"Criminal Macabre Omnibus: Volume 2" Graphic Novel Review

Written by James Ferguson


Published by Dark Horse Comics



Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Casey Jones, Kyle Hotz, and Nick Stakal
1995, 370 Pages
Graphic Novel Released on December 21st, 2011


Cal McDonald is quickly becoming my favorite supernatural detective.  He's not the cleanest or the smartest or even the best at what he does, but he's the one that will take the least shit from werewolves, vampires, golems, and ghouls.  Whatever they are, he'll punch, kick, or shoot them in the face without hesitation because that's the way he does things.  Of course, he does this when he's either drunk or high on pain pills, so that might have something to do with it.  Dark Horse has collected another batch of Cal's adventures in Criminal Macabre.  This omnibus has a total of seven stories, mostly focused on the aftermath of Lieutenant Brueger's death.  She was an ally of Cal's on the LAPD that lost her life after getting involved in his cases.  Cal's taken it pretty hard and Brueger's husband aims to make him pay.

While I love Cal's attitude about his lot in life, this collection has him as a major Debbie Downer.  He's either three sheets to the wind or popping pills like crazy to keep himself sedated.  That's how he's dealing with this death on his conscience.  It gets old fast.  

What really shines through with this collection is Cal's ghoul sidekick Mo'Lock.  He had a few creepy cameos in the first omnibus, but he's been promoted to feature player this time around, accompanying Cal on just about all of his cases.  He's the straight man to Cal's funny man and the closest thing to a voice of reason in the series.  Mo'Lock is incredibly loyal to the private detective.  It's a bond that I don't fully understand, but I can respect.  I think Mo'Lock sees something in this man that he clearly doesn't see in himself.  Cal is capable of great things and some of the more peaceful beings in the supernatural community, such as the ghouls, flock to him for protection.  They know they're safe here.  

Click images to enlarge

The stories collected here range in quality, but they're all pretty good.  The opening comic, Hairball, has Cal going undercover to investigate some creepy roommates.  It turns out they're werewolves and he has to beat the crap out of them.  Seriously, that's how he handles anything that he comes up against.  Silver bullets aren't necessary when you can knock the piss out of it.  Plus, if you fill a werewolf with enough bullets, something tells me it doesn't matter what they're made of.  Casey Jones provided the art for Hairball.  It looks a little too bright and shiny for my tastes.  Cal's world is a dark one. He seems like too much of a macho tough guy throughout the story, which isn't how I see the character.  The werewolves look great though.

The other comic that really stood out for me was the final tale, Cell Block 666.  Cal's troubles catch up with him and he's tossed in jail for the alleged murder of Lieutenant Brueger and a bunch of other trumped up charges.  It's here that he stumbles onto a weird conspiracy involving the warden, a few guards, and the man that put him away.  In addition to this, Mo'Lock gets some time in the sun as he hunts down the ghoul that betrayed Cal and helped get him arrested.  He really lets loose when it comes to Cal's safety, becoming a pretty dangerous guy.  What nailed Cell Block 666 was the art from Nick Stakal.  His work evolved as the book went on.  At first, when Cal is up to his usual tricks, everything is clean and ordered.  Then, as Cal's world gets more and more bleak, the pencils start to get shakier.  The panels themselves begin to sway and lose their shapes.  There are a lot more rough edges.  In a way, it's a rebirth of Cal as he finally comes to terms with Brueger's death.  

Criminal Macabre is a fun supernatural detective comic.  Cal McDonald is perhaps the farthest thing from an upstanding citizen, but he's the kind of guy you'd want on your side should you encounter a werewolf or a horde of zombies.  His methods are crude but effective.  He's like a drugged out version of the private eyes in old film noir stories.  He won't waste his time searching for the Maltese Falcon, but if that thing came to life, he'd shoot it in the face.


Story: 4 Stars
Art: 3.5 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

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James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
Other articles by this writer


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