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Review: Superman and the Authority #3

Superman And The Authority #3

The shape of Grant Morrison’s storyline becomes clearer in the penultimate issue of Superman and the Authority #3 with the team going on their first mission and a larger (and very old school) foe rears its ugly head even as the recruitment drive continues. Yes, the final member of The Authority is Lightray aka Lia Nelson from Earth-9 aka the Tangent Comics universe giving the book a continued 1990s/early 2000s feel a la the original team. This extends to Travel Foreman and Alex Sinclair’s visuals in an early sequence where the team must rescue June Moone aka the Enchantress from her old nemesis Dzamor that features edgy, energy-filled art work and a delicate Sandman-esque script from Morrison, whose Superman uses cleverness not punching to win the day. However, this art goes bye bye and is replaced by the sleek, modern stylings of Mikel Janin and Alex Sinclair for the inter-team banter and battles to come.

Superman and the Authority #3 really builds off the previous issue’s character-driven focus to put team members which we already care about in intense situations with Grant Morrison splitting the team up in smaller groups except for their leader, Superman, who gets to go mano a mano in his situation. As mentioned in the last paragraph, Superman’s cleverness, not his waning super strength gets a workout in this issue until the final few pages, and the Authority lineup covers up his weaknesses while also acting like variables in equations. For example, Enchantress has no upper limit to her magical abilities when she merges June Moone and Enchantress as one, Manchester Black’s psychic skills and general bad attitude come in handy rescuing and merging said technologies, and Apollo’s solar powered strength slots in nicely for Superman’s old abilities. Plus he treats Superman with the most respect and deference with the exception of Steel, who has a personal relationship with him through her uncle.

Even if this Authority team doesn’t have a multi-adventure/arc future mapped out for them, the interpersonal dynamic that Morrison and Janin craft for the team through dialogue, facial expressions, and body language make for an entertaining time. Manchester Black plays the role of punching bag, (*groans*) devil’s advocate, and general wise-ass, and his continued being cut down to size is more memorable than the bigger plot. Six months from now, I won’t care what the Big Bad was up to (I do admire Grant Morrison’s nod to history and Mikel Janin’s body horror design choice.), but I will remember that Old Man Superman praised the activist-minded nature of late millennial/Generation Z and showed how shallow the “old is good, new is bad” paradigm of books like Kingdom Come were in a two panel exchange with Black. This Superman doesn’t have a no-killing policy because of the Comics Code Authority or Mark Waid, but because death ultimately prevents restorative justice, which is what he seems to be aiming for with this new team.

Yes, that’s the actual Round Table

Superman and the Authority #3 is titled “Grimdark”, and it fits the active violence of the story as well as the literal darkness enshrouding Lightray at her crash pad where Apollo and Enchantress try to snag her. Lightray gets an abbreviated version of the solo sub-stories that Steel, Midnighter and Apollo, and Enchantress got in the previous, and Jordie Bellaire’s palette does a lot of the heavy lifting as she goes from being the first child born on Mars to an influencer type figure and then hiding in the dark talking to a mysterious figure. Bellaire uses a dark red panel for her birth because she was the child of an affair then uses a bright palette for her superhero identity and then turning to utter darkness until Apollo pops in with his whole solar deal. The brightness doesn’t let up as Apollo ends up in physical combat with Lightray’s “body guard”. Introducing a new cast member this late in the game is a risky, but Morrison, Janin, and Bellaire roll the dice and resurrect a wild card character that brings an element of sadness, vulnerability, and pure potential. I’m excited to see the role Lightray plays in Superman and the Authority‘s endgame.

For the most part, Superman and the Authority #3 avoids the “middle chapter” issue in serialized comics as Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, and Jordie Bellaire bring out the team’s opponent, show an aging Superman using his mind instead of his powers and playing the role of strategist instead of tank, and give a glimpse of the actual Authority team in action. It hits that sweet spot between light and darkness kind of like June Moone/Enchantress and her fun new look. (Her attempts at flirting with Apollo are pretty pathetic though.)

