Review: Midnighter #9

4911754-midn_cv9_r1ACO returns to do most of the art in Midnighter #9, and his insane panel layouts come in handy in this issue, which is bookended around two fights with a short, yet sweet interlude with Midnighter and his buddies (and possible boyfriend, Robert) in Boston. The first fight is Midnighter battling a guard on Amanda Waller’s space station, who has super speed that is sapping his lifespan, as he steals the Perdition Pistol for the Spyral. The second fight is the one advertised in the solicits: Midnighter vs. the Suicide Squad. But there’s a twist in the form of a new foe, who hands Midnighter’s ass to him Prometheus style. (Too soon to make that reference?) Writer Steve Orlando continues to do an excellent job at crafting opponents, who are a match (or more than a match) for Midnighter’s fight computer while not weakening him artificially.

The big through-line in Midnighter #9 and one that has popped up throughout the comic as a whole ever since it was announced that Midnighter would have no secret identity, would be 100% out as a gay man, and be single and dating around instead of with his long time love Apollo is finding agency. From the first page, all of Midnighter’s moves are monitored by Spyral, for whom he is stealing the Perdition Pistol, with the help of Marina, a woman he has saved in a previous issue. However, much like his friend/flirting, and action partner Dick Grayson recently, Midnighter shows that he’s not under control of Spyral by destroying the Perdition Pistol to prevent it from being used to harm anyone as part of a US government black ops program like Suicide Squad, as part of a secret intelligence network by Spyral, or by more traditional villains, who would steal it. Midnighter doesn’t want anyone to suffer like him when his fight computer was implanted at the God Garden, and this is at the center of his moral code even if he sees nothing wrong with being a killer. However, Midnighter is transparent about his kills and doesn’t seek to justify them in a self-righteous way, which makes him a more likable figure than the Punisher. Plus he’s more attractive and funnier.

AcoLayoutMaster

Seeing Midnighter do his fight computer thing while simultaneously talking trash (That also happens to have expositional purpose.) is always something to look forward to in this title. In Midnighter #9, Orlando gives him an all out monologue as Midnighter explains how he is going take out his hapless opponent’s super speed by being fast enough for one second out of a minute to beat him. (Beating a speedster is on his “bucket list”. Get ready eventually half of the cast of CW’s The Flash.) Colorist Romulo Fajardo gives the speedster blue lightning to show he’s the real deal as he gets ready to take out Midnighter, but then there’s a trademark ACO freeze frame for a page as Midnighter “shows his work” and gets ready for a violent payoff. And ACO uses the perfect layout for this literally crippling finish with twenty small panels arranged in a grid cutting between blood, Speed Force lightning, and occasionally Midnighter’s mischievous grin. He has triumphed, but Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad are connected to his “father” Henry Bendix, which makes the battle against them personal for Midnighter and sets it apart from a basic battle royale. It is also consistent with Waller’s character, who will use any means possible including commuting the sentences of deadly criminals, like Harley Quinn and King Shark, for the sake of natural security. Using alien tech to enhance humans in case of a war against superpowered beings is just another day at the office.

The foe for Midnighter at the finale of issue 9 is an excellent match for him as Midnighter’s usual quips and lines fall flat as the up and coming Suicide Squad member (and new addition to the DC Universe) Afterthought renders Midnighter’s fight computer ineffective by seeing his moves five seconds into the future. Orlando and ACO create symmetry with the monologue from Afterthought about his powers to Midnighter mirroring our protagonist’s boastful speech to the speedster. ACO lays out Afterthought’s fights in a similar way to Midnighter’s, but with the key difference of Midnighter being covered in his own blood instead of hundreds of mooks’ like earlier in the comic. Only three issues after Midnighter was betrayed by Prometheus, and he is in a strait that is just as desperate without the added romantic element of Prometheus being Midnighter’s former lover, Matt. However, his possible love interest/budding documentary filmmaker Robert gets swept up into the fight against the Suicide Squad, and the fact that Afterthought is five seconds ahead scrambles his attempts to get him to safety. Maybe having a civilian boyfriend isn’t a good idea after all.

In Midnighter #9, artists ACO and Hugo Petrus capture the greatest hits of Midnighter’s fights through the use of wobbling and inset panels along with bold bursts of colors from Fajardo. But this isn’t just a fight comic as Orlando chronicles Midnighter’s struggles to be himself and independent in a world of spies, science, and superhumans between the bones cracking and trash talking. And he isn’t in the best shape as the final page rolls around.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: ACO and Hugo Petrus Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 8.7 Art: 9 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy