Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling finds its anti-hero, Cal McDonald, adjusting to life after life. To being undead in other words. How is he taking the transition? He’s disgruntled, sure, but whatever, he seems to be disgruntled about a lot of other things, too.
Since 1990 writer Steve Niles, who you should know from the 30 Days of Night books/film (and if you don’t that’s your loss) has been doing his own take on the Paranormal Sleuth sub-genre in both comics and prose. Specifically, by Sleuth I mean the hard living, solving-crime-in-a-drunken-have type, and by Paranormal I’m talking about a casual slathering of vampires and werewolves. You like John Constantine? Give this a try.
Somehow I’ve managed to go this long without trying out the Criminal Macabre series and was happy to see this issue labeled a jumping-on point. The thing I found was that this one-shot, a reprint of a story that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #4-6, managed to be both a bad and a great jump-on.
The book opens with a succinct “catch-up” page explaining that “pill-popping, alcoholic degenerate,” Cal McDonald, his undead companion Mo’Lock and his possessed Chevy Nova are standing in the middle of a looming war between man and monsters. Ok, pretty cool. I then go to the first page in the issue and Cal and Mo’Lock are ruminating the pros and cons of being a zombie. Huh? When, how, why? Oh, and a few pages later I read that the possessed Chevy Nova has been blown up somehow. I’m not trying to be snarky here, sincerely, but that “catch-up” page might’ve been a good place to go over that stuff.
The good news is that once the book gets going it turns out that there’s a fun, self contained story with a strong, unique feel here. After a very funny slapstick opening a strange client enlists Cal and Mo’Lock to go on a dangerous mission that may stop the upcoming human/monster war. Even with the stakes that high the two manage to non-nonchalantly wander through the story, their skepticism and world weariness adding a much needed dash of humor.
The art and color, by Christopher Mitten and Michelle Madsen, respectively hit just the right notes, bringing some real imagination to the weirder characters. As a quick aside, the lettering by Nate Piekos was particularly good. It wasn’t flashy when it didn’t need to be, but when those sound effects came in they really popped on the page.
What makes a good jumping on book? That’s a funny question because if I knew I’d be spending a few pages feeling lost in a larger story I’d probably have avoided reading this book altogether, yet it managed to maintain my attention anyway and make it a single, easily digestible story in the end. Just goes to show that the best jumping on book is any single issue that’s good.