Tag Archives: Apollo

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

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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.

TheUnified

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.

ApolloSavestheDay

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

Steve Orlando’s Midnighter Embodies Both Machismo and Vulnerability

Midnighter7The best heroes always have some kind of personal problem that can you latch onto. This was how the Marvel empire was made with the Thing struggling with his disfigured appearance, Peter Parker dealing with bullies at school and balancing superheroics and life as a teenager, and the X-Men being stand-ins for any kind of oppressed people group, especially once Chris Claremont starting writing about them.

And this goes for heroes of action movies as well. Sure, it’s fun to see Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Seagal, or Lundgren mow down aliens or random mercenaries for an hour or two, but the action heroes that I remember are the ones with vulnerability. What made the first Die Hard so compelling was that John McClane wasn’t a superhero jumping on fighter planes guns ablazing like in the sequels, but that he was just a simple beat cop from New York with a marriage on the rocks that happened to get caught up in an insane situation. He gets duped by the villain, his feet bleed, and both the LAPD and FBI are terrible to him. John doesn’t ever reunite with his wife and even develops a drinking problem in Die Hard with a Vengeance, and his estrangement from his daughter is part of the main plot of Live Free and Die Hard. However, he’s not a lonely, mopey loser and still somehow beats the bad guys in each film while uttering some of the most hilarious one-liners. And heroes with a vulnerable side, who still manage to kick ass, have headlined some of the highest grossing action films of this millennium from Daniel Craig’s James Bond (especially in Casino Royale where he struggles to kills and falls for Vesper Lind) to Jason Bourne and even Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark, who both quips and has panic attacks.

Midnighter as written by Steve Orlando and drawn by ACO, Alec Morgan, Stephen Mooney, and colored by Romulo Fajardo falls into this post-John McClane action hero with problems tradition albeit with more science fiction and superhero trappings because he is a part of the weird, wacky, and multiverse rocking DC Universe. In case you don’t know, Midnighter was experimented on by a mysterious woman named Gardener, who gave him special enhancements, including a fight computer that allows him to see the outcome of any fight. He doesn’t know anything about his childhood, has no secret identity, and isn’t afraid to kill evil doers. But he doesn’t brood like his original inspiration, Batman, and is always ready for a snappy rejoinder after punching someone’s head off or before defeating them in combat. Midnighter is also the only gay male superhero to have his own title at both Marvel and DC and is single after a long term relationship with Apollo, who has godlike powers similar to Superman.

And it’s in his romantic and interpersonal relationships that we really find Midnighter’s vulnerable side beneath his snarky one-liners and the incredible action sequences choreographed by ACO, Morgan, and Mooney. Orlando gives us just the right amount of flashbacks featuring Midnighter and Apollo’s breakup in Midnighter #2-3 as Midnighter struggles to find his identity as both a human being and out gay man apart from him. These scenes show Midnighter at his most cynical as he tells Apollo that “Midnighter is a nameless, hopeless fight robot” and kissing him one last time because he knows the outcome of this fight will be a breakup thanks to his fight computer.

MidnighterBreakup

And Midnighter’s post-Apollo love life is fraught with even more instability as he wonders whether to take things fast or slow with several men, including Warren, who seemed to only be a one night stand in the Midnighter preview comic; Jason, who he puts a kind of biotechnological GPS tracker on and ends up being “just friends” with after moving too quickly, and Matt. Matt was just the worst. After Midnighter saved him from homophobes in Russia, had romantic chats with him on rooftops, built him a new apartment using special God Garden technology, and even had a heart to heart with his “dad” about Matt coming out a while back, he is revealed to be the Big Bad of the first arc, Prometheus.

His and Midnighter’s easy romantic chemistry gets twisted when it’s revealed that Prometheus has an implant that PoorMidnighter7can shut down Midnighter’s fight computer, and his brain is programmed with the moves of 30 great martial artists, including Batman, Lady Shiva, and of course, Midnighter. He also has access to Midnighter’s “origin file” containing all his childhood memories from the God Garden, which Midnighter destroys in an emotional double page spread from ACO with all of his anguish about his failed relationship with Matt taking the form of a brain punch. The post-mortem after the fight scene with Midnighter chatting with some of his friends that he has made throughout the arc, like Tony the pool player and Marina the martial arts instructor turned human weapon saved by Midnighter, is even tougher as Midnighter thinks he can’t get close to anyone because he can’t predict their moves. Sadly, there’s no fight computer for human relationships, and this is hard for Midnighter to wrap his mind around. Hopefully, his love life is better in the next arc, but solicits teasing appearances from Apollo are sure to complicate and continue to bring out those sad emotions from the DC Universe’s biggest badass.

And yes, Midnighter is definitely a macho dude with a quit and a penchant for the theatrical, like when he uses Dick Grayson’s limber body as a spear in an atlatl, tears out his eardrums in Midnighter #2 to take out a woman who kills with sounds, or puts “headbutted an alien” on his Grindr profile. Each issue of Midnighter is action packed as he fights different supervillains, mercenaries, or generally bad folks, who are using the God Garden technology to exploit regular people. Some of these missions bring out his softer side, like in Midnighter #3 when he empathizes with a young girl, who was kidnapped by human traffickers telling her that none of this was her fault and about his kidnapping as a child. But because he’s a violent and a killer, he doesn’t join the girl and her mother for dinner going on to the next battle because he thinks that fighting is all he is good for. It’s a bittersweet ending to his non-stop punching of Multiplex thanks to ACO’s crazy layouts.

Steve Orlando makes Midnighter a compelling action hero by having perform cool fighting moves and say witty things while also having relatable problems for readers like me, like dating  after a long, practically life defining relationship. (Apollo is the only man Midnighter has dated after coming out.) The title “Out” is a perfect one for the first Midnighter arc from Orlando, ACO, Morgan, and Mooney as Midnighter must simultaneously find his personal identity as a newly, single gay man as well as  It’s the perfect marriage of text and subtext to go along with Midnighter punching the brain matter out of homunculi and walking shirtless in saunas with Dick Grayson.