I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! This review is going to be hard to hell to write without spoilers — after all, Criminal Macabre/30 Days of Night – Final Night is the series where Steve Niles kills off one of his popular horror comics franchises, and THIS is the issue where we find out who gets to waltz out of Thunderdome. I'll do my best, but let me just say — I knew it! Yahoo!
Last issue left monster hunter/supernatural detective Cal McDonald (Criminal Macabre) in pretty bad shape, by which I mean his entrails were on entirely the wrong side of his body. That would have slowed most people down, but McDonald has some goulish friends (or would that be fiends, to cop a note from Uncle Creepy?) lending him a hand. Only it isn't a hand McDonald needs. He needs blood, and he is in no position to be picky about where he gets it.
On the other hand Eben Olemaun (30 Days of Night), the righteous sheriff turned evil vampire lord, is looking about as healthy as an undead creature can look. His loses have been more psychological; the ashes of his dead wife Stella who he hoped to resurrect have been stolen. For all his power and the might of his army he still can't get what he wants, and no matter how many times he tears out McDonald's guts (usually once will do), McDonald keeps coming back for more.
Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun make good opposites on the chessboard for this game of cat-and-also-cat. They are almost a reverse Batman and Joker — the evil Eben Oleman is powerful, in control of his emotions and thinking five steps ahead. McDonald is a wild agent of chaos, shooting from the hip and playing from his cuff, taking one moment with the next with no plan of action. Niles did a great job with this series making the reader like both characters. No matter which one comes out alive, you are going to be a little bummed to see the other one go, and that's exactly how it should be.
Chris Mitten's art — I waffle back and forth on this. Mittes has a recognizable style, but it usually isn't one I'm overly fond of. He pushes things too far into the abstract, into the angular. I like his twisted landscapes, his trees and buildings, but I wish he off-set that by making his figures a little more humanistic. And he does here. In issue #4, I love Chris Mitten's art. There's some really beautiful scenes here that could be stills from a Hammer Horror film, including a resurrection of one of the characters (not gonna say who!) where his acolytes stand in a circle around him and poor blood into his body. Loved that.
Michelle Madsen's colors are looking sharp as well, and she may be somewhat responsible for the softening of Mitten's art. I have seen some of her work where she emphasizes Mitten's abstract qualities with flat blocks of color creating something like a playing card figure. But in this issue those hard edges are blended and the world of Final Night comes alive — at least as alive as a world populated by ghouls and vampires can be.
And here I'm going to get slightly (but not completely) spoilerish. Be warned.
My big surprise with Final Night #4 was that I was expecting more of a definitive ending. I was expecting to see the total destruction of one of Steve Niles' horror franchises, the ground salted, and no backdoor left swinging seductively in the background. Instead we got the death of one of the characters from the series. Now, maybe that's good enough — maybe Niles doesn't intend to write any more in that series — but both series are about more than just the main character. Just like killing off Batman doesn't kill off the Batman franchise (as has been shown), I didn't really see the end of either Criminal Macabre or 30 Days of Night here.
After all, when one of the final bits of dialogue spoken by the survivor is "They'll be back" — well, that isn't as "final" of a Final Night as I was expecting.
But truly final or not, Final Night passes the "Hell of a good comic" criteria, and I look forward to future Steve Niles adventures of the remaining character… nah, I'm not going to tell you. You have to find out for yourself.
You can find out who walks away from the fight yourself when Final Night drops on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.
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.