“Midnighter” #1 introduces us to a hero who is comfortable in his skin despite the danger and violence that constantly surrounds him. Midnighter thrives off of the world’s energy and the reader empathizes with him through Steve Orlando’s excellent script, Aco’s dynamic art, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.’s colors that burst with an aura simultaneously imbued with both realism and a mystic tinge.
Written