Story: Grant Morrison  Art: Mikel JaninTravel Foreman
Colors: Jordie Bellaire, Alex Sinclair Letters: Steve Wands
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Midnighter Annual 2021

Midnighter Annual

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


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Review: Superman and the Authority #2

Superman and the Authority #2

Superman and Manchester Black assemble the new Authority squad in Superman and the Authority #2, and the issue goes about the ol’ recruitment drive issue in a creative way while still leaving time for plenty of interactions between the Man of Steel and his predominantly fans turned teammates. Grant Morrison structures this comic in a really engaging way collaborating four artists and four colorists to tell a frame story featuring Superman, Manchester Black, and their new teammates (Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire), a Natasha “Steel” Irons solo adventure (Fico Ossio and Sebastian Cheng), an Apollo and Midnighter team-up (Evan Cagle and Dave Stewart), and a June Moone aka Enchantress spookfest (Travel Foreman and Alex Sinclair). Each of these small units of story allow Morrison and the artists to play in different genres and flesh out each member of The Authority while building to a bigger whole.

The Grant Morrison-penned banter between Manchester Black and Superman along with the clean lines of Janin and strong colors tie together the disparate art styles and sub-stories of Superman and the Authority #2. This older Superman is vulnerable and self-aware about it taking Black’s snipes about his power set reduction in stride while quipping about being “a samurai in autumn” and not caring if he has to take a spaceship (That’s quite cool) everywhere instead of flying. He also is straight up revered by his teammates with Natasha Irons joining the team simply because he’s on it, and Midnighter using the Authority team membership as his anniversary present for Apollo, who breaks his usual reticence and gushes about how Superman was an inspiration to him. (Even if he’s a bit more violent than the Man of Steel.) June Moone gets the last story, and the team doesn’t really interact with her that much, but almost silently, Superman’s silhouette acts as a figure of hope in the middle of the utter hopelessness of the Hilltop Sanitorium.

Natasha Irons gets the first short story, and Morrison, Ossio, and Cheng craft a story that in a previous age might be called cyberpunk. Basically, her and her uncle, John Henry Irons’ Metropolis headquarters has been overrun by sentient Internet beings endangering their operations as well as their city and the whole world. Grant Morrison and Fico Ossio take a literal approach to the enemies they fight, such as trolls, “eternal edgelords”, and of course, plain ol’ misinformation that continues to take the world especially in a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. (If you’re reading this review and haven’t been vaccinated, please get the vaccine.) Sebastian Cheng’s garish color palette as Irons battles the racist, sexist slime of the Internet feels like you’re in the middle of a flame war, and Ossio overwhelms the page with figures. However, Steel is no damsel in distress and uses her empathy and intelligence to deal with the threat and prove that she’s a worthy successor to Superman as hero of Metropolis and will fill the tech role (Think Angela Spica in the original Authority) well.

As a known Midnighter fan, of course, the second sub-story from Grant Morrison, Cagle, and Stewart is my favorite as Midnighter and Apollo bicker like an old married couple while trying to save some psychic kids that are being trafficked in a very high tech, body horror kind of way. Evan Cagle and Dave Stewart’s art showcases the dark badass nature of Midnighter with sweeping shadows and minimalist imagery in panels like guns falling or bloods dripping to just show how in control of the situation he is. However, there’s a bit of the hiccup in the action, and this gives Apollo a chance to play hero and then murder children with his yellow glow getting a little sadder. The atomic sheen that Stewart gives Apollo gives Morrison a chance to do some political commentary via Superman and Manchester Black about “idealistic liberals” and basically how a Democrat was responsible for dropping the only atom bombs in history. It’s a fitting observation as leftists and progressives become increasingly disgruntled with a party that won’t do squat while it has control of the legislative and executive departments and negotiates with a party that was responsible for and tolerated a right wing insurrection. Personally, Midnighter and Apollo have a fun, flirtatious dynamic, but their good intentions (Saving Middle Eastern children) turned downright genocidal is a spot-on metaphor for American foreign policy as well as the failure of “liberal” ideals.

Finally, the June Moone story is for fans of Grant Morrison’s work on Arkham Asylum and is a little bit like a less gory, easier to follow Nameless. Travel Foreman and Alex Sinclair’s visuals are suitably atmospheric with plenty of dark shadows and corridors plus a mainly monochromatic palette with hints of red. It’s a Lovecraftian psychodrama as June Moone’s boyfriend has been having an affair with the Enchantress and wants to unleash her tonight with the help of an elder, purple god. After the science fiction and superheroics of the majority of Superman and the Authority #2, Morrison, Foreman, and Sinclair capture hopelessness in a house with the door held slightly ajar in the end. Out of the Authority team members, Enchantress is the least traditionally heroic, but every Authority squad needs a shaman or wizard type figure, and she’s a powerhouse on that account. But first the team will have to play Orpheus to her Eurydice.

