They took Cal McDonald’s bride.  That was a mistake…  Your Major Spoilers review of Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out #4 from Dark Horse Comics awaits!


Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Gyula Nemeth
Colorist: Jennie Pennifer
Letterer: Nate Piekos of BLAMBOT
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 11, 2020

Previously in Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed OutDropped into a LA nightclub full of decapitated vampires, supernatural detective Cal McDonald hunts down the man responsible for kidnapping his monster bride.


This issue opens with a slightly puzzling sequence as a man who seems pretty undead leads a group of people out of the sewer and into the Los Angeles river. They thank him for rescuing them and he trudges away into the night carrying the skull-and-spine of a monster with him. Elsewhere, Cal McDonald races across town to his girlfriend’s club, Bits & Pieces, where he finds nothing but blood, guts and the remnants of a massacre, In Victoria’s office, he finds a man in pilgrim clothes who introduces himself as Larry Van Helsing… Vampire Killer. Cal demands to know what has happened to Victoria, so Larry leads him across town to an abandoned factory, where they discover innocent people behind held in cages and drained of their blood. When Victoria arrives, Larry goes for the kill, only for Cal to interfere and get him killed. When Cal demands answers from his girl, who admits she didn’t tell him because he’d react badly, leading him to shoot her repeatedly in the face until she is (apparently) dead. Cut to his apartment, where Cal is telling the story to the zombie man from the opening sequence, realizing that he’s got no idea where to go from here…

…until he sees the giant monster skull on the floor.


After reading this issue, I went back to read the previous three, and a few things were made clear to me: The undead fellow is called Mo’lock and the story of what happened with Victoria is a flashback that Cal has been telling him about why he went missing and seemingly gave up on monster hunting. None of that is even hinted at in these pages, and the issue doesn’t have a “What Has Come Before” recap, which would have helped immensely. I am a little bit torn on Nemeth’s art in these pages, as well, as I enjoy the use of shadow and storytelling to lead us through the darkness of evil LA, but find the facial expressions sufficiently cartoony to damage the drama (especially Larry Van Helsing, whose name is another problem.) There are a few points where the art overcomes lack of context in the story/dialogue, which is good, but at other points, it becomes a confusing mess, as we see in the battle with Victoria. Still, the biggest issue I have with this book is one that’s almost out of the creators control: Combining horror (where everybody dies screaming) and noir (where everybody the protagonist loves will die horribly) makes this an incredibly depressing story. That’s obviously by design on the creators’ part, but it still makes for a grim reading experience.


The upshot of it all isn’t that Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out #4 ends on a dark and depressing note, but that the journey to that low point has serious issues when presented as an individual chapter, with a lack of context and art that sometimes undermines itself muting the effectiveness of the story, earning a still-above-average 3 out of 5 stars overall. The full four-issue story actually reads much more clearly and has more context, so I’d recommend that fans of these creators or of Criminal Macabre in general pick it up in the collected trade.

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Melding the tropes of of horror with noir makes for a moody (if inconsistently told) story, but BOY is it ever depressing...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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