Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Midnighter, Volume 1: Out Review (Steve Orlando, ACO)


Superhero team comics have never been my thing. I’ve enjoyed the occasional X-Men adventure but I don’t think I’ve ever read a great Avengers or Justice League book. Somehow though, I loved The Authority. Maybe because they were subversive - two of its core members, Midnighter and Apollo, are meant to be Batman and Superman, but gay married - though it’s probably because my favourite comics writers and artists worked on the title. 

Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created the series, Mark Millar (back when he was still trying) and Frank Quitely took over, then Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen, and then Grant Morrison and Gene Ha. Midnighter featured in Garth Ennis’ bloody brilliant Kev series before Ennis and Chris Sprouse launched the short-lived Midnighter solo series. What a roll call of the finest talent in the medium! 

The last few years have been rough on Midnighter though. Keith Giffen did his best to make the character as boring as possible during his dreary Midnighter run and then the New 52 happened and Midnighter/The Authority became Stormwatch for no good reason. After a series of mediocre writers tanked the title, nothing was done until DC decided to give Midnighter another shot at a solo title last year - and it still doesn’t work! 

Maybe it’s because there’s so much more attention on social minorities like gays these days that there was a lot of focus on Midnighter’s launch last year, or maybe it’s because Midnighter’s never had a gay writer until now, but Midnighter has ALWAYS been a gay superhero. He got married to Apollo years before gay marriage was legal! One thing’s for sure though, reading this? You won’t forget he’s a gay superhero! 

It’s like New 52 Batwoman all over again where readers were constantly reminded that she’s a LESBIAN SUPERHERO! We are the amazing DC, look how progressive we are - isn’t that what you people want?! LOVE. US. There’s no coherent story to this first Midnighter volume (subtitled “Out” because did you know he’s a gay superhero?) - something about someone stealing people and experimenting on them like Midnighter was once experimented on, for some reason? - or any strong character development - if you’ve never read Midnighter before, you’ll be lost starting here - but he sure loves the dudes! 

Opening story, he’s in bed with a guy - and they’s nekkid! Then he’s flashing back to his breakup with Apollo - a dude! Then he’s going on a date - with another dude! Then he’s kissing a guy, another guy, yet another guy, they’re getting nekkid in his kitchen, they’re dancing in a gay club, hallelujah, it’s raining men! Midnighter is a GAY superhero. It’s subtle but that’s the message here. He’s gay. And a superhero. But mainly gay. So gay. 

There’s a team up with Dick Grayson because Midnighter cameo’d in the Grayson series… for no reason. Because Midnighter is a Batman knockoff and Dick was once Batman’s sidekick? I wonder if the only reason these two are paired is cos straight female/gay male readers want to see these two lookers standing around with their shirts off? 

There’s some nonsense about vampires and a totally uninteresting betrayal and then the book’s over. Did I mention that Midnighter is a gay superhero? Because that’s the only important thing to remember about this book. I hate to sound cynical (he says unconvincingly) but this reads less like Steve Orlando had a great Midnighter story to tell (if so where was it?) and more like DC were ticking a box on an equality spreadsheet. 

Really wasn’t impressed with the art either. “ACO” crams in tons of tiny panels into each page, possibly to give the impression of a lot happening quickly or the various calculations Midnighter’s implants are doing before he fights, but all it does is look messy as hell. I had no clue what was going on in the fight scenes, just that Midnighter was standing around at the end with his opponents on the floor unconscious – very unexciting to read. 

Steve Orlando just isn’t a very good writer which is why his Midnighter is so boring. By all means let’s have more gay superheroes but don’t make their sexuality the whole purpose of their books - let’s remember to have a good story/characters first, because that’s the main reason readers, whatever their sexual orientation, are picking up these books in the first place; not to make a statement but to be entertained. If you want to read a great Midnighter book that does justice to the character, ignore this crap and find Garth Ennis’ one instead.

Midnighter, Volume 1: Out

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