Writer Steve Niles may have had greater success with works like 30 Days of Night, but it’s the embittered hunter of the supernatural demons, Cal McDonald, that is his iconic character and the one Niles has continually returned to for 22 years. And, after all this time, it seems as though Cal is having a bit of an existential crisis with his current predicament.
Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit takes a little excursion from the main narrative of the series – the war between man and seemingly every supernatural monster ever dreamed – to do a one-shot detective story. When the book opens, Cal is trying to come to grips with his recent… undeath. The bad is that he can’t sleep, he has no blood, and his hands are kind of cold and clammy; the good is he can still drink and smoke (and do both without the adverse health effects, I assume, so: bonus?) and has picked up the ability to sense other members of the undead. I’m sure Niles will explore it further, but whatever rules he has for the undead, the message seems to be that there is no relief from life in undeath. Or, as Cal put it: “I seemed pretty much like myself, just dead and tooling around like before.” The mechanics of being undead are perhaps the most interesting thing about this comic, and I don’t mean that as a backhanded insult. It’s the kind of thing that keeps Cal compelling beyond the mysteries he’s trying to solve.