Superman and the Authority #2 is a master class in how to assemble a superhero team in the space of a single issue. Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, Fico Ossio, Evan Cagle, and Travel Foreman seamlessly combine multi-genre short stories with a thematically rich overarching narrative of an aging Superman and a chaotic Manchester Black trying to do this superhero thing the right way. (No genocides, please!) I can’t wait to see this merry band fight through Hell, and Apollo fangirl over (hot dad) Superman some more!

Story: Grant Morrison Art: Mikel Janin, Fico Ossio, Evan Cagle, Travel Foreman
Colors: Jordie Bellaire, Sebastian Cheng, Dave Stewart, Alex Sinclair Letters: Steve Wands
Story: 8.6 Art: 9.2 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Midnighter and Apollo #6

midnighterapollo6coverMidnighter and Apollo #6 concludes the miniseries in breathtaking, double page spreading, and smooching as fashion as Apollo rescues Midnighter from hell and shines a little life into his life. Steve Orlando, Fernando BlancoRomulo Fajardo Jr., and John Rauch go for broke in showing the bond between Midnighter in creative and epic ways. The plot is  simple: escape from the creepy hell place, but the creative team pours all their efforts into letting Midnighter and Apollo go full badass and team up together against the hordes of Neron before having some much needed alone time.

Fernando Blanco’s layouts have been a consistent highlight of this series , and he tops himself in Midnighter and Apollo #6 beginning on the second and third pages. Blanco plays with symmetry with an opposing set of panels juxtaposing Apollo flying through Hell with Neron torturing Midnighter about how he’s going to die here because he’s a murder, and evil always wins. Except Neron’s words are empty air because the panels featuring Apollo get bigger and bigger as Fajardo’s yellows seeping in culminating in a full page splash of Apollo cold cocking Neron. It’s just lines on the page, but you can feel the rage and love behind Apollo’s solar powered fists as he goes flying. For most of Midnighter and Apollo, Midnighter has been trying to save Apollo, but its time for superpowered boyfriend to return the favor.

Through their quick dialogue during the action scenes and an extended epilogue, Orlando and Blanco dig into why Midnighter and Apollo work as a couple in a sweet, violent way. There’s nothing like exploding your scarecrow-looking demon doppelganger to show that your man really cares for you. But Midnighter gets really honest too as he’s in excruciating pain after returning from Hell with his body and fight computer healing all over the place. He doesn’t come back with some big no killing plan after having a near death experience, but is going to continue to kill the really bad guys to stop the pervasive spread of evil. It’s a dark duty that Blanco shows with the bodies of his victims

apollopunch

When it comes to stories or songs about rescuing your lover from the Underworld, most writers and artists allude to Orpheus and Eurydice. But Steve Orlando should be applauded for a little deeper into Ovid’s Metamorphoses and referencing Apollo and Hyacinth as the god couldn’t rescue the man he loved, but did create a beautiful flower out of his death. He riffs on this myth and gives it a much needed happy ending (In more ways than one.) even though both Midnighter and Apollo have been put through the wringer throughout the miniseries. Apollo didn’t pick out his superhero name because of his solar power, but because he was inspired by the story a man, who went to the realm of the dead to plead for his dead lover’s life. And he’ll keep fighting for Midnighter to the end. It’s nice to see them as a happy couple at the end, talking out their issues, and sharing the strangest of dinner parties with Extrano, his husband, and some friends from the Midnighter ongoing series.

Yes, queer characters occasionally get happy endings, and Midnighter and Apollo #6 is a wonderful story of two men, whose love was so strong that they would fight Hell and all its demons just to be in each other’s arms. The comic also is a technical marvel with Fernando Blanco’s clever layouts and Romulo Fajardo’s play of light and darkness showing the contrasts between Apollo and Midnighter while also showing that their differences make them great. Midnighter’s determination and Apollo’s sense of hope definitely makes them the true power couple of the DC Universe, and hopefully there will be many more adventures featuring them in years to come.

