Review: ‘Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein’ #1

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Following the epic crossover event that laid to rest Steve Niles’ thrilling “30 Days of Night” series, Dark Horse Comics welcomes back our favourite hard-boiled anti-hero, Cal McDonald; in all his benevolent, pill-popping glory. Christopher Mitten’s fantastically loose and gritty artwork, coupled with Niles’ effortless ability to fabricate a perfectly engaging — and readily accessible — script, make “Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein” #1 an incredibly satisfying read. And if the outrageously gnarly opening pages are any indication for what’s to come, this is a comeback you don’t want to miss.

WRITTEN BY: Steve Niles
ART BY: Christopher Mitten
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE: September 25, 2013

Steve Niles isn’t one to shy away from establishing dark humor in the face of twisted absurdities and extreme gore. Being that the first issue opens with some wickedly horrifying childbirth imagery, before ending on an undoubtedly hilarious — and deliciously grisly — note, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it’s not unusual for the human psyche to interpret, and /or imagine, the simplest and most natural of things, in an exceedingly hysterical way. Given that my mind equates childbirth with scenes straight of out of “Xtro” and “Prometheus”, Niles and Mitten’s take is just another version to add to my irrational nightmares.

In “Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein” #1, the narrative follows Cal, as he struggles to cope with the life-changing aftermath of Los Angeles’ brutal battle between ghouls and vampires. Because of the undeniable chaos which befell the city, this arc will see a change of attitude in the police force, in regards to Cal and the supernatural. Niles’ “Criminal Macabre” universe is definitely changing, only our protagonist seems to be at a standstill, simply going through the motions, while trying to get his life back on track.

The recently turned ghoul becomes mysteriously ill, and must investigate the cause of death behind a large number of ghouls who are dying at an alarmingly high rate. He also has to help the distressed Frankenstein’s monster from going blind.

There’s no denying Niles’ deep affection for the monster considering the number of stories he’s weaved that feature the creature. Niles plays with a common interpretation of Mary Shelley’s 18th century Gothic novel, “Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus”, where Frankenstein’s monster’s name is concerned. In the most meta of ways, he establishes the creature’s name as Adam, literally referencing the original piece of literature in the process. The beast refers to himself as “the Adam of your labors” in Shelley’s novel, and Niles continues the trend in “The Eyes of Frankenstein” #1. He also writes his version of the creature to be exceptionally coherent and very articulate, another trait similar to Shelley’s original characterization.

Christopher Mitten is an artist who keeps evolving, and his work with Niles is evidence of that. While his visceral, scratchy, and frenetic art style may not be for everyone, his wonderfully dark and gritty renderings, along with his distinctively eccentric line work, are perfect for these types of moody tales. By offering a cohesively constructed visual adventure through panels which bring life to Niles’ story, Mitten really helps push the narrative along. He’s a natural fit for the series and his style suits the world of “Criminal Macabre” perfectly. His visual characterization of Frankenstein’s monster is the most interesting aspect of his work because, even though the character is so overbearing in stature and physical strength, there’s a sense of vulnerability in these illustrations. From murky to vibrant when the scene calls for it, Michelle Madsen’s colours are also strong in this issue. Her contribution to the opening pages is particularly fantastic.

Overall, “The Eyes of Frankenstein” #1 is a great addition to Niles’ “Criminal Macabre” universe, and the readers will be curious to see what he has in store for Cal and the iconic monster.

4/5 Skulls

Review by – ShadowJayd