Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein #1
By Steve Niles, Christopher Mitten, & Michelle Madsen
The latest Criminal Macabre mini-series, The Eyes of Frankenstein, continues from recent tales of Cal McDonald as he and Mo’Lock attempt to track the source of the problems that have begun to plague the ghoul community. This over-arching plot continues amidst a new story involving one of the most famous monsters of all time. Given the typically brief nature of the Criminal Macabre books, it’s nice to see two interesting story elements converging to convey a wider plot dynamic. This series doesn’t break any new ground and can hardly be described as particularly unique, but the first issue in Eyes of Frankenstein suggests this could be a fun story.
In keeping with recent developments, Cal himself is a ghoul now, although the transformation is still not going well. Furthermore, the recent battle against the vampire legions was only the beginning of ghoul-community problems, as there is apparently some sort of illness plaguing them which causes death, something not typical for ghouls unless their bodies are entirely destroyed. This aspect of the growing plot is particularly interesting for the series and provides a welcomed shift in tone. Although this first installment has only just begun this part of the story, it already feels like a fun mystery which will hopefully continue to permeate this arc. The introduction of the timelessly classic monster of Dr. Frankenstein, Adam, was also an interesting addition, especially when considering the nature of his current plight; being an unnaturally constructed creature, his eyes are beginning to fail. Blindness would be the ultimate damnation for Adam, given his passion for reading. This story element felt quite deep for a Criminal Macabre book. Although there wasn’t a great deal of exposition or even specific attention drawn to it, this concept resonates so clearly with the reader, given that this medium we love so much is primarily visual in nature. Despite the overall grim nature of this story, Steve Niles has managed to inject the expected dose of humor throughout the pages of The Eyes of Frankenstein #1. This aspect of the dialogue never overwhelms the relatively serious nature of the story, but is done in a way that tends to enhance the overall feeling of the book into one which expertly walks the fine line between forced dark humor, and natural character interaction and dialogue.
Christopher Mitten has recently contributed art to a number of Criminal Macabre stories, but his work in Eyes of Frankenstein seems to have improved. Although the overall style has remained consistent with his previous contributions, there seems to be a greater emphasis on the attention to detail in this book. The characters haven’t changed drastically, but the use of more detailed facial features and shadowing feels apparent and deepen the look of this issue. Furthermore, the enhanced detail seems more apparent in the backgrounds, something which often felt lacking in previous installments. The colors provided by Michelle Madsen are another visual feature which appears to have evolved a great deal. Although the dark, grim tone of the series is perfectly maintained, there appears to be a bit of easing up on the palette restrictions with some overall lighter tones mixed in where appropriate to add a much more vivid sensibility to each panel.
Criminal Macabre books are too often somewhat bland, but Eyes of Frankenstein #1 was a pleasant surprise. Although treading familiar ground, this book just felt more fun than previous stories. The sense of mystery set amidst the dark, gritty world of Cal McDonald, mixed with a subtly light-hearted undertone was very enjoyable and has set the bar higher for the next issue. The additional commentary on literature and classic horror stories was also excellently executed. Aside from the evolved story-telling apparent in this latest installment, this was one of the best looking Criminal Macabre books from recent arcs. If you have enjoyed these characters in the past, now is a great time to jump back into Cal’s world because things just got a whole lot better.