Review: Midnighter Annual 2021
After a series of short backups in Action Comics, Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan, Michael Avon Oeming, and Taki Soma get to wrap up their time travel/action movie/love story/techno-thriller/body horror saga in Midnighter Annual. It’s a good time and Midnighter, Apollo, and Shilo Norman aka Mister Miracle have throuple-like chemistry as they escape from various explosions, killer robots, and try to figure out the mechanics of the whole time loop deal and make sure organic life isn’t extinct while cracking jokes and having heart to hearts. However, Oeming and Soma’s very un-house style-like art and colors are what make this arc such a great read.
Visually, Midnighter Annual isn’t a DC Comic nor a Wildstorm comic: it’s a Michael Oeming and Taki Soma comic. Their power-packed style with a side of flat colors and slight psychedelic elements is front and center in the book from the first action sequence where Midnighter, Apollo, and Shilo fight off Andrej Trojan’s drones/cultists and remember that Midnighter can teleport anywhere. (He didn’t do this in previous issues because it led to Shilo’s death in multiple timelines.) Oeming’s gift for cartooning brings out the different personalities of the lead characters. This ranges from Apollo casually using his godlike abilities to protect the man he loves to Midnighter relishing in each goon he takes out and Shilo stressing out and quipping like standup comic having an anxiety attack to deal with how out of his depth he is. Although their faces (Except for Apollo and Trojan) are hidden by masks, Michael Avon Oeming makes their faces super expressive in his signature style.
Plus Midnighter always perceiving himself wearing a mask (Until the end when we get in true paradox mode.) is the perfect for his visual. It reminds me of a Steve Orlando interview from 2015 where he talks about Midnighter only knows fighting and doesn’t know basic stuff like if he likes the taste of bagels or going to the movies. To get the job done and break the time loop, Midnighter must compartmentalize, and there’s no time for opening up or sharing your feelings even with the man who loves him most, Apollo. Midnighter and Apollo share many embraces and sweet moments across this double-sized comic, but Midnighter never lets him in on the secret that Trojan is literally in his head until nearly the end of the issue. Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad make fun of this with cheeky, innuendo-laden dialogue about threesomes, but you can tell in Oeming’s art and use of negative space that this lack of disclosure has created a rift between this iconic power couple.
However, Apollo isn’t just an all-powerful foil for Midnighter in Midnighter Annual. He gets to have his own personality and reactions to situations including a triple dose of pettiness and being over it all. When Andrej Trojan’s chief scientist releases sarin gas to take out Midnighter and company, Apollo shields them from the poison and backhands his henchmen like he’s swatting flies. Even though he is full of emotional depth, Apollo is basically a god in this comic as Midnighter alludes to a pinpoint line of dialogue from Cloonan and Conrad. He can make gold sparks come out of his hands, and Taki Soma uses a brighter color palette whenever he jumps into action. Part of what Midnighter and Apollo a great couple is their love, passion, and chemistry despite their differences in personality, and Midnighter Annual definitely doesn’t shy away from those.
I think that this is the part of the review where I have to confess that I’m not the biggest fan of time travel-driven stories. However, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Michael Avon Oeming through dialogue and visuals show that they’re more focused on Midnighter’s journey than the nitty gritty of time travel mechanics a la a much weirder (and less incestuous) Back to the Future. In a chilling scene with dark background colors and a nine panel grid layout from Oeming, Midnighter is offered a release from the stress of time loops and stopping the world’s extinction from Trojan, but that would be a total cop out for a guy who was beating baddies to death with a hammer a few issues of Action Comics ago. Between juggling multiple timelines, taking a copious amount of notes, and doing strange things to protect Shilo and Apollo, you know he’s not going to take the easy way out and leans into that complexity.
Even though it’s a non-stop action thrill ride with a garish color palette from Taki Soma and uniquely kinetic art from Michael Avon Oeming that’s an argument against house styles, Midnighter Annual is another installment in the beautiful love story between Midnighter and Apollo, but with some very trippy obstacles. Add in the everyman vibe of Shilo Norman plus the sense of humor in Conrad and Cloonan’s script, and this is is the flashy conclusion to this Midnighter arc that his fans deserve while cementing Andrej Trojan as a memorable member of his rogues gallery as he tries to avoid the thing that closes all of our loops, er, lives aka death.
Story: Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan Art: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Taki Soma Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 7.9 Art: 9.0 Overall:8.4 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review