Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten are back for another installment of Criminal Macabre, and I wish I could say this first issue felt like it was leading toward something big, but the by-the-book nature of this horror romp is rather uninspiring.
Steve Niles gives horror readers what they’ve read a thousand times before in the first issue of this volume, the emergence of a creepy threat, some blood and guts and death, and a crew of misfits that are going to have to take it on. While it is a tried and true formula that is called “tried and true” because it works, this issue of Criminal Macabre is missing the hook, that something different and special, that will have readers creeped out or shocked and clamoring back for more. Long time Criminal Macabre readers may be very content with what they find here, like visiting an old friend that it is just nice to hang out with even if it isn’t the greatest visit ever, but new readers looking to dive into the horror series are going to find a story that is very similar to what is found in several Mignolaverse books and other comics throughout the industry. Niles is known as a horror master, and I’m sad to say this one lacks the spark needed to get my skin crawling and hair tingling.
The pacing of this story is a large part of the issue. The story moves rather quickly between different locations, checking in on a fair number of characters in a short amount of time. This is to be expected from any #1, but in this case the interactions are forced and sterile. One of the best written displays of emotion in the issue is seemingly brushed aside and negated 4 pages later, diffusing the most dramatic element of the issue and fizzling out most of the tension between the characters. From that point the issue seems to coast toward an ending that didn’t pull me in at all for issue #2, and that about sums up the story as a whole.
Christopher Mitten delivers some very inconsistent art in this issue, and while Cal looks pretty good on most pages, other characters are almost unrecognizable from one page to the next. His facial work is lacking for the non-recurring characters and the creepy factor is nowhere to be found in this comic. The visual tone of the issue is very much what I would expect to see from a book in the BPRD/Hellboy universe, and there is little to visually differentiate this world from that one. There is not much here that drew me in and at times the artwork felt very rushed. Moments that felt like they were supposed to have an impact sputtered and faltered, which disappointed me. I’ve seen stronger work from Mitten in the past and for the sake of this series I hope it trends toward the best aspects of this #1 and leaves the rest behind.
Criminal Macabre: The Third Child #1 missed the mark for me and I highly doubt I’ll be back for a second issue. The flat characters and lack of hook left me feeling like I was simply reading a story go through the motions and I was completely detached. The series very well may turn around from this start point, and for fans of the series I hope it does quickly. Niles and Mitten are veterans who can spin a tale, but this installment of Criminal Macabre wasn’t for me.
The Verdict: 4.0/10