Review: Midnighter #8

4983273-midn_cv8_dsA new arc and a new mission begins for everyone’s favorite badass, gay action hero in Midnighter #8. First, he must team up with Dominic Mndawe, an obscure South African superhero who first appeared in Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, against the Sportsman’s Ambition. Think the evil big game hunters Kendall Jones or Walter Palmer, but with a nefarious twist as they combine animals into monstrosities called Chimeras and hunt them for sport in Rochester, New York of all places. And sadly, it is Mndawe’s own power to aggregate animals (But without his connection to the Red, a force which sustains animal life.) that they synthesize to create these Chimeras so he is definitely motivated by a chance to redeem himself.

Even though this team-up is steeped in some obscure DC Comics lore, writer Steve Orlando puts in plenty of witty banter between Midnighter and Mndawe and also uses the former Freedom Beast like Dick Grayson to show Midnighter that killing isn’t the only solution to his problems. (Although, the members of Sportsman’s Ambition get quite the poetic death scene.) Midnighter teleports into action expecting to just punch or fight his way past these Chimeras, but Mndawe challenges him to take a second look with his enhanced eyesight and see the frightened animals behind the monsters. Colorist Romulo Fajardo continues his stellar work on the series with this panel using infrared colors to draw attention to the twisted nature of penciler David Messina and inker Gaetano Carlucci‘s Chimera and show how the Sportsman’s Ambition defiles nature just to get a thrill.

And the fight against the Chimeras isn’t just a chance for Midnighter quip about the overall weirdness of Mndawe’s or the fact that he’s in yet another weird situation involving genetic mutation. Orlando creates a strong parallel between these Chimeras, who are parts of African animals combined haphazardly together to be the perfect prey, to Midnighter, who is bits of computer combined with flesh to be the perfect fighter. (This is a fact he remarks upon in a conversation/flirt session with Robert in Boston.) And Midnighter becomes aware of this fact when he decides to knock out a giant spider created by the Sportsman’s Ambition instead of punching out its brain. With multiple flips and inset panels, Messina shows that Midnighter’s fight computer is as agile as ever, but winning a fight doesn’t necessarily mean killing one’s opponent, especially when it’s a scary, yet exploited animal.

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David Messina’s art in Midnighter #8 is the best of both worlds as he combines the rapid fire panel layouts of ACO with the sexy, sharp featured figures of Stephen Mooney, who illustrated the two part team up with Grayson in Midnighter. And he also has a knack for the grotesque as he just pours on the teeth, hair bits, and eyes on the synthetically made Chimeras to show just how immoral the Sportman’s Ambition are. But some of his finest work comes early in the issue in close-up when Midnighter is sitting in the shadows and thinking about how Matt’s betrayal hurts him even as he tries to cover it up by talking about how he was built to win fights. And when the actual fighting starts, Fajardo switches from a neutral or shadowy color palette to intense reds and cool blues as Midnighter flat-out demolishes the would-be Great White Hunters. Orlando and Messina lead off with the emotional vulnerability before hurtling Midnighter into fantastic action yet again as he hides his pain beneath punches, flips, and the macho-est of one-liners.

And the last pages of Midnighter #8 expose our protagonist’s biggest vulnerability: trust as he gives the people he has saved from aliens and various and sundry monstrosities easy access to that location. One of those people happens to be an undercover agent for Spyral, an organization that he used to go on missions against back when he worked for the Gardener in Grayson. Midnighter’s now-trusting nature puts him in Spyral’s hands, but they actually end up putting aside their differences to team up against Deadshot and the Suicide Squad, who stole the powerful Perdition Pistol. This is yet another example of Midnighter teaming up with someone who has a slightly different objective or moral compass than him, and he will have to put the lessons he learned from Grayson and Mndawe to good use while still asserting his own individuality with some cutting dialogue from Orlando, “I won’t work for you. But I will work with you.”

Midnighter #8 has a gross, clever team-up plot from writer Steve Orlando and artists David Messina and Gaetano Carlucci that connects thematically to Midnighter’s past as Gardener’s lab rat as well as his upcoming mission for Spyral against the Suicide Squad. Messina’s layouts are a little dialed down compared to ACO’s, but he does a better job conveying emotion, especially when Midnighter is reflecting about his past relationships. Overall, this is another well-choreographed and witty issue of Midnighter that sets up some thrilling future developments while telling a self-contained weird fiction meets action movie tale.

Story: Steve Orlando Pencils: David Messina Inks: Gaetano Carlucci Colors: Romulo Fajardo
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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