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Review: Midnighter and Apollo #3

midnapo_cv3Midnighter and Apollo #3 is a bloody feast for the mind, senses, and emotions too as Neron and Apollo play the worst board game ever in Hell, and Midnighter continues his antiheroic quest to find the fabled Ace of Winchesters rifle and save his love from damnation. Steve Orlando’s writing is sharp and structured as he focuses on Midnighter and Apollo’s plot thread while providing insight into their characters along with a lot of punching. And speaking of punching, Fernando Blanco crafts one of the hands down coolest fight scenes featuring Midnighter as he just strolls into Hell like he owns the place. And continuing his consistent work on Midnighter’s comics, Romulo Fajardo Jr brings versatility to his colors from the angelic gold of Apollo to the disgusting green of the highly underrated mythical being that Midnighter knocks out and even depressing greys for the dive bar that Midnighter has his (possibly) last mortal drink and the abode of the Lords of the Gun.

Blanco and Orlando do a little formalist exercise in Midnighter and Apollo #3 for Apollo’s scenes in Hell using nine and even 32 panel grids to show how orderly it is as a place. Everyone has a role: the torturers and the tortured, and the torture is mostly psychologically and can be inflicted by something which looks like an overly moralizing Tarot-esque board game. But, then Midnighter shows up, and panels of varying shapes and lengths show up in Hell as he puts the fear of, well, him into various sub-demons and denizens. But this is a very big façade as if Extrano’s magical candle gets blown out, then he’s dead within seven minutes. Magic is so annoying.

Even the superhuman lies lifeless on Earth, Orlando does some of his best character work with Apollo this issue using the framework of the Mansion of Happiness board game. In the game, which Neron always wins, players land on the virtues and vices that they exhibited in their mortal lives. It’s an argument in physical form that everyone belongs in Hell to the end, and that no one is innocent because Neron is the warden from Shawshank Redemption and a super hardcore Puritan theologian (The ones that were constantly saying they were worms and said “damn” more than a frustrated freeway driver or a black metal band frontman.) in demonic form. Apollo’s sins are pride and murder because he took on the name of a god as his superhero codename, and he and Midnighter kill bad guys.

Orlando has Apollo refute the sin of pride and accept the sin of murder as he shapes Apollo’s heroic motivation into a unique mixture of Superman and Midnighter. Andrew Pulaski didn’t choose the name Apollo because he had a god complex, but so he could be a symbol of hope for people to look up to. Superman has said similar things in the past, but he doesn’t literally radiate like the sun as Fajardo takes a break from the brimstone and goes full yellow. Apollo is also the god that Greco-Roman poets would invoke before the beginning of epic poems so Orlando’s dialogue fits his name as well as Blanco and Fajardo’s visuals.

midnapo_3_4-5The whole murder thing is a little more complicated because most traditional superheroes don’t kill (unless they’re directed by Zack Snyder) and make a big deal about it. Apollo admits that it is a moral failing, but he can take the guilt so ordinary people can stay safe from aliens, genetically modified anomalies, and whatever craziness Bendix and other bad people release into the world. In a powerful scene where his fading golden body is broken up by gutters, Apollo says that is okay if he is in Hell to protect innocent people. Even in complete torment and subjugation, Apollo is still the epitome of hero. We can definitely see why Midnighter loves him, would imbue himself with dangerous spells so he can damage demons,  punches Slavic water demons, and even brings fists to a gun fight just to be back with him.

Romulo Fajardo’s work in Midnighter and Apollo #3 shows how color is essential to action along with the usual pacing and choreography from the writer and artist. He uses an ethereal palette for anything magical like Extrano’s image of the Ace of Winchester in the first few pages. The rich purple hue of the gun shows how elusive and mysterious it is although Steve Orlando,  Fernando Blanco, and Fajardo shatter this illusion by issue’s end. But for the nitty gritty of Midnighter kicking people’s asses, Fajardo goes way over the top with pure red washing over the more filtered orange/red brimstone as Midnighter can even make demons bleed.

Like its protagonists, Midnighter and Apollo #3 is cool, smart, and romantic as both Apollo and Midnighter trade out the usual Wildstorm/DC Rebirth vibe of their comics for early Vertigo and enter the fantasy world of magical spells and artifacts and fight beings straight out of a China Mieville novel. (His Perdido Street Station was where I discovered the unsettling epicness of vodyanoi.) Also, where else are you going to see John Constantine described as “tantric”?

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review