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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Graphic Novels: the perfect combination of art and fiction

Criminal Macabre: The Cal McDonald Mysteries Omnibus Vol. #1
Author Steve Niles
Artwork: Kelley Jones and Ben Templesmith
I’ve always liked graphic novels, you get the beauty of the art work and a kick ass story. So I was thrilled to get an ARC of the Criminal Macabre Omnibus from Netgalley and I absolutely loved it! I haven’t read a lot of this type of graphic novel and I am not sure about the terminology I should use so please bear with me. I think this qualifies as Noir or Pulp. Since graphic novels are really the marrying of art and fiction, I will address each part separately.

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!

* This volume collects the first two
Criminal Macabre trades, the one-shot story Love Me Tenderloin, and Criminal Macabre: Supernatural Freak Machine--never before in trade paperback!

* From the creators of 30 Days of Night!

* For all your vampire and zombie fans!
Let’s talk story. Steve Nile’s Criminal Macabre Omnibus was my first introduction to Cal McDonald. He's a cynical, pill-popping, foul-mouthed, alcoholic private detective that has attracted supernatural creatures that the rest of the world doesn’t know exists ever since he was a kid. As a result, everyone close to him usually ends up dead. His partner and best friend is a very polite and dry humored Ghoul named Mo. Mo, along with all the other ghouls, lives in the sewers. The stories have a pulp feel and the character dialogue is hilarious. Snarky witticism at its best. He is like a male version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, only way more screwed-up and vulgar .
The first story Criminal Macabre is about a crazy man who has found a way to bring back the original monsters from legend, like werewolves and vampires, using a mutated form of the Bubonic plague and fleas to transmit it. You won’t believe how Cal manages to defeat this guy .
The second is the short story A Letter From B.S. Cal helps a dead man find his dead girlfriend. This story is outright hilarious, especially they way the dead guy helps Cal “see” other dead people.
The third story is Love Me Tenderloin. A rogue spirit is possessing meat products. Oh, yeah .
The fourth is Last Train To Deadsville. Here we get meet Cal’s sort of girlfriend and he has forgotten Valentine’s Day, she is a good fit for him. Instead of the usual Valentine's Day date, they end up fighting possessed rednecks and a succubus.
The last story is Supernatural Freak Machine. Cal and Mo buy a possessed car and must track down an escaped insane scientist named Dr. Polynice. This story has a more serious edge and is emotionally tough. Cal loses someone important to him, and it made me kind of sad. You end up seeing why Cal acts the way his does.
Some of my favorite Cal quotes:
“The crazy ghoul had abandoned trying to free himself. Instead he allowed his bones to be shattered so he could stretch his skin and reach what I needed. It was the coolest thing he’d ever done for me. But really f***ing gross.”
“Every once in a while a case comes along that you don’t solve so much as it mows you down and drags you along until it’s over. This was going to be one of those cases. If I’d known at the time, I would have stayed on the f***ing toilet.”
“Polynice is a grade A twisted F***. He likes to play with dead things, Even if he has to make them dead to play with them.”
Now let’s talk artwork. The first 3 stories are illustrated by Ben Templesmith. I think his minimalist approach was a perfect fit for these stories. There isn’t a lot of detail in the art, but the facial expressions are priceless. The rest of the stories are illustrated by Kelley Jones. His work has a more “pop” art feel. It is completely different from Templesmith, with all the detail, but still a perfect fit for the characters. I didn’t prefer one over the other. Both were entertaining and added to the experience.
Here are some examples of their work:



I give this Omnibus 5 monster killing Sheep!
SS (edited by BAK)


  1. I have to admit I have only read one graphic novel and actually bought it not realizing what it was - baby steps here I am learning. I still do not know if I like them or not - but I enjoyed reading your view!

  2. some of those quotes are pretty funny. the artwork looks amazing as well, great review Sharon. :)

  3. Someone suggested that comic books (oops, that's Graphic Novels now) are the purest form of art. I think I just found the perfect gift for one of my daughters.

  4. This looks awesome! :D Great review!

  5. Why won't they just release a trade for supernatural freak machine. I've got every Cal Mcdonald graphic novel, book and even forked out 1f.99 for the Iron Spirit so why do I want to pay 18.99 for omnibus when the only one and I'm guessing other fans want is supernatural freak machine. C'mon Mr Niles, he's your favorite character, you won't let the studios mess with him, how about giving your fans a little something back and telling Dark Horse to release the single trade. Pretty please with sugar icing on top.

    1. I will let him know next time I see him! He is usually at a convention or two in my area :) you could Harris him via twitter or Facebook...but you didn't hear that from me