Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery
Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith
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Buy *Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery* online

Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery

Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith
Dark Horse Comics
160 pages
April 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Cal McDonald can see dead people. Actually, some of his best friends are ghouls, and he can often be found hanging out in the dark pits of Los Angeles with various forms of undead people: ghouls, ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves. Ever since he was a child, heís been plagued by the undead. After an unsuccessful stint as a police officer, he ended up working for tabloids and a supernatural detective.

In Criminal Macabre, McDonald finds himself mixed up in a series of events that are shattering all the truths he has learned over the years of dealing with mythical creatures. Werewolves and vampires are organizing and stealing from the humans instead of just hunting as they have always done. They are also a lot stronger. Before, McDonald could just used a regular gun to take out an attacking werewolf or bloodsucker, but now the old superstitious tales of silver and crosses seem to be the only thing that will stop his enemies.

If thatís not enough, the police keep pestering about his amazing ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, including several murder scenes. His one friend on the police force, Lieutenant Detective Brueger, grows impatient with his crazy stories of monsters - until she finds herself facing out against a werewolf. Now the two must figure out what is driving the monsters to organize, become bold, and repeatedly attempt to kill McDonald.

This delicious tale of demons and detectives was orchestrated by Steve Niles. Previous stories about Cal McDonald can be found in book format, where Niles first established the pill-popping, alcohol-inclined, smart-mouthed detective. Despite his bad habits (he smokes, too), his tendency to enjoy the company of the dead, and his grim demeanor, McDonald still remains loveable. Heís a brasher and maybe more loathsome Han Solo whoís a product of his environment but still capable of exerting agency in the face of a hairy eight-foot snarling werewolf. McDonald also has a sense of humor and delivers one-liners that will actually make readers laugh out loud.

Known through the comic book industry for his fantastic and fearful storylines, Steve Niles thrives in the atmosphere of the dark and devilish. In the horror genre, he and Ben Templesmith have written award-winning series including the very popular 30 Days of Night series. Templesmithís harsh drawing of Nilesí stories culminates in a haunting and brooding depiction that gives each panel a nightmarish ambience. Throughout the graphic novel, Templesmithís tone adds darker layers of morbidity. The minor glitch of his drawing can be that panels and characters are sometimes hard to identify. But for the few instances where this does happen, itís more than worth the momentary confusion to have a graphic novel so engorged with chaos and carnage that it carries through to the drawing.

Another rising star in horror, Rob Zombie provides the introduction, and fans will enjoy an afterword by Niles as well as an added story. Brief biographies of Niles and Templesmith round out this graphic novel, making it a full and enjoyable piece to keep coming back to. Definitely not for kids, Criminal Macabre will leave adults wanting more and looking forward to the next adventure for Cal McDonald.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2005

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