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

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #5

midnighterapollo5coverMidnighter punches out and spits on the DC Universe’s equivalent of the devil (The nefarious Neron.) in Midnighter and Apollo #5. If that doesn’t get you excited for this comic, you should really exit this plane of reality and chill out in Limbo, or the world with no shrimp. In all seriousness, writer Steve Orlando, artist Fernando Blanco, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr push Midnighter to his absolute breaking point in this issue as he takes a special spell from Extrano that basically turns him into a badass angel of light for seven minutes and gets to whale on Neron while looking for Apollo.

With its sturdy grids and double page spreads for the big finishing move, Blanco and Fajardo go into overload as Midnighter puts every ounce of strength, training, and of course, love into his physical battle with Neron even though he’s more of a concept. Blanco is truly an architect of pain and uses these grids to show the gradual battering of his body. While this is going on, Fajardo blends the angelic and demonic in his use of yellow for the spell that Midnighter uses to shield his body while fighting Neron to go with his usual black and dark grey palette for our protagonist. The yellow begins in the margins of a scene where Midnighter talks some trash to Neron about him being the ultimate enemy, and that all he needs are his fists to win. But he’s really buying time to activate the spell in the rush of giant, golden angel and Hebrew letters. One of the fighting video games should really rip off this “angel punch” move as a finisher for one of their characters.

But, underneath its reverse theodicies and musings about the nature of evil and the afterlife, midnighterapollointeriorMidnighter and Apollo #5 is one big street brawl. Midnighter gets some amazing licks in an almost silent set of pages filled with back hands, kicks, and just sheer punishment. But this is all an illusion, and Midnighter almost becomes incorporeal with his body crumbling in Apollo’s arm after his seven minutes is up. Midnighter would get in a fist fight with the devil to save the man he loves, but defeating a concept on his home turf is a tall order. Without the special spell, he is putty in Neron’s hand, a crumbling mass of red, black, and grey as the soulless Apollo flutters aimlessly like the souls who did neither good nor bad (Or anything out of the blue.) in Dante’s Inferno. Apollo can speak and move and has his usual yellow coloring from Fajardo, but seems like he can’t do anything to get him and Midnighter out of this situation.

To make Midnighter and Apollo even more emotionally unbearable, Steve Orlando pulls a twist on the old Sandman quote, “What power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven?” except it’s not Morpheus not besting a demon, but Midnighter being utterly unable to save the soul of Apollo. But there is still hope with a sliver of yellow on the final page. I really have no idea how DC Comics’ power couple are going to get out of this trap. Deus ex Extrano, perhaps?

In Midnighter and Apollo #5, Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco, and Romulo Fajardo toss out the philosophizing and fancy fight computer enhanced panels for a blunt instrument of a reading experience. Midnighter and Neron beat each other bloody in what turns out to be a pointless battle for best boyfriend in the universe as evil isn’t something you can’t best in hand to hand combat.

But I hope that Midnighter and Apollo can beat it because the cliffhanger at the end of Midnighter and Apollo #5 is pretty bleak even for a series that has mostly been set in a place where weeping and gnashing of teeth are an hourly occurrence.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #4

midnighterapollo4coverWatching a fight scene in a Steve Orlando scripted Midnighter comic is a lot like watching Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder get a triple double. He gets one almost every night, but the ride is just as thrilling as he dunks on and corrals rebounds from taller opponents, hits high degree of difficulty jump shots, and makes his teammates look good too. Likewise, Orlando, artist Fernando Blanco, and colorist Romulo Fajardo team up to show the thrilling battle between Midnighter and the Mawzir, the head of the demon gang Lords of the Gun, who sent his boyfriend Apollo to Hell. Foolishly or not so foolishly, Midnighter has decided to bring a single bullet to some kind of quadruple-wielding, first person shooter on steroids gun fight. Apollo also has to bargain for his soul from Neron, and it doesn’t go the greatest, but Orlando continues to bring insight to his past. Fajardo also gives him a golden glow

