Steve Niles’ “Criminal Macbre: Final Night” seamlessly bleeds two worlds together resulting in a strong entry for both series. Cal Macdonald goes toe to toe with Eben Olemaun in a battle to save Los Angeles. The story is simple and compelling. The book is an absolute joy to read to due the charismatic Cal chewing the scenery with every chance he gets. This is a blood soaked love letter to old characters and it shouldn’t be missed.
Cal Macdonald exists in the deepest dankest parts of L.A. He is a creature of the night, and when he is not busy vomiting black gunk, he’s usually destroying any number of demons. He is a compelling protagonist who always finds a way to defeat his adversaries.
A sheriff turned vampire, who was resurrected by his darling wife, only to see her vanquished before his eyes Eben Olemaun is a tragic character. In “Criminal Macabre Final Night” these two creatures are on a collision course, and it couldn’t be more entertaining.
The story wouldn’t have felt right with Cal in Antartica. Instead Niles’ opts to bring Alice Blood into Macdonald’s life. They get along famously and there is a certain air of attraction to their relationship. It’s a great moment for Cal. We get to see him really enjoy himself, and attempt to impress a woman. As he is often ankle deep in shit, this is a new perspective for readers.
Eben is bent on vengeance. His motivation here is quite simple and never amounts to anything more than revenge. Niles never gives Eben much more than a menacing plan to take over LA by amassing an army of vampires. The catalyst for the story is a little weak, but revenge works on a surface level. Sadly the motivation for Eben and thus the motivation for Cal never becomes more than defeating one another. Yet, Eben serves as a remarkable adversary for Cal, which provides a good enough story.
Niles treats us to moments of vulnerability, and even teases the death of a major character. The plot progresses with fantastic pace. Thanks to advance planning, the story feels like a natural extension of both franchises. In essence Niles makes his “30 Days of Night” swansong a grand and epic production.
Christopher Mitten’s art is shrouded in darkness and soaked in gore. He creates a moody, dark, and brooding feel for the book. The heavy shadows spell impending doom for Cal. When the action hits full stride Mitten masterfully balances the flow. Legions of monsters descend on one another in this book, and Mitten ensures the reader never feels lost in the chaos.
Mitten’s depiction of Cal is truly something to marvel at. He looks more downtrodden and ghastly with every page. His black vomit is always the center of attention. Jagged lines serve perfectly as the wounds on Cal’s body. Mitten really shines in moments of gore soaked. A particular battle featuring Mo’Lock comes to mind, as well as a communal blood sacrifice that will make your eyes bleed with awesome.
The final confrontation between Cal and Eben is masterfully handled by both Niles and Mitten. There is a clear battle of wills, and Niles reluctantly lets go of one of these characters in a beautiful moment.
This is Niles at his best. Cal Macdonald never fails to be compelling, but when smashed against the world of “30 Days of Night” he rockets into the champion who can provide the ultimate resolution. It’s almost as if this is the way Niles had always conceived it. The read is fast, engaging, and truly horrific.
Rating: 4/5 Skulls