Review by Jamie McNeil
Cal MacDonald, private detective specialising in the supernatural and last defence against the occult, has had a really bad year and it’s about to get worse. The war between monsters and mankind the ghouls told him was imminent, but he thought was rubbish has arrived in Los Angeles. Leading the vampires is the man who once fought them, the protector 0f Barrow, Alaska – Eben Olemaun. Tragedy has allowed for a terrible darkness to take hold in Eben who is venting it on mankind. All that stands in the way is Cal, his friend Mo’Lock, a force comprised of ghouls and Alice Blood, the FBI Agent inadvertently responsible for sparking the vampire invasion.
Final Night is the crossover between two of Steve Niles’ most successful creations, 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre. Since Niles has been the primary writer of both for over a decade at this point, and crossovers are good revenue if nothing else, why has it taken so long? Neither Criminal Macabre‘s publisher Dark Horse Comics nor 30 Days of Night‘s stewards IDW are adverse to company collaboration. The most likely reason is that 30 Days always saw print as miniseries until 2011 when it became an ongoing series with a view to bringing the Olemaun saga to a close. Another possible reason could be that since 30 Days artist Christopher Mitten had also begun working with Steve Niles on Criminal Macabre: No Peace for Dead Men, why not kill two birds with one stone?
Whatever the reasons, it isn’t necessary to have read any of the ongoing 30 Days of Night or Criminal Macabre books before pouncing on Final Night, but it will help. A lot more will make sense and will also give you an appreciation of just how much Niles has spent world building on both titles. The story is a fairly non-frills Cal Macdonald versus Vampires versus everyone else affair with the driving force Mitten’s gritty stylised art. Being artist for both titles he knows exactly what Niles requires and the writer is likewise happy to let Mitten tell the story too. That he does with visceral effect, adding copious detail and plenty of violent action. The drawback is that the violence and fervent activity overloads the senses while the impressive detail distracts you from the plot. The thread can found somewhere among the brawling mass of monsters and vampires, but it isn’t easy and as a result the story feels disconnected.
It isn’t all flying limbs, as Niles adds an interesting nuance to the ghoul community that Michelle Madsen’s colours accentuate (sample art). How they heal, why they choose to be peaceful protectors of humanity and how they experience things are facets that move Criminal Macabre beyond simple horror. Niles is a master of dark humour, the kind that makes genteel ladies clutch their pearls and priests make the sign of the holy cross, lightening the tone. Equally – and rather surprisingly for a horror writer- he can craft a tender tear-jerking moment, here bringing a moving end to the Olemaun saga that has defined 30 Days of Night.
Final Night is entertaining, thoughtful, funny and suspenseful. Mitten’s art is very good and improves with every volume, working to avoid clichés of a pre-determined style. Niles is underrated as a writer, which makes it easy to surprise the reader every time which all bodes well as they head into The Eyes of Frankenstein.
Final Night can also be found in the Criminal Macabre: A Cal Macdonald Mysteries Omnibus Volume 3.