All private dick Cal wants to do is forget…forget the bewitching vampiress he’s fallen for. But his undead partner Mo Lock has other ideas. In Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1, from Dark Horse Comics, can true love find a way, or is Cal destined to say ‘fangs’ for the memories? And while Cal sorts out his romantic life, what does Mo’Lock find in the tunnels beneath LA? Find out in our Major Spoilers review!
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Gyula Nemeth
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 11th, 2019
Steve Niles has a strong resume writing horror comic series. Everyone knows him thanks to his groundbreaking work on 30 Days of Night. It’s not all vampires all the time, of course. Aside from working on some Batman titles, Niles has also done work in The X-Files milieu, and ventured to the outer limits of sanity with Cthulhu Tales. With Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1, Niles ventures back to his earliest creation, Cal MacDonald.
Cal MacDonald has been hunting after the denizens of the night for nigh on 30 years, thanks to the creator and writer Steve Niles dedication to his character. Featuring in a number of comic series down the years, Cal has even appeared in a number of novels detailing his adventures. Very much in the mode of John Constantine, but with less of the Brit self loathing that marks the character, Cal MacDonald is happy to ally himself with some of the creatures of the night while going after the more darker members of that strange tribe.
Reading Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1 feels very much like a reintroduction to the character. The storyline is basic; Cal falls hard for a red headed vampiress named Victoria, perhaps too hard, and unable to reconcile his emotions, deliberately goes missing with the homeless of LA. His ghoulish sidekick, Mo’Lock, concerned for his partner, finds him and drags him kicking and screaming back to civilisation. While Cal begins to acclimate to his old life, Mo’Lock picks up a case involving workers on a tunnel who have gone missing. Then Cal gets a knock at the door involving a shotgun blast.
This approach allows for a gentle introduction to the character and the set up. There’s nothing overly spectacular going on in Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1, but it is very competently done, even if some of the dialogue feels clunky as Niles fills in some of the backstory. Regardless, it is a solid writing effort, with a number of elements – Victoria the Vampiress and Mo’Lock’s side investigation, that will no doubt seed nicely through future issues.
Special mention should go to artist Nyula Nemeth, whose work nicely evokes the mean streets of LA. There’s a lovely apocalyptic feel to the city, sitting on the edge of disaster, beset by earthquakes on one side, and the prospect of raging fires in the hills to give the sense that the end is near. His character work is very good as well, with a range of characters portrayed that never feel the same, and have lovely little character moments; bulging eyes, an evocative turn of the head, or Cal’s hunched shoulders, that bring the figures to life.
The coloring here is also fantastic – no one is specifically credited, but whoever did it, take a bow. With the main villain/temptress being a female vampire, it is no surprise the main color theme is red – whether it is the bloody light cast by the guttering of the sun as it dies on the horizon, or the crimson themed decor of the club where Cal meets Victoria. Personally, I love black and white art – the starkness of the imagery often strikes a bold note that can carry an indifferent story. But here, with Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1, the coloring stands out and works to the betterment of the story. A close up of Victoria’s red tinged lips, with the hint of fangs behind them, is a stark reminder that the visual arts are what readers respond to the most.
BOTTOM LINE: A GOOD START
Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1 brings back a character that feels at once familiar, but thanks to the setting, is sufficiently different from what we might have read before. Cal MacDonald might not in this issue leap from the page, but Steve Niles has a strong track record of creating interesting horror scenarios and populating them with strong, vibrant characters.
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Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out #1
Criminal Macabre The Big Bleed Out #1 is off to a slow start, but Steve Niles has seeded enough plot lines into the main story that future issues of this series will no doubt have a strong payoff.