Review by Jamie McNeil
Spoilers in review
Cal McDonald has trouble remembering things at the best of times, yet remembering important events is essential if wants his relationship with reporter Sabrina Lynch to work. The fates conspire against him when country hicks turn up with a demon-possessed teenager, or rather give him a good get-out clause. Things are not as they seem, the events sending Cal and Mo’Lock off to the kid’s home-town to clean up his mess. Of course, Sabrina is a nosy reporter and can’t help following Cal even though he doesn’t want her to, but in a town where men are being manipulated by a power hungry demoness, Cal might be glad his girl tagged along after all.
Cal’s creator Steve Niles teams up with horror alumni Kelley Jones for this gory romp that pokes fun at the concept of men largely being controlled by their genitals. Niles pens some cracking one-liners and scripts some comedically awkward situations, skewering stereotypes of the male versus female relationship in the process. Developmentally Cal is given a tender side, caring about whether innocents are hurt or not. His constant binge drinking usually capsizes his good intentions, but it does give the character a little more depth. Jones’s art really hits the horror vein and pumps it for all it is worth, his work glossier and more detailed than Ben Templesmith’s abstract style in Criminal Macabre. His monsters and demons are threatening, but given a cartoon edge that keeps them from being too frightening.
There is such a thing as trying too hard to be funny, especially when using adult themes. While well-endowed, scantily clad supernatural seductresses are something of a trope in the horror genre, having them turn into giant soul-devouring vaginas with legs is a step beyond bad taste, even if it is pretty horrifying. Niles has also built too much of his dialogue on inappropriate and irreverent humour, and mixing that with what appears to become a rather thinly veiled commentary that the destruction and redemption of the male species lies in the female genitalia, weakens it considerably.
Technically this is only the second illustrated Cal McDonald story Dark Horse published in trade paperback, and after the brilliance of the first outing this is an unfortunate disappointment. Thankfully it gets a whole lot better, Niles going on to write some scintillating plots that would define the series, and well considered continuity.
Last Train to Deadsville is available in single paperback, collected in the Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 1 and again in Criminal Macabre: The Cal McDonald Casebook Volume 1. Chronologically this is followed by Supernatural Freak Machine.