Review by Jamie McNeil
The Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 3 collects the entirety of series creator Steve Niles’ collaboration with artist Christopher Mitten. No previous artist had worked on more than two CM books, but Mitten worked closely with colourist Michelle Madsen on four, including two crossovers with other popular franchises.
First up is a prose story illustrated by Scott Morse, where a retired Air Force Captain needs Cal’s help to bring peace to restless spirits. It’s straightforward, nothing too fancy with Morse rendering some good caricatures of the cast. The only real flaw it has is that it should be placed further back in the book as it occurs after the events of No Peace for Dead Men.
While it isn’t indicated as such in the list of contents, the next five tales are a collection of short stories and one-shots that make up the No Peace for Dead Men TPB. ‘When Freaks Collide’ is the crossover with Eric Powell’s The Goon, Powell himself co-writer. Dark humour and violence characterises most of the shorts, with ‘Call Me Monster’ the funniest. ‘No Peace for Dead Men’, ‘Die, Die My Darling!’ and ‘Fight By Night’ return to regular Criminal Macabre chronology with a complete re-structuring of Cal’s history to freshen it up. Off-kilter is a good description, Mitten’s gallery of strange and unusual allies and enemies both artistically brilliant and a fun addition to the mythology.
Final Night is a crossover that is not only a cross-company collaboration between IDW and Dark Horse, it’s the first time Niles’ own creations have officially met on the page or outside Niles’ head. It also wraps up the decade long saga of doomed lovers Eben and Stella Olemaun begun in 30 Days of Night in what is the conclusion to the ongoing 30 Days of Night series. It seems fitting that it should end in Criminal Macabre since it’s thanks to the success of one that the other became a reality.
Every single tale within this omnibus contributes to a greater over-arching plot which is finally revealed in The Eyes of Frankenstein and then concluded in The Third Child. It’s about more than simply telling horror stories, subtly nuanced as Niles develops not only the cast but the hierarchy and origins of the various monsters, spirits and demons that occupy Cal MacDonald’s world.
This third Omnibus is excellent value for money considering it costs less than £22 for the paperback and £17 for the digital version. Each of the four graphic novels contained here cost anywhere from £9 to £13. Artists Mitten and Madsen have a dynamic partnership, the artistic landscape ever improving. They successfully experiment with different techniques, making for a varied visual experience from start to finish. Writer Niles produces stories that are good, entertaining, bonkers, disturbing, funny, scary and surprisingly tender. The relatively low price is just the cherry on top.
How can you possibly beat that? Go and read the next instalment in The Big Bleed Out.