Exciting layouts has been the bread and butter of Blanco on Midnighter and Apolloand issue 4 is no exception with three fascinating sequences to watch unfold. The board game theme of the previous issue returns, but Midnighter is more of a Candyland than a Carcassone man and instead of juxtaposing images and dialogue, Blanco just shows him bludgeoning demons up and down and around the sides of Neron’s winding castle. However, the fight between Midnighter and Mawzir is Midnighter and Apollo as directed by John Woo without the doves unfortunately. It’s a battle to the death with guns, fists, slow-mo, and Blanco drawing Midnighter dodging bullets in silhouette is an exciting touch too. He is also an artist of the body and shows how Midnighter and Apollo are physically and mentally drained by the end of the issue although they cling onto some kind of hope. And Fajardo is there with plenty of red as Midnighter wreaks havoc on the Mawzir and the other denizens of Hell.

The Apollo scenes provide a lighter in color palette, yet just as heavy in tone counterbalance to the mayhem of midnighterapollo4interiorMidnighter versus the Lords of the Gun and also show his pure soul even if Neron continues to taunt him about his violent methods as a superhero and “sins”. Except this purity means that pulling a John Constantine or Morpheus and trying to bargain and talk his way out of losing his soul is a bad idea. Apollo is way too good for his place, and this is why it takes his more hellish boyfriend, who gets headhunted by one of Hell’s deadliest demon gangs after killing their leader, to save him.

I do feel like I understand Apollo better as a person after Midnighter and Apollo #4 as Blanco dials down the insane layouts, but ups the defiance in his drawing of Apollo. He’s not just a damsel in distress with the powers of Superman that doesn’t work thanks to the abundance of darkness and hellfire. No, Apollo is a survivor beginning with his homophobic father, who went away and continuing with the aliens who abducted and experimented on him. And hopefully, he’ll make it out of this situation if Midnighter has anything to say about it.

Creative fighting, deep introspection, and variety in panel layouts that show comics is the perfect medium for intense action sequences ensure that Apollo and Midnighter #4 continues the series’ momentum into 2017. This issue reads like a great tie-in for a long lost Vertigo/Wildstorm crossover, and Midnighter bathing in the blood in demons just to save his man inspires me so much.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Rebirth Review: Comics Released 10/5

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s Rebirth Review where we take a look at the comics released under DC‘s Rebirth banner and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers.

Each comic will receive a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly based on how easy it was for new readers to pick them up; the ratings are based solely on the issues released in the post-Rebirth ongoing series, with more consideration given for the specific issue being read when it comes to the final rating than the series overall. You may notice that not every comic is covered week to week, and that’s because I have a memory like a sieve and sometimes forget to pick them up. If I have missed an issue, typically I won’t go looking for back issues to to catch up on events – this feature is all about accessibility for new readers, after all.


 

bm_cv8_dsAquaman #8 – Unless you have been reading at least one of the previous issues, you’re going to be a little lost as to why the events of the comic are happening. It’s just a tad on the Unfriendly side, but it’s worth picking up nonetheless.

Batman #8 continues the Night Of The Monster Men crossover that’s running through this series, Detective Comics and  Nightwing. It’s an Unfriendly jumping on point, but the story’s growing on me and will probably be worth reading in a trade a few months down the line.

Cyborg #2 takes a lot of time introducing us to the villain. The effect of this, for the reader, is the same as a prolonged recap page as the events of  the previous issue are eventually touched upon. This allows you to really appreciate the events of the comic, making it incredibly Friendly.

Green Arrow #8 will be fairly Friendly for fans of the TV show that just reappeared on our screens, as it opens after Ollie has washed up on an island of some kind. There’s not a lot of background, but seeing as I only remembered why he’d washed up there as  I was writing this blurb and not while I was reading the comic, the lack of background info isn’t a big deal.

Green Lanterns #8 – Part one of a new story in one of DC’s most consistently accessible for new readers is, obviously, a Friendly comic. It’s also very good.

gls_cv8_open_order_varHarley Quinn #5 isn’t always my cup of tea, but as far as the series goes this isn’t a bad place to start up for new readers. Friendly.

Justice League #5 I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’ve a fair idea who the Justice League is. However, much like the first issue, you’re thrown into the middle of something with little explanation – but because there’s no reference to previous issues, this is a Friendly comic. We’re all on the same page when the comic opens.

Midnighter And Apollo #1 is as Friendly a place as you’re likely to find within the post Rebirth line of comics.

