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Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 1 by Steve…
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Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 1

by Steve Niles

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Dark Horse Digital Comics had a Criminal Macabre bundle (issues #1-5) on sale and it sounded like the perfect story; a strung-out ex-cop fights ex-humans in the sewers underneath Los Angeles. I loved it! This first story arc is a great beginning that introduces the world of Cal McDonald. I’m sure I’ll like the following stories as well. The Volume 1 Omnibus only has issues #1-3, but this review also covers Issues #4 and #5 which appear in Volume 2.
Personally, I usually feel like I could scream if I hear about yet another book with ‘zombies’, but this book is different. No real zombies. Ghouls, yes. Werewolves, yes. Vampires, yes. Ghouls are in between life and death – they aren’t alive so they don’t need to aggressively attack things (e.g. humans) for food but they aren’t completely dead either. They walk around looking, well, ghoulie. The main theme is not how werewolves and vampires are attacking people, it’s about Cal’s discovery that both kinds of monsters are actually grouping together and organizing the conquest of humans. He must stop them.
Cal’s sidekick is Mo’Lock, a ghoul. Mo’Lock makes a few ghoul jokes, but my favorite character is the armless ghoul Tabitha. She makes a very brief appearance but has the best line of all. I won’t spoil it for you.
Ben Templesmith’s artistic interpretation is a messy shadowy environment, perfect for creatures to come leaping and snarling out of the dark. It seems to get messier as the story moves from Issue #1 through Issue #5.
Communication is brief between the characters but that’s to be expected in a noir story. The characters are believable unless you don’t believe in ghouls. Don’t you?! As previously stated, Cal is an ex-cop, thrown off the force due to drugs and alcohol, which he still consumes in mass quantities. He’s currently hunting down vampires, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night, to save Los Angeles from their mayhem. His friend on the force, Detective Lt. Brueger, doesn’t have much personality; she mostly serves as another sidekick.
One thing that stood out wonderfully for me is the way Templesmith’s art portrays violence. Sure there’s blood, but in the scattered way the artwork is done it isn’t realistically gruesome like Frank Quitely’s work in We3 (which was a big detraction from enjoying that title). I really don’t want to see every piece of gristle.
I’d definitely recommend this book. Fun ghouls, talking heads, and an ex-cop who doesn’t care if you don’t like him; what’s not to love? ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Dark Horse Digital Comics had a Criminal Macabre bundle (issues #1-5) on sale and it sounded like the perfect story; a strung-out ex-cop fights ex-humans in the sewers underneath Los Angeles. I loved it! This first story arc is a great beginning that introduces the world of Cal McDonald. I’m sure I’ll like the following stories as well. The Volume 1 Omnibus only has issues #1-3, but this review also covers Issues #4 and #5 which appear in Volume 2.
Personally, I usually feel like I could scream if I hear about yet another book with ‘zombies’, but this book is different. No real zombies. Ghouls, yes. Werewolves, yes. Vampires, yes. Ghouls are in between life and death – they aren’t alive so they don’t need to aggressively attack things (e.g. humans) for food but they aren’t completely dead either. They walk around looking, well, ghoulie. The main theme is not how werewolves and vampires are attacking people, it’s about Cal’s discovery that both kinds of monsters are actually grouping together and organizing the conquest of humans. He must stop them.
Cal’s sidekick is Mo’Lock, a ghoul. Mo’Lock makes a few ghoul jokes, but my favorite character is the armless ghoul Tabitha. She makes a very brief appearance but has the best line of all. I won’t spoil it for you.
Ben Templesmith’s artistic interpretation is a messy shadowy environment, perfect for creatures to come leaping and snarling out of the dark. It seems to get messier as the story moves from Issue #1 through Issue #5.
Communication is brief between the characters but that’s to be expected in a noir story. The characters are believable unless you don’t believe in ghouls. Don’t you?! As previously stated, Cal is an ex-cop, thrown off the force due to drugs and alcohol, which he still consumes in mass quantities. He’s currently hunting down vampires, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night, to save Los Angeles from their mayhem. His friend on the force, Detective Lt. Brueger, doesn’t have much personality; she mostly serves as another sidekick.
One thing that stood out wonderfully for me is the way Templesmith’s art portrays violence. Sure there’s blood, but in the scattered way the artwork is done it isn’t realistically gruesome like Frank Quitely’s work in We3 (which was a big detraction from enjoying that title). I really don’t want to see every piece of gristle.
I’d definitely recommend this book. Fun ghouls, talking heads, and an ex-cop who doesn’t care if you don’t like him; what’s not to love? ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
1. Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery - The first Cal McDonald graphic novel but chronologically it takes place after the first text novel, "Savage Membrane", as he is already in LA and it mentions how he moved there from DC. His girlfriend Sabrina is mentioned in passing but his female interest is a skeptic cop. Cal finds a vampire, werewolf and zombie at a meeting together which is strange since the three never mix and after several irregular attacks by said creatures he sets off to find out why they seem to be working together. He finds a mastermind behind a plot to create super-creatures to take over the world. A great first story and introduction to the monster hunter. Templesmith's art really suits the atmosphere and I like it but admittedly it is hard at times to make out exactly what is going on since it is so dark and ethereal but by the end of the story I was really into it. A great creepy beginning to this book. (4/5)

2. A Letter from B.S. - Very short piece in which Cal gets a letter from a dead guy and intrigued, he goes to meet him and ends up doing him a favour. Rather out of character for Cal but he gets a stash of weapons out of the deed so worth it in the end. OK. (3/5)

3. Love Me Tenderloin - This is a one-shot and a great Cal McDonald case of a ghost animating meat in a beef factory and as Cal puts it "She meant so much to you that you wouldn't die. Wow. If I was a big p*ssy that would be real touching." Great story, fairly gross. Shows Cal's "sentimental side and the relationship between him and the Lieutenant is becoming more of a partnership with her less skeptical now with all she's seen. (5/5)

4. Last Train to Deadsville - First story with art by Kelley Jones which is much more stylized and preferable but it is a big jolt going from the dark, murky previous work to this. A demon possessed young man arrives at Cal's for help. Turns out he's been reading spells out of a book at the library and unleashed a succubus on his small town. Cal & Mo go to help but don't find out the succubus part until it's too late. Cal's girlfriend Sabrina turns up for the first time in this story and takes an active part by following them. Fun story. (4/5)

5. Supernatural Freak Machine - If you've read the stories, you'll know who Dr. Polynice is. Cal has met up with him a few times before and presumably this story takes place after them as it mentions the "last" time Cal met up with Polynice. Also chronologically this story takes place immediately after "Last Train..." as it refers to events from it as just having happened. This is the best story in the whole collection. It's a bit of a two-parter, first starting off with Cal getting his haunted car which would make this his 2nd one, since he had one (though different) in the stories as well. Then comes the Polynice story which is extremely creepy and we get to see the emotional side of Cal. A big stunning end leaves things in quite a different state and Cal's world is going to be a bit different when we next see him in Omnibus 2. (5/5) ( )
  ElizaJane | Jun 20, 2013 |
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In 2003 Steve Niles, creator of the 30 days of night comics series, launched a series of occult detective stories featuring the monstrously hard-boiled Cal McDonald. A pill-popping alcoholic reprobate, Cal is the only line of defense between Los Angeles and a growing horde of zombies, vampires, possessed muscle cars, mad scientists, werewolves, and much more weirdness!… (more)

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