Review - Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1

"The world thinks they love monsters."

The things that go bump in the night do so in an attempt to scare everyone else. And for the most part, they do a pretty good job of it. That's why it's important that humanity has defenders like Cal, even if he is losing a little bit of that humanity. Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 from Dark Horse Comics offers a glimpse into his rapidly fraying world. The issue is written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Christopher Mitten, colored by Michelle Madsen and lettered by Nate Piekos.

Cal’s changed...and maybe not for the better. Locked away and drowning himself with booze and aspirin, Cal feels the evil consuming him. Will he be able to withstand its pull or will he become the monster war’s greatest weapon of destruction? And what about old friends making another appearance? Typically, those "friends" tend to show up at the most inopportune times and with the vilest of intentions.

Criminal Macabre is a universe that feels pretty familiar to readers at this point, but that doesn't prevent Niles from returning to said universe. Cal's position is a little worse than readers might remember him last, with him struggling to reconcile his new changes with his hatred of demons. That contrast makes the book feel pretty interesting and fresh, as Cal is a little rough around the edges when it comes to dealing with his new powers. To that end, Niles infuses the dialogue with some pretty solid explanations as well that makes the book feel pretty accessible to new readers. Niles also throws in some pretty creepy characters peppered throughout that gives the book an effective level of creepiness.

Nothing says creepy like babies and Mitten ensures that Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 has its fair share of extremely unsettling babies. His illustrations do a great job of tapping into a more sinister universe, offering up a wide variety of demons. Cal's transformation is also displayed effectively, giving the reader great insights into what exactly Cal is going through. Mitten's use of the gutters is pretty fantastic too, with some pages relying on stark white and others blending the gutters in a bigger image. This makes the panels stand out and blend in accordingly, giving the book a great variety visually.

Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 is like taking a trip down a road in a familiar neighborhood after a few years. You're likely familiar with the area for the most part, but there are a few new things you might not remember. In that regard, Niles gives readers a maturing Cal faced with many of the same problems that he always faces in a seemingly never-ending stream of demons. Mitten offers up some pretty imaginative layouts that accent a rather sinister style, offering up all the familiar evils readers have come to expect from the Criminal Macabre series. Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 is a pretty enjoyable book that presents Cal with some brand new challenges, both within himself and externally.

Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 is in stores September 17 with interiors below.