The story begins on a cold lifeless World War 1 battlefield. Trenches and barbed wire scar the once European countryside like the open wounds of the soldiers who die there.
Captain Henry Baltimore and his men slip across the enemy lines one fateful night. With only a thread of hope in returning from their suicide mission, Henry leads his troops into the heart of the Hessian trenches. By their unfortunate surprise the mission is a trap and all of Baltimore's men are brutally shot down.
Baltimore wakes on the battlefield, his leg badly injured, and sees a giant bat creature feeding on his dead men. He quickly draws his bayonet when the creature approaches and cuts a gash in its hideous face. In return the creature overcomes Baltimore, not eating him, but breathing a poisonous gangrene into his already wounded leg.
In the battlefield hospital Henry's limb is removed and replaced with a giant jointed wooden leg. But this will not be the last of Baltimore's losses. On returning to the ones he loves he finds his home, his family, and his wife all murdered by a man with one good eye and a scar across his face... it can only be the human form of that evil bat creature that haunts his dreams.
Meanwhile a plague has over taken the lands... the plague of vampirism. Baltimore has been given a new purpose in life. He will stop at nothing to hunt down the powerful vampire that killed his family. Killing its underlings, Baltimore slowly works his way up to the Red King of Death. For vengeance, for honor, for his wife.
Most of the story is told through the perspective of three men who have been mysteriously called to a strange inn in a dying town. All three men were acquaintances of the legendary Baltimore, all three receiving an invitation of help, and all three having in the past helped the man along his journey. Now... having never met each other, they begin to recount the stories of Baltimore and their own experiences with things that are not of this physical world.
Written by Hellboy creators Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, this illustrated novel has probably been one of the most enjoyable reads of the past couple years. The words in every paragraph paint brilliant images of the fantastical world and unimaginable situations of Baltimore. Mignola's art work is barely needed but only compliments in pushing the story along to it's climatic end.
I highly highly recommend this book if you have any interest in a world beneath the world or the fantastical realm of the imagination.