Posts tagged Steve Niles

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Chin Music #1 Review

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Chin Music #1 Review 

Writing:  Steve Niles

Art: Tony Harris

Review by Melissa Megan

Apparently, Chin Music is about a guy named Shaw who can leap through time and possesses supernatural powers. He’s on the run from some other creepy dudes who also have powers, like tearing his skin from his bones. Apparently he has landed in Prohibition era Chicago and must now contend with the local police, gangsters and the supernatural underground. I say apparently because Image Comics tells me that this is what’s happening in Chin Music, but to be perfectly honest I only understood about half of that premise reading through issue #1.

I hate to criticize Steve Niles at all because I really love pretty much everything he puts his pen to, but this introduction just didn’t connect with me, story wise. There’s a lot going on, but not all of it is clear. Granted, it’s a pilot issue, so there’s lots more story to tell and time to tell it. I have all the faith in the world that Niles will pull the plot together in future issues and that my confusion will disappear. Not being crystal on what’s going on in this issue doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy it, however. It is action packed, moody, violent and spooky. I just don’t ‘get it’ yet.

The artwork by Tony Harris is brilliant here. It’s thick with atmosphere and very, very pretty. Some of the panels are framed in art deco borders, like intricate picture frames. This lends quite a bit of flourish to the pages and really helps set the retro style of the book. Harris’ characters all seem to have large, chunky facial features and knobby knuckles, but it’s less of a distraction than a style. I found his play with color and texture very pleasing to look at.

All in all, Chin Music seems like it could be a quality series. As long as the story isn’t too difficult to grasp, there’s a good idea here and some unique styling. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one and am anxious to see Steve Niles develop it further.

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Review: Final Night #4 of 4

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Writing: Steve Niles

Art:  Christopher Mitten

Review by Melissa Megan

Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun have been battling it out in the middle of Los Angeles. Eben is out for revenge after the murder of his wife, Stella, by creating an army of vampires and feasting on the human race. He sells this plan to his followers by convincing them that vampires should no longer hide in the shadows of night but become the superior race on earth, knocking humans down on the food chain. Cal is now among the world of ghouls, walking and fighting but not necessarily living. He’s been tormented by a black vomit illness since his ‘change’ and struggles to maintain the strength needed to defeat the vampire leader and save the human race.

Final Night is the final issue of the Criminal Macabre/ 30 Days of Night crossover and writer Steve Niles has declared that only one of the series will survive when it’s over. I’m not a spoiler type, but I will tell you that I’m very happy about the outcome.

Cal pulls himself out of the rubble, entrails and organs on the floor, ready to keep kicking ass. That is what the man does best, at the sacrifice of his own physical and mental well being. It’s obvious to his best ghoul buddy, Mo’Lock, that he won’t be sticking around for much longer in his current condition and Mo’Lock is determined to do anything he can to save Cal. Blood is required to heal his already dead body, but who’s blood? And how much?

Meanwhile, Eben has released his army upon the Los Angeles night, beginning with the busy party strip. They feast, tear and demolish their way through the crowds, hungry for destruction and blood. Eben has Detective Alice Blood, Cal’s love interest, and knows that Cal will come for her. The two leaders will soon come face to face with their armies; ghouls versus vampires. Only one side can win this fight and there’s no doubt blood will be shed.

I’ve been reading Criminal Macabre for years, it’s one of my top favorite series. 30 Days of Night is also quality work, just not as much of a draw for me as the big, rag tag personality of Cal McDonald. Steve Niles has pulled off this crossover with skill, managing to let the two main characters meet and go to war without diminishing the power of either. These are two bad ass dudes, each with their own personal agendas and commitments to their cause. Christopher Mitten’s art has been a treat and a perfect companion to this story. I’ve very much enjoyed seeing the two clash and I think the conclusion of Final Night will satisfy readers, regardless of who you were hoping to see come out on top.

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Review: Criminal Macabre: Final Night- 30 Days of Night Crossover #2

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Writing: Steve Niles

Art: Christopher Mitten

Issue #2 of the Criminal Macabre / 30 Days of Night crossover continues the clash of Cal Mcdonald, hunter of everything supernatural and evil, and vampire leader Eben Olemaun. Eben is building  a huge army of blood sucking monsters in hopes of taking over the world from humans. Cal and his ghoul sidekick, Mo’Lock, have teamed up with a pretty female FBI agent named Alice Blood. For the first time, Cal is actually getting some assistance from law enforcement, mostly because the vampires have been massacring agents and police officers all over L.A.

