ADVANCE REVIEW! Criminal Macabre: Final Night – The 30 Days of Night Crossover #2 will go on sale Wednesday, January 30, 2013.
In my review for Criminal Macabre/30 Days of Night: Final Night #1, I praised how you could pick up the comic and dig it even knowing next-to-nothing nothing about Steve Niles' two series Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night. That's still true, but since that first issue I have been working my way through the Criminal Macabre backlist and I have to say that knowing the history and being familiar with these characters turns Final Night up to 11.
Seriously gang, Criminal Macabre is incredible. I don't know how it managed to go under my radar all these years. Go buy the Criminal Macabre Omnibus collections and be very, very happy.
That said, Final Night #2. I loved it. There is a lot of stage-setting going on in this issue, a lot of gathering of the troops and alliance-forging. All of the chess pieces are being assembled on the board in preparation of the final showdown. Monster hunters Cal McDonald and Agent Alice Blood are bonding, at least as much as they can with Cal constantly regurgitating black bile. LAPD Detective Wheatley and Cal's partner Mo'lock are hunting leads, while on the other side the good-sheriff-turned-bad-vampire Eben Oleman is assembling his undead army and trying to eliminate some minor players and nuisances.
One of my favorite things about Final Night is Steve Niles' use of the full toolkit of horror. Scaring people comes in many flavors—there is the "jump/shock" favored by 99.99% of American horror films, there is the "atmospheric uneasiness" favored by 99.99% of Japanese horror films (I may be exaggerating here), then there is the "gross-out shock" that every culture loves because guts and bugs are universal. Niles dashes a bit of everything into a potent blend. He has creepy thrills and blood-and-guts and generous doses of rats.
I always say a good horror story is one that can make you afraid of your own house. Niles does that when he taps into a common urban fear, that the endless tribes of homeless people, vagrants and drug addicts that haunt metropolitan streets are actually up to something. Nothing like thinking the smelly guy sitting a few seats over on the bus is actually part of some monster conspiracy to liven up your morning commute.
My only issue with Final Night is the art — its good, but I don't love it. Christopher Mitten does a great job with Niles' world. His art is expressionistic, hard-edged and highly stylized. But the problem with highly stylized art is that not everyone is going to like the style. The more I read of Niles' Criminal Macabre collaborations with other artists, the less I love Mitten. He does a great job, and there is no fault with the art itself. Just not my cup of tea, ya know?
Final Night is the end of one of Steve Niles' franchises, but it is also a beginning. This little glimpse into his world is going to have you demanding more and more Niles. And he is there to deliver it.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.