Cal McDonald, the creation of Steve Niles (possibly best known for his title 30 Days of Night) is back in his latest mini-series under the Criminal Macabre banner. As the inset of the comic so accurately summarizes him, Cal is a pill-popping, alcoholic degenerate, who teams up with his ghoul associate Mo’Lock and traverses around the sin-infested streets of Los Angeles battling a growing horde of monsters. Think Dylan Dog but with less clarinet and more inebriation. The Eyes of Frankenstein picks up shortly after Cal’s last adventure where he found himself transformed into one of the undead and is now contending with life, so to speak, as a ghoul.
For Cal though, there is no rest for the weary and he finds himself quickly swept up in his latest adventure, this time providing his unusual investigative talents to Frankentstein’s monster, who is slowly going blind and it is up to Cal to find a solution. Through his associate Mo’Lock, Cal reluctantly turns to Jason Hemlock, an authority on the occult, for assistance. Hemlock may just be able repair the Monster’s eyes, and shed some light on Cal’s transformation into a ghoul, but is his help truly benevolent or is there a larger sinister plan at work?
Niles continues to provide fun pop-horror investigation mystery through his protagonist that has been going strong for over twenty years in comic and novel form. The writing is light and quick, and interjects a fair amount of wit and humor amongst its macabre subject matter. Though it has been used a fair amount in horror fiction, Niles does a solid job of bringing together all the classic monsters and creatures to inhabit a singular world.
You can get into this story right away, even if you aren’t very familiar with the previous mini-series titles. The Eyes of Frankenstein in particular provides subtle exposition in the dialogue in issues #1 and #2 to catch up more casual readers (such as your humble reviewer, who hasn’t read Criminal Macabre since the mid 2000s) and even first time readers into the world so they aren’t left in the dark.
Artist Christopher Mitten, who has provided ink on other recent Criminal Macabre material, returns along with colorist Michelle Madsen to give the story the required visual balance of horrific grue and black comedy through a pop-art palate that it requires. It is quite successful at capturing the mood and tone of the world that Niles has carved out.
If you are a fan of other supernatural investigative titles like the aforementioned Dylan Dog, Hellblazer or the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., you should definitely consider giving this a try.