Cal is a ghoul now and having some challenges adjusting to that, but it hasn’t stopped him from carrying on his business or living hard. Eben Olemaun is kicking ass inside his circle to reclaim the remains of his wife and to express his rage over her death on the human race. Very soon, these two will clash and the battle will be ugly.

Crossovers are a tough thing in comic books; stories are not written to melt in to each other and combining them often takes something away from one or the other. This combination is working, maybe because the backdrop of supernatural power struggles are so similar in Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night. The personalities of Cal McDonald and Eben Olemaun are both intense and raw, there can only be an explosion when the two are brought together.

Steve Niles has been rumored to say that only one of these characters (and their series) will survive this crossover. Personally, I’m betting on Cal McDonald and Mo’Lock. I’ve been a fan of the Criminal Macabre series for years and it would be a terrible loss to comics to see his story end. Do you hear me, Steve? Let Cal live!

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Review: 30 Days of Night #10

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Writing by: Steve Niles

Art by: Christopher Mitten

Eben’s vampire army is growing by the hundreds every day. He’s driven to get revenge for the brutal death of his love, Stella. he is also attempting to forge some kind of alliance or at least a truce with the deceitful European vampires. At the same time, FBI agents are crossing lines to find an advantage in their fight against the blood thirsty creatures. They’re bringing big guns and no fear, throwing rules and protocol to the wind.

Scary tale spinner extraordinaire Steve Niles continues the trek of Eben and his immortal tribe of vampires in 30 Days of Night #10. This series has been going for a long time now, and it’s featured a few artists along the way, but the work of Christopher MItten feels really harmonious here. Issue #10 doesn’t bring much action, really, but instead takes a slow burn to build up the tension for upcoming confrontations and likely messy battles.

30 Days of Night is one the best horror series on the shelves today, so if you aren’t already reading it, start now. There’s plenty of material out there already.

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Review: Criminal Macabre- The Iron Spirit

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Cal McDonald is back, sort of, and ready to take on a new job of ghoul, monster and or spirit hunting. He’s a little worse for wear, a little more ‘living dead’, and struggling to find his old self in this new situation. The old routine of drink and drugs doesn’t seem to have the same effect anymore, he can’t sleep and everything just feels weird. Good thing the world never runs out of creepy bad guys for him to chase around.

When Air Force Captain Richard Clayton shows up at Cal’s door, looking old, tired and beat up, Cal is happy to get back to the grind and hopefully make a few bucks. Clayton is war torn, but what really weighs on his soul are the bitter spirits that have him fearing for his life and desperate. He takes Cal to a secret underground bunker where what appears to be a horribly failed government weapons project left several very angry spirits behind, looking for some level of pay back for their pain, suffering and death. Angry spirits are Cal McDonald’s specialty, but these ones have a heartbreaking story and Cpt. Clayton requests that they be handled with care. Cal also finds himself faced with the guilt and sadness of the old man, which lends a heavy air of melancholy to this particular story.

Steve Niles teams up with artist Scott Morse (comic artist & Pixar designer) and it works beautifully. Criminal Macabre has always been one of my favorite series from Niles, but this one has a real touch of emotion to it that I found gave it real depth. Cal McDonald is a gruff, rough edged character with many personal flaws and The Iron Spirit really touched on those while at the same time shining light on his empathetic, softer side.

Criminal Macabre, The Iron Spirit is a must have addition to your collection if you’re an established fan and a great starter story if you’re curious to dip your toes in to the adventures of Cal McDonald. Steve Niles is a fantastic, creative writer who never puts out something less than top quality and his Criminal Macabre books have utilized the talents of several artists over the years, this one being no exception. I definitely recommend picking up The Iron Spirit, which is available now, from Dark Horse Comics.