Nightwing #5 if you read what I wrote for Batman #8, then just repeat it here.

Superman #8 kicks off a new story arc, and because the story throws you inn the deep end right away, it’s a Friendly comic. Just don’t expect much light shed on the setting right away.

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #1

midnapo_cv1_dsBone-crunching action, check. Unapologetic sexiness, check. Unexpected emotions from human fight computer and former lab rat Midnighter, check. Writer Steve Orlando and colorist Romulo Fajardo return with new series artist Fernando Blanco (Batman and Robin Eternal, Phantom Stranger) to continue the saga of Midnighter against his creator Bendix in Midnighter and Apollo #1. But Midnighter is far from single in the new series and is happily (for now) dating his ex-boyfriend Apollo, who is basically a god. This relationship throws many new challenges his way in both Midnighter’s interpersonal interactions and the larger plot as Bendix can use Apollo to hurt him in unimaginable ways.

Fernando Blanco’s art style combines the agile, fluid layouts of ACO with the yummy beefcake figure drawing skills of Stephen Mooney on the previous Midnighter series. His double page spread of Midnighter taking out Half-beard’s goons on the God Train (Orlando is unafraid to tap into the weird side of the DC Universe.) is one of the most exciting action scenes in any medium with Blanco using gutters to frame each high powered punch, kick, broken bone, or neck snap. And he uses inset panels to simulate Midnighter’s fight computer and show how Midnighter is always prepared to take down the next baddie. Romulo Fajardo fills the spread with plenty of grey and black, which are Midnighter’s colors on his costume, signifying that the anti-hero is back in full swing. But this time, he has the help of a boyfriend, who is a sexier version of Superman and gets the more traditional full page splashes from Blanco showing his raw power.

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A fun, nerdy bonus is Orlando’s decision to make Midnighter and Apollo #1 more connected to the supernatural side of the DC Universe as Bendix is willing to switch his mad scientist/black ops M.O. to take them out with one of comics’ coolest MacGuffins ever. This plot decision also fits in with Blanco’s background as an artist because he previously drew Phantom Stranger and excelled at telling stories featuring demons, magic, and a touch of horror with real emotional resonance as the Phantom Stranger really just wanted to be a family man. The series also dealt with complex theological themes, and there is a little bit of those in the issue’s closing pages where Fajardo creates a deathly contrast between dark and light, or a marriage between heaven and hell gone awry. The color scheme could also be representing the tenuous relationship between Apollo and Midnighter.

The heart of Midnighter and Apollo #1 isn’t fights against demons, subway pirates, train golems, or even B-list supervillains, but a small dinner party hosted by Apollo and Midnighter for their friends Tony and Marina, who were key supporting characters in Midnighter. The scene shows Midnighter trying to live a normal life and joking around about letting Apollo do all the cooking because he grew up in Pennsylvania, not the God Garden while Marina and Apollo quip about him keeping his emotions under lock. Blanco elevates the chit-chat into a very passionate sex scene before Fajardo relaxes his palette and uses cooler colors as Apollo asks Midnighter why he has to kill. This moral difference could create a crack in their fragile relationship and is foreshadowed earlier by Orlando when a bystander talks about Midnighter being dangerous even though he helps the kids who were kidnapped by the God Train find their parents. He is quite a complicated fellow.

Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco give their power couple sizzling chemistry in both words, sidelong glances, and of course, intense smooching in Midnighter and Apollo #1. This chemistry (along with Blanco’s creative use of layouts) supercharges the action sequences as Orlando differentiates this series from the previous one with a heavy injection of urban fantasy and horror, especially in the last few pages. (Melting faces equals freaky.)

Come for the punching and one-liners, but stay for the messy, yet star-crossed relationship between Midnighter and Apollo, who are truly DC Comics’ power couple.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter #12

Midnighter12CoverAll excellent things must eventually wrap up, and this includes Midnighter, one of two mainstream comics with an LGBT male lead, and one that also happened to be a monthly exercise in writer Steve Orlando writing clever and occasionally tear jerking dialogue while weaving together action thriller plots that artists Aco and Hugo Petrus and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. turned into exercises in brutality. In Midnighter #12, Apollo and Midnighter with the kind of, sort of help of Spyral and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad fight the Unified, a superhuman with the abilities of both Apollo and Midnighter, who was crafted by Midnighter’s “father” Bendix to be the ultimate soldier only dedicated to the mission and not caring about civilian casualties. A character who has both Midnighter’s fight computer and is on the same power level seems insurmountable, but Orlando, Aco, and Petrus show the truth behind Sidney Prescott’s anti-remake quote from Scream 4, “Don’t fuck with the originals.” as Midnighter comes to a close.

