapter in a larger world. Even if the story itself feeling fresh, yet still connected, wasn't enough reason to celebrate, Connell's artwork in the series looks terrific and stands alongside the fantastic depictions of Ben Stenbeck and Peter Bergting from the flagship Baltimore comics. Even with no frame of reference for Baltimore, Lady Baltimore is a comic you need to consider as it hits all the right notes and plays them with finesse.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On March 24, 2021
Written by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola
Art by Bridgit Connell0comments
Colors by Michelle Madsen
Cover by Abigail Larson