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Review: Freaks of the Heartland

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Back in 2005 Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre) and Greg Ruth (The Matrix, Conan) introduced us to an endearing and damaged young boy named Trevor. He’s a simple kid, living in a small Midwestern town with his farming family. Trevor’s problems seem at first to stem from his father’s drinking problem and a nasty temperament but we soon discover that there is much more on Trevor’s mind and in his heart. His family hides a secret, a younger brother to Trevor, who is quite different and hidden away in the dark. Trevor loves his brother dearly and looks out for him as best he can, while under the cruel control of his father.

Freaks of the Heartland is a touching and painful story of a town embarrassed of their blemishes,  and what happens when one brave boy makes the choice to stand up for what he knows is right, no matter what sacrifices he must make in the process. The story is not complex, rather quite simplistic and all the more raw for it. It’s the kind of book you can’t put down until you’re finished, largely because you’re rooting for the good guys to win and just can’t stop until you know that they do. Steve Niles does a beautiful job of building of Trevor’s story with layers of sadness, loyalty and triumph.

I can not underestimate the quality and aesthetic importance of Greg Ruth’s art to this book. Freaks of the Heartland would not have the depth and edge that it depends on without the perfect style he brings. Most panels play out more like individual paintings, each made up of heavy brush strokes and gorgeous landscapes of blended color. 

The collected hard cover edition of this book was released July 04 by Dark Horse comics. It also includes some great notes and sketches from Greg Ruth on the character development, along with each individual cover for the original issues.

If you haven’t read Freaks of the Heartland before, I highly recommend it. I am a big fan of hard cover collections, especially for unique comics like this one, which I believe will be a classic to return to again and again.

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Interview: Steve Niles and Menton3

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As many of you know, a new project between comics writer Steve Niles and breakout artist Menton3 was recently announced and has stirred up quite a bit of excitement. Personally, I’m jumping up and down, squeeing like a child going to Disney for the first time. Steve Niles is an amazing story teller, specifically in the realm of horror. Menton3 creates some of the most intense and beautifully crafted art landscapes the comic industry has ever seen. These two together? Explosions will surely happen. Not only are these guys both incredible creators, they are also super nice, down to earth dudes and they were awesome enough to let me nail them down for an afternoon chat about Nosferatu Wars. The conversation veered into so many directions; Steve and Menton were candidly honest about who they are and why they love being part of the comics industry. I found the whole thing thought provoking, intriguing and just lots of fun. I hope you do too.

Steve Niles/ Menton3 interview:

Lissa: Ok, guys, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I know you both have tons of projects going on right now.

Steve: Of course.

Menton:  It’s a nice break for me, to stop and do this, I’m about to kill myself on Monocyte 3.

L: I’ve covered few things for the two of you separately recently, including a review of the Saltillo (pronounced SAL-tillo) Monocyte album for you, Menton, and the Criminal Macabre Omnibus #2 review for you, Steve. It’s so much fun to have a joint project now with both you to talk about and anticipate.

S: Actually, Monica (Steve Niles’ fiancée, Monica Richards) and I are sitting here waiting for the pallet of cd’s and books to arrive for the album we did which Menton did some artwork for. It’s Monica Richards’ new cd with fully illustrated book!

L: I’m just going to start signing my paychecks over to you guys. Ok, so a little question I’d like to ask that is sort of fun, ‘can you summarize Nosferatu Wars in one sentence?’

S: No, and that’s the beauty of it! I’m not worried about being able to pitch it to a movie studio; this is just a fun comic book for me and Menton to do. I’ve had people ask me ‘what’s the pitch?’ and I tell them it’s a three part trilogy. It’s a huge story and what I love about it is that we can’t tell it in one sentence. I spent the last 11 years writing stories that I could tell in one sentence, it’s really nice to have one that’s impossible to.

M: I’m the worst person at that, I’m the most long winded son of a bitch, so for me to say what I want for dinner in one sentence is saying a lot. I’m a complete geek, I’ve only been doing comics for, like, 2 years and I’m a huge fan of Steve. To be able to do a vampire book with him has been a dream of mine for a really long time, then to be able to do it at Dark Horse, it just gets better and better. But, I don’t really know how to summarize it in one sentence besides ‘holy shit, I’m excited!’.

L: I think that’s perfectly acceptable.

S: This thing is happening in comics more and has completely taken over movies. I literally won’t watch trailers anymore because now we live in this world where people want to know the entire plot of everything before they’ll go pay money for it, and I hate that. We have one big part of this, of Nosferatu Wars, that we’re keeping hidden because it’s just going to be more fun to read it than if I say it all in an interview or a plug. For me it’s fairly traditional vampires, during the black plague, in love, having the time of their lives. Something separates them for 500 years and that launches us into the middle story and then the last element of this being the lovers’ return, looking for each other in modern day. One of the really fun parts of this is we get to spend a whole lot of time playing in the Dark Ages, during the ‘Black Death’.

L: Oh, god, throwing vampires together in a story with the black plague is such a cool idea; it creates a whole new twist and concepts to work with in the classic vampire story.

S: Here’s the thing: during the black plague it was the commoners dying in the streets, out in the countryside were all the rich, holed up in their homes, and that’s where the vampires are hunting. So they get fresh, clean, rich meat. The vampires are going from castle to castle, dining on the best quality blood they can. Nobody’s looking for them anymore, every death they cause is blamed on the black plague.

L: How did you guys end up getting together for this project?

S: You want us to tell the fictional, exciting version or the boring one? We shook hands, met, began talking and fell in love. I can tell that in one line!

L: That was pretty simple. So, what’s the fictional version?

M: Steve’s really a vampire. I’m his chosen one to carry the torch after he’s goes into hiding. I don’t fucking know, I’m talking out of my ass now. (Laughs) Well, we met at SDCC, but starting talking before that.

S: Honestly, we just hit it off right away. At the time, we were at the IDW booth and I remember just immediately getting along and jamming out ideas. Normally at conventions, you meet each other, shake hands, it’s whatever; Menton and I just knew immediately that we were going to be working together.

M: I think me and Steve were kind of cut from the same cloth a little bit, I don’t mean that pretentiously but we both have musical backgrounds, we both grew up in subcultures that were similar and I think we just had a lot in common. So we were on that IDW panel and we were just like two kids in church, giggling, taking pictures of each other and posting them on Facebook.

S: It’s true, though; we found out that we had connections from years back because Menton knows Monica, my fiancée, from the music scene. I think that’s a major element of why we work together so easily is because of our roots in music. The music industry is where you learn how to cooperate; you don’t get anything done without cooperation. More of that kind of community in comics would be great. But we come out of that; me and Menton are able to apply that to our comics work.

(more…)

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Review: Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 2

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Writer: Steve Niles

Artist: Kyle Hotz, Nick Stakal, Casey Jones

Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Cover Artist: Fiona Staples

Ah, Cal McDonald. The cranky, drug-addled hunter of supernatural miscreants. I’m going to assume that most of you are familiar with Criminal Macabre already, and if you’re not, well you need to remedy that, ASAP. Criminal Macabre is one of those classic indie titles that swims with the likes of Preacher, Hellblazer and Hell Boy. It’s just way more fun to battle with ghosts, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and various otherworldly evils when the hero is a little rough around the edges, showing his own battle scars, often self inflicted. And don’t forget Mo’Lock, Cal’s always composed but never quite dead, ghoulish side kick. Mo’Lock always shows up unannounced, ready to assist in whatever way he can, even if that means giving Cal a good ass kicking to get him back on his feet.

This trade collects Criminal Macabre Volumes 4-6, the one-shot story Feat of Clay, “The Creepy Tree” and “The Trouble with Brains” from MySpace Dark Horse Presents, and “Hairball” from Dark Horse Presents #102-#105. There are so many great stories in this book and personally I always find a little extra satisfaction having my favorite works collected in TPB or hard cover. They just look pretty on the shelf and it’s easier to brag about your collection when you can just point and smile. This is 368 pages of pure fun, fantastic horror writing and edgy artwork.

I think my personal favorite in this collection is Two Red Eyes. This particular story starts with Cal getting the living shit beat out of him by a powerful local official with police ties, his girlfriend being hunted by an ancient vampire and a legion of ghouls showing up to be his own personal army. The story reveals Cal’s lowest lows; his ability to love is still alive and well, if buried deep below a thick layer of pills and alcohol. The art is gritty and heavy, but realistically detailed.

Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 2 is available now through Dark Horse comics. This is, most definitely, one worthy of a prime spot on your bookshelf.

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