The much anticipated team up between Apollo and Midnighter that was set up in the previous gets a scintillating payoff thanks to the efforts of the art team of Aco, Petrus, and Fajardo. They draw Apollo as a pure powerhouse with power that can’t really be fathomed as Fajardo uses plenty of yellow to show all culminating in a huge solar blast before Petrus/Apollo send the Unified off to Aco/Midnighter for one last four page battle royale of layouts, one-liners, and bone rattling sound effects.

In the tradition of Batman vs. Superman in The Dark Knight Returns and other battles between basically gods and superheroes, Midnighter uses a sonic device to get the drop on the Unified, and Aco depicts this in his art by having his usual grid set-up woozily wobble before cutting to his trademark “X-ray panels” (Think Mortal Kombat) of the effect that it’s having on the Unified’s non-empathy having, soldier brain. And the killing blow is spectacular as Aco and Fajardo turn gore into poetry by turning the Unified’s brain matter into a sound effect. One of the highlights of Midnighter as a whole was its creative, no holds barred fight sequences, and Aco makes sure that issue 12’s big battle is worthy of its predecessors while Orlando keeps Midnighter’s character consistent.

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Midnighter hates the Unified so much because he is hurting innocent civilians in some misguided crusade to provide retribution for a terrorist attack on American soil. He might be a killer, but he’s not a cold-blooded one like the Unified, who is the metahuman embodiment of destruction porn in the first few pages of the comics. For example, Midnighter takes a break from beating up various Multiplexes to help a Modoran child find shelter and safety when a Modoran soldier points a gun at the kid and calls him a coward. Even in his most violent moments, Midnighter is always there to protect those being exploited by powerful forces just like he was with the Gardener.

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This is because he is a human being and not a weapon or a lab experiment, and Orlando, Aco, and Petrus spend plenty of time at the end of the issue reinforcing that with his friends in Boston throwing him a nice party after he tells Gardener about Bendix’s return because that relationship is always going to be super complicated. Even though he was betrayed by Prometheus, Midnighter has come to trust some people, and he even begins to repair his relationship with Apollo. Along with their skill laying out action sequences, Aco and Petrus draw really sexy men, which makes Apollo and Midnighter’s flirty banter and make-outs extra flaming hot. But Orlando wisely keeps their relationship ambiguous with dialogue like “Who said he’s my man?” even though it’s clear from their body language that they still love each other. However, their kiss and makeup scene is a huge progression from the beginning of the series when they wanted nothing to do with each other.

Another relationship that Orlando leaves open for other writers to explore in the future (Hopefully, Rob Williams in Suicide Squad and definitely Tim Seeley in Nightwing.) is Midnighter’s place in the black ops, espionage world of the DC Universe. Spinning out of his work with them in Grayson, Midnighter started by backing Helena Bertinelli and Spyral, but by the end of Midnighter #12, it seems like he’s more on Amanda Waller’s side, especially when she tells him that Bertinelli is reverse engineering Afterthought, a superhuman with precognitive power that beat Midnighter up a few issues back. And even if they never meet again, Orlando gives them a relationship of mutual respect as Waller isn’t afraid to correct her mistakes, like the Unified, or get her hands dirty. (She throws down with Bendix a little bit.) Midnighter definitely sees her as a worthy opponent, who can occasionally get the drop on him with her brilliant tactical mind, despite her not having any special powers or abilities.

