Having never read Criminal Macabre, knowing anything about Cal McDonald or even what the series was about except for something to do with the supernatural, it made it intriguing to delve into. Our protagonist, our hero – sort of – is quite the complex character. He is a little Sam Spade and a little Donald Lam, a little Sam Durell and a little Sam and Dean Winchester with some Constantine sprinkled in. He’s brash, sarcastic and tough with hints of vulnerability that might come to pass in future issues yet to be explored. As it stands, he is a complex man with a little problem – he attracts the occult and the superordinary like a magnet, whether he wants to or not.
The series opens up with our reluctant gumshoe, and he is reluctant as it is soon explained later on, sitting in a police station and trying to describe to some unwilling detectives just what happened to cause so much property damage and why there were bodies to be found and he along with them. The problem is the story involves vampires, werewolves, the undead and a plague from hundreds of years ago. Simple enough, but no one is buying – much to Cal’s chagrin. During his story we are introduced to Cal and the world he lives in and it is far from normal. Because the book was named Criminal Macabre, it should be expected to be a little different.
Even though Cal had appeared in a couple of comics beforehand as well as two prose novels, this first miniseries from 2003 would be the start of Cal’s run in the four colour world up until this day all written by Steve Niles. It is a good start being both funny, engaging and daresay, macabre featuring appropriately moody artwork from Ben Templesmith. The series is gritty and gruesome under Templesmith’s pencil and is a good fit for the book, much like he was on 30 Days of Night for IDW with Niles.
There have been a lot of follow-up series to this first mini, and if they are half as good as this one, then it looks to be good reading moving forward. Niles has proven himself many times over on many titles and his creation, Cal McDonald, can stand proud among many of literature’s great detectives.
4 out of 5