[Review] Criminal Macabre Omnibus: Volume 2

The mayhem continues in the imaginative mind of Steve Niles, and once again, it does not cease to amaze. In volume 2 of Criminal Macabre Omnibus, heroic douche-waffle Cal McDonald’s adventures with the bizarre continue, with his ghoulish comrade, Mo’ Lock, a safe distance behind. Omnibus is a trade novel that gathers Criminal Macabre Volumes 4-6, the one-shot Feat of Clay, “The Creepy Tree” and “The Trouble with Brains” (originally featured on MySpace Dark Horse Presents), and “Hairball” from Dark Horse Presents, which is, according to DarkHorse.com, “In color for the first time!” Read on for the skinny…

CriminalMacabre2 WRITTEN BY: Steve Niles
ILLUSTRATIONS BY: Kyle Hotz, Nick Stakal, and Casey Jones
PUBLISHED BY: Dark Horse Comics

This volume of Criminal Macabre Omnibus contains the individual stories: “Hairball,” “Feat of Clay,” “Two Red Eyes,” “The Trouble with Brains,” “The Creepy Tree,” “My Demon Baby,” “Cell Block 666,” and a mini sketchbook. “Hairball” delivers the perfect opening to the book with immediate action… involving a giant head. The issue starts off on a light, funny note – a perfect way to introduce Cal. Although it’s a large part of him, it is, indeed, only one facet to a deep and versatile character.

Once again, Steve Niles does not cease to disappoint; this book was stunning from cover to cover. Niles has a command for the English language that catapults the characters into a new dimension of believability. The dialogue is consistently strong, particularly in Cal. His narration is raw and uncensored, not to mention downright hilarious at times. It doesn’t read like the voice is forcing jokes, though, or trying too hard. The tone flows naturally, as if the reader can hear every “shit” and “fuck” come out of Cal’s cigarette-clamping trap. The conversations between he and Mo’ Lock are some of the best scenes, because their friendship is so strange that their banter can bring up some riveting laughter.

Of course, the story is made even more engaging by the visuals. Each artist brought a new strength to the table. Casey Jones used predominately thin lines to show every hair, wrinkle, and detail. The structure of the characters’ faces brought me back to classic comics, full of expression and action, with a dash of campiness. Kyle Hotz’ art brought out Cal’s darker side. Cal’s face had sharper angles to bring out heavier shadows. Nick Stakal draws with heavy shadowing and sharp lines, which gives everything an edge of mystery. A few of the stories had a warm orange tone that made the shadows go BLAMM (harder than Cal’s shotgun when he’s teasing Mo’). The color palette in each installment seems to orbit Cal’s character, like he brings fire with him wherever he goes, which ties into his troublemaking persona. Let’s be real – trouble does, in fact, follow him everywhere, yes?

Be sure to check out this fantastic new novel which hits on December 21st, published by Dark Horse Comics. Also, definitely check out some of Steve Niles’ other great pieces, whether you’re a long-time fan that needs a refresher or a beginner. For more information about Criminal Macabre Omnibus: Volume 2, visit DarkHorseComics.com.