Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
It turns out that 30 Days of Night and Dark Days aren’t flukes at all, but rather part of a bigger story Steve Niles is telling. Criminal Macabre expands the universe you’ll find in those books by offering background not covered there while at the same time establishing its own identity. You can enjoy this book without the other two, but readers of both will be rewarded with a better understanding of this new world and a richer comic book experience.
I came into this mini series late (this is my first issue and there’s only one left), but I had no trouble picking up what’s going on. Cal McDonald is a detective that specializes in the weird, and by weird I mean new versions horror movie monsters and assorted demons. In this case McDonald is investigating the death of Maynard Crandall, a loner obsession with learning the secret behind the existence of monsters; a passion that seems to have led him on a dark path. Apparently he’s brought the virus back at full strength and is prepared to wreak havoc on the city. While there’s a lot of exposition in this issue, Niles paces it well enough that I never felt I was spending too much time reading and not enough anticipation the next turn of the page, and that eagerness is what a horror comic should strive for.
While this title may sound like an “Angel” rip off there are enough differences to set the comic apart from the TV show. Niles is exploring the idea of vampirism and lycanism as symptoms of a virus, and while that may not be a new idea the freshness of the ideas don’t make for a boring read. Viruses evolve and mutate just like every other organism, so it makes sense that the strains would change and weaken with time. While it is rather convenient that McDonald is able to work with ghouls I found myself wanting to know more about his accomplices even though they seemed rather stock.
I like the mood that Ben Templesmith’s art sets, but I can’t say I’m a fan of his work as a whole. Too often I can’t tell what’s going, and I think (contrary to the current Hollywood trend of using “shaky-cam”) that being able to see and understand the action is crucial to achieving the anxiety the horror genre lives and dies by. It took me a good three or four days to decipher what was on the cover, for crying out loud. Lastly, we shouldn’t need a large caption and arrow to tell what’s in a box, and there’s one four pages from the end. That “Oh, by the way…” method of storytelling it weak no matter how it’s used, and it never fails to annoy me.
Niles and Templesmith have almost single-handedly revived the horror genre, and Criminal Macabre is a big part of that. This book could do for horror comics what “Scream” did for horror films, and that’s no small accomplishment.
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