Niles, Steve. With Christopher Mitten, Michelle Madsen, Nate Piekos, and Justin Erickson. Criminal Macabre: Final Night; The 30 Days of Night Crossover. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2013.

This compendium comprises all four disturbing, yet entrancing, chapters originally released individually. The stark art and minimalist realism tell as much of the story as the words. The tale centers on Cal McDonald, a rough independent vampire hunter with a secret. He is not always successful and occasionally escapes with little more than his skin intact, and occasionally not even that. Ghouls, the only supernatural beings to side with humans in the great conflict, are an uncertain ally at best when even fellow humans sometimes betray one another.

The vampires are recruiting rather than merely feeding, including 200 or so highly trained FBI Agents from the Los Angeles Field Office, and it’s up to McDonald to figure out why and how to stop it. He is alerted to the danger by FBI Agent Alice Blood and a ghoul named Mo’lock. Eben Olemaun, the vampiric leader, was barely restrained while his wife Stella was with him. Turned to ashes by Agent Blood, he is now mad with vengeance. The City of Angels will soon become the City of Demons if Olemaun and his associate, John, Lord Westminster, have their way. Even the ghouls are not safe as the vampires use the myriad foreclosed and dilapidated homes of LA as their hiding ground.

Agent Hendrik, one of those turned at the field office, was Blood’s boss. Though now a vampire, he arranged to get help to Blood through LAPD Detective Wheatley so she could complete her mission of destroying the last earthly remains of Stella before Olemaun can resurrect her. Hiding in a safe house, McDonald, Blood, and Mo’lock are overwhelmed by Olemaun’s forces and McDonald is shot repeatedly in the belly, leaving his innards strewn across the ground. His story is not over yet, however, as it is revealed he is a ghoul himself, masquerading as a man. But it’s too late. Downtown LA is under attack and Olemaun slays Agent Blood. Her blood spreads across the ground, wetting Stella’s spilled ashes. She is briefly resurrected to castigate Olemaun for his atrocities and holds him still as McDonald re-kills them both. Though Olemaun and his wife are safely dead, his followers in all their thousands are still at large with no way to track them down or be sure they are all accounted for. McDonald knows they will return. McDonald briefly mourns Blood but honors her for dying as a soldier in a war far larger than even she understood.

The two series that are crossed here, 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre are written and drawn by the same pair, Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten, so synching them up, even briefly, suggested itself almost naturally and proved to be a straightforward endeavor, and certain preparatory moves were made to get the characters and the audience ready for this crossover series. The building tension between Olemaun and Blood virtually guaranteed that 30 Days of Night would end as its own series with the finale of the present volume.

The effort is seamless. The storytelling is flawless. The culmination of the epic story is worthy of its creator, its audience, and its characters. Read this book.

J. Holder Bennett