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Criminal Macabre: The Third Child

Review

Criminal Macabre: The Third Child

written by Steve Niles with illustrations by Chris Mitten

The long-running Criminal Macabre series has seen some wild twists. What makes them the most memorable in the realm of comic book horror is Steve Niles’ ability to write moments of character development that fall strictly under the categorization of hard emotional trauma. It is within the pages of CRIMINAL MACABRE: The Third Child that we see that almost nothing phases the protagonists anymore --- and rightfully so. The protagonist, Cal McDonald, has seen some weird things --- grisly, gruesome and gory, and many times all three at once --- but never on the scale of this, the latest in the series. 

"It is a tight narrative, though sometimes seemingly rushed, but still well-rounded at both ends."

The story opens with a moment of reflection between readers and their favorite demon detective who is, in fact, now part demon himself. A soliloquy of pensive character affirmations is paired with a scene of a brutal accidental murder, committed by a child --- none other than our hero, Cal McDonald, in his youth. The man he kills, somewhat accidentally, is an old sexual predator who tries to touch McDonald while he is playing alone on a beach. The scene is over in three pages before it fully registers that this is not going to be part of the main plot. At least not clearly.  Yet any readers, new or old, need to know what kind of person our narrator and protagonist is --- they should know right off the bat what the life Cal McDonald is about: Making monsters die, despite knowing full well that he can count himself among them.

The very next page after this little aside, the prose continues, but we leave the little boy on the beach, and meet two pink demon babies. One is bulbous and large crawling on all fours like an ape. The other is closer to the size of an actual baby, but is floating just above the larger. We learn very quickly what these two are about: causing utter havoc, chaos, destruction, and hysteria to rule over for all eternity. All of this, of course, after they find the third member of their motley murder posse, referred to only as “The Third Child.” The gore and chaos after the first 20 or so pages is just a whirlwind of blood and guts. It is LA Noir punch-first politics, with splatterhouse horror, and a light dash of super-powered anti-heroics all in four issues. 

At first glance, I would have said I wasn’t entirely convinced by this book. I read it casually, as I have most of Niles’s CRIMINAL MACABRE series. And don’t misunderstand me --- I have not read most of the series. But rather, what I have read was enjoyed casually, and not with the avid attention of a diehard fan. For the most part I found the series good, but not spectacular. Yet this installment is spectacular. Once I started writing this review, I saw the subtlety hidden behind the violence and one-liners. It is a tight narrative, though sometimes seemingly rushed, but still well-rounded at both ends. CRIMINAL MACABRE: The Third Child has me wondering if I have been too harsh on the series, and is making me think that I need to dig up any and all back-issues for a new perspective.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on May 5, 2015

Criminal Macabre: The Third Child
written by Steve Niles with illustrations by Chris Mitten

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2015
  • Genres: Graphic Novel, Horror
  • Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books
  • ISBN-10: 1616556315
  • ISBN-13: 9781616556310