This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Sometimes it's hard to be effusive about something you really, really, really, really like without sounding sappy. Sometimes it's hard to express that you really, really, really, really like that something without it sounding bathetic. Let me warn you from the outset, there will be times during this review that, by golly, I'm going to sound both sappy and bathetic, but I can't help it. The new release from Dark Horse Comics of Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten's, Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! has pressed all of my pleasure buttons and has turned me into a smile-faced, gushing fanboy jumping up and down repeatedly while clapping my hands in glee.
Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! is the latest installment in Niles' long-running (since 1990) horror detective series staring Cal McDonald and Mo'Lock, and it is one of the best he's ever done. If you haven't read any of the Criminal Macabre books in the past, Niles provides readers with this quick overview of the character and plot:
Cal McDonald saw his first dead body when he was eight years old—setting the tone for the rest of his life. A pill-popping, alcoholic degenerate, teamed up with his ghoul associate Mo’Lock, Cal spirals around the sin-infested streets of Los Angeles in his possessed Chevy Nova against a growing horde of monsters. Losing one friend after another to his cases, Cal is slowly being pushed over the edge. A looming war between man and monster is coming, and Cal and his army of the undead are ready to blast every single werewolf, demon, occultist, and vampire back to hell!
I mean, how can you not be instantly engaged in this?
Throughout the long history of Criminal Macabre, Niles has worked with some pretty spectacular artists, like Ben Templesmith, Kelley Jones, Kyle Hotz, and Nick Stakal, but this time, working with artist Christopher Mitten, everything – and I mean everything – falls into place perfectly. Not only is Niles' dialog and pacing the best it has ever been, but Mitten's art is absolutely paradisiacal by being horrific, high-brow, or low-brow whenever the situation demands it. This is a collaboration seemingly blessed by the comic book gods. Wrap it all up with a great cover by Fiona Staples and you've got yourself what may be the perfect comic book.
Am I sounding sappy or bathetic enough for you yet? I don't care! I love this book THAT MUCH!
This is a great “jumping-on” point as well. Niles paints all you need to know in terms of back story with these characters in a way that is never didactic or overbearing, it flows naturally through the course of the plot. Cal and Mo'Lock have never been more fully characterized and their interactions are some of the best moments in the book, especially as Cal tries to understand all the ramifications of the fact that he's dead.
Throw in a giant stranger and his fetal sister telling Cal that his next actions will decide the fate of the world and the outcome of the war between good and evil, and you've got yourself some monumental comic booking here. Niles writes Cal to be such a flawed motherfucker, that his every decision in this book is suspect. And he makes a pretty big decision in this book. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! may just be the perfect comic. It has made me sappy and bathetic in my praises, as I don't possess the language necessary to sing its absolute merits.
Read it. I want to watch you jumping up and down repeatedly while clapping your hands in glee.