Zombos Says: Good (but art needs to lighten up)
I wonder if Steve Niles is as sweet and sour as his supernatural detective Cal McDonald. Probably not, but he writes the feisty McDonald with layers of world-weary spunk so easily it is hard for me to imagine there isn't just a little bit of Niles shining through all that cigarette-smoking, pill-popping, bruised and bandaged, punch-drunk attitude McDonald pushes into his antagonists' faces every chance he gets. Almost like another supernatural detective (so many of them these days, aren't there?), John Constantine, what sets McDonald apart from his brethren--and usually off--is the constant kick to his spiritual and physical groin, even when he's looking.
In Cell Block 666, McDonald is up against a traitorous ghoul, corrupt cops, and Nick Stakal's dire pencil scratches that leave much of the scenery in the dark and everyone looking like they've been carved out of clay with a sharp razor. Stakal's stylistic overuse of shadow and heavy lines renders very creepy ghouls, but it obliterates the more subtle features of mere mortals including McDonald, giving characters gruff, acerbic faces more sour than sweet. With all this darkness, the colorist doesn't stand a chance, either; so much of McDonald's prison time and trying-to-stay-out-of-prison time is muted in an overly noir world. Stakal's two-page spread showing the prison building is lacklustre because there's just not enough to see. When it comes to zombies, however, I'll keep mum. Stakal's murk and gloom and paper-cut edges, muted in color, fit them to a tee.
Tired of laying low because the cops have been hot on his ass for a crime he didn't do (at least this one, anyway), McDonald hits the bar to hoist a few. Ghoul-help or not, he winds up being seen, captured, then taken for a long ride to a short cell. Moloch pops in and out, lending a cold helping hand where he can, but McDonald is forced to conjure up a reprieve or wind up deader than his ghoulish friend. Niles is best when relationships matter, and his odd camaraderie between McDonald and Moloch gives this adventure its more pleasing moments. Moloch has his own hands full when a traitor reveals a power struggle within the ghoul's rank and file.
Come on Stakal, give McDonald a break: go heavier on the detail and lighten up the murk. The poor bastard's got it tough enough. He must spend a fortune in bandages and aspirin as it is.