Last Train to Deadsville.
In Last Train to Deadsville, Cal McDonald’s kinda-sorta girlfriend Barbara Lynch of tabloid rag Speculator Magazine rolls back into town on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately for Cal, she’s not the only one. His newest case lands in his lap as soon as the last one is finished, as an ignorant teenager believes that he is casting a love spell, but actually unleashes something much more sinister: a hoard of demons serving a very seductive mistress. If Cal, Barbara, and undead pal Mo’Lock can’t put a stop to this quickly, they could have a full-fledged “possession infestation” on their hands.
This four-issue miniseries from 2004 is a solid entry in the Cal McDonald series, overflowing with ghastly situations and imagery, but also a lot of heart. There’s a romantic undercurrent here, too, but it definitely fits in tonally with the franchise. In your typical rom-com, you’re not going to have the male lead look at an exposed piece of his own skeletal structure and ask his love interest, “How about I carve our initials into the bone for Valentine’s Day?” (If you did, I’d probably watch more romantic comedies). No, those types of horrifying heartwarming moments are reserved for Cal and his pals.
This is the fourth storyline collected in the Criminal Macabre Omnibus from Dark Horse Comics, and after the first three, I had grown accustomed to them being illustrated by Ben Templesmith. So it was something of a shock to see a new artist take the reigns, but it was certainly a nice change of pace. Kelley Jones does a remarkable job here, with a cartoonish flair for the grotesque and a real knack for drawing monsters.
Being a colorist in the comic field is an under-appreciated gig, but when someone goes beyond the pale, you notice it. Michelle Madsen uses a garish and toxic color palate that I adore, similar in tone to that seen in Watchmen and the original release of The Killing Joke. It really makes the illustrations pop, and they wouldn’t be half as gorgeous without it.
Buy a box of chocolates, pop open a bottle of bubbly, and curl up with your beloved for a gory good time.