Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writers: Steve Niles and Eric Powell
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Cover Art: Fiona Staples
Format: Softcover 7″ x 10″
Retail Price: $17.99
Having seen the 30 Days of Night film back in 2007, and reading a few of the comics, I have been looking forward to exploring this other venture of Steve Nile’s work; the Criminal Macabre, as well as the Cal McDonald character. This collection includes five graphic novels: Call Me Monster, When Freaks Collide (crossover with The Goon), No Peace For Dead Men, Die, Die, My Darling!, and They Fight By Night. Cal is a paranormal investigator who holds nothing back especially his words, who primarily deals with the likes of vampires, magic, the undead, werewolves, etc. His assistant, ‘Mo’Lock’, is a ghoul which comes off to me like a kick butt undead version of Alfred from Batman, of course not to the extent of ‘wonderful toys’ and a Batcave, but when you’re undead who needs toys? They both lead a network of ghouls which assist them during their adventures, where they come in very handy you’ll come to find. These comics follow the Criminal Macabre Omnibus volumes 1 & 2 and previous paperbacks Niles has released. The story itself was started by the horror writer back in 1990 and has bloomed so much there are even rumblings of a movie in the works.
Here’s my review for each story in this latest Dark Horse TPB:
Call Me A Monster: Starting off in this mystery, Cal McDonald to his surprise is approached by Frankenstein’s monster, where he requests a case against descendants of Frankenstein’s family as they are constantly hunting him down. Cal accepts the job and the monster leads him to the location of Frankenstein’s family members Gunther and his sister. The siblings dine while dreaming of the fame and fortune they would possess if they ever find their family creation. However when Cal, the monster, and a nice backing of Cal’s undead friends arrive, Gunther is now dreaming of a new pair of pants…
When Freaks Collide: Cal teams up with fellow Dark Horse character The Goon in this crossover affair. After nearly destroying each other at first site, the two end up finding out about their own clients sneaky motives against each other, where the clients happen to be werewolves and vampires which tells you a lot right there if you know of the legendary rivalry. Cal and The Goon set up the stage for their clients to clash, however, more are invited to the party than expected when Mo’Lock and The Goon’s associate Franky stumbles across a book with powers that can spawn things into their own world. Just when the battle couldn’t get more crowded, the book ends up spawning yet another Dark Horse character into the mix, where you just may be surprised to find out who….
No Peace For Dead Men: Here we meet Salem, who happens to be an ex-girlfriend turned vampiress that certainly has huge past issues with Cal and seeks vengeance upon him and everyone he knows. She pushes Cal to the brink, but after a few cigs and a drink, he sucks it up and takes on Salem for what could be the last battle of his life…and the beginning of a new one?
Die, Die My Darling!: Trying to cope with his new goulish self and being ticked off that he’ll now be forever stuck in his own dark reality, Cal tries out his new shell against his sidekick Mo’Lock in a brief rumble before being confronted by a very large man in a trench coat. However, the large man isn’t the one that wanted to see Cal, but it was his sister which was enclosed inside of his coat or more like his stomach; TMNT’s Krang floating in a snow globe to describe it best. She seeks Cal’s help to track down a creature born of human and the undead that will cause a coming war, but when Cal actually see’s the child she speaks of, he follows his gut and decides another outcome…
They Fight By Night: After witnessing a politician getting decapitated during a speech on TV, Cal and Mo’Lock quickly start investigating into who carried out the hit. They end up teaming with an LAPD police detective named Wheatley, who is completely clueless to Cal’s world of the undead and is shell-shocked to this reality. He finds himself in his first werewolf encounter as they are fishing out the culprit for the assassination. Cal and Mo’Lock give Wheatley a crash course of Monsters 101, but you’ll come to find that there may be more to this detective than meets the eye…
These one-shots by Niles are nice reads for the horror comic fan. Cal McDonald is very unique and raw and you find yourself developing a sense of who he is very quickly which helps you transition to the stories well. Just think Mel Gibson from ‘Payback’ if you want to envision a persona. I for one wouldn’t mind Niles pursuing a movie out of this story and character, but I feel this should stay in comic/novel form. Traditional monsters and the undead can easily get lost in translation especially with The Walking Dead and True Blood/Twilight being the front runners in that medium. The art by Fiona Staples and Christopher Mitten are done quite well and fit the dramatics nicely for each panel. You get a cool ‘sketch book’ portion of their work at the end of this collection which is a nice icing on the cake.