Midnighter #12 is a wonderful capper on Steve Orlando, Aco, Hugo Petrus, Romulo Fajardo, and other wonderful artists’ story of a man trying to maneuver through the world and find his identity as both an open gay man and science experiment turned violent, yet altruistic anti-hero. The final two pages of him kissing and talking to Apollo about his uncertainty for the future and leaping into action perfectly encapsulate the character of Midnighter, who is a total badass that struggles to navigate the minefields of romantic relationships.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Aco and Hugo Petrus Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Midnighter #11

midnighter-11-coverViolence and tenderness collide once again in Midnighter #11 as Apollo saves his ex-boyfriend and our protagonist from certain death stemming out of last issue’s Deadshot exploding plane trick cliffhanger. The opening three pages showcase Aco’s storytelling abilities as he goes from the slow, very homoerotic burn of a shirtless Apollo tending to a wounded Midnighter to applying his layout skills to Apollo’s Superman-level speed and power set as he catches Midnighter in a moment that will make long time fans of the couple from their Wildstorm days in Stormwatch and The Authority beam with joy. Writer Steve Orlando‘s plot is mostly action-driven with Bendix (the man who experimented on Midnighter) unleashing The Unified and justifying its existence with the brashness of a more articulate War on Terror-era George W. Bush as Midnighter, Apollo, and Helena Bertinelli battle the Suicide Squad while learning from their mistakes. But he also leaves enough time to dig into Apollo and Midnighter’s (kind of) reconciliation showing that they still deeply care for each other and also that they make a great team. And their conversations are the beating heart of the issue.

With the arrival of Apollo, colorist Jeromy Cox introduces some real radiance to the Midnighter title, which has mostly been blood splatters or cold, clammy labs and secret bases with some splashes of color, like Parasite’s purple body. But Cox gives Apollo quite the aura with a kind of halo behind him and a gorgeous sunset backdrop in both his opening scene, and when he catches Midnighter. Aco also finds a new use for his snapshot panels in showcasing Apollo’s abilities and showing how different he is from Midnighter. Instead of using these panels to show the limbs that he is breaking, Aco uses them to show the number of people Apollo is saving as Bendix takes control of the door technology that Midnighter uses to get around and almost turns Helena and some Spyral agents into street pizza.

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However, this being Midnighter, there is a room for a bit of the old ultraviolence, including a brutal, yet masterful fight sequence between Midnighter and Afterthought, who is the precognitive Rookie of the Year on the Suicide Squad. Orlando and Aco continue to have a talent in finding foes that match up well with Midnighter and give his fight computer a workout even if Afterthought doesn’t have the personal dimension Prometheus had. This isn’t a problem because Afterthought is just a checkpoint on a longer journey directly connected to Midnighter’s origin, and his fight with Midnighter is like watching a Rocky film on speed as M takes hit after hit until turning a corner just in time with a sound effect inflected punch. And as an added bonus, Aco gets to show off Helena’s crossbow skills when she squares off against Captain Boomerang in a ranged weapon battle royale. He and Orlando don’t waste the colorful characters of the Suicide Squad creating opportunities for fun, flashy battles and well-timed quips from Midnighter. Hugo Petrus also gets to draw some pivotal scenes featuring Amanda Waller and Bendix as she is confronted with her tactics (including nanobombs to keep her supervillain hit team under control) being used on a chaotic, almost godlike scale with Bendix turning up her mistrust of superheroes and Machiavellianism to eleven as the issue concludes.

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And to fight a god, you need one of your own, and luckily for Waller, Spyral, and the whole DC Universe, Apollo is back. I discussed his signature visual style earlier, but his real impact on Midnighter #11 is emotional, not just as an incredibly fit deus ex machina. Midnighter pours out his soul to Apollo in a heartfelt monologue about how he has come to terms with being Midnighter all the time, not having a secret identity, and dating again even if his last boyfriend turned out to be a supervillain. It gets sappy too, but Orlando breaks things up with a little flirty banter and probably the sexiest this book has gotten since Dick Grayson wore a towel. Aco has a knack for the slow rhythms of foreplay, but Apollo and Midnighter’s reunion must come on the field of sketchy, genetically enhanced black ops war. The final page featuring them is poster worthy though, and issue twelve can’t come soon enough

Midnighter #11 introduces Apollo to the series at the best possible time as Steve Orlando, ACO, Hugo Petrus, and Jeromy Cox explore his fractured relationship with Midnighter and awe-inspiring power between and during a series of excellently choreographed scuffles with the Suicide Squad and Bendix’s The Unified.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: ACO and Hugo Petrus Colors: Jeromy Cox
Story: 8.5 Art: 9  Overall: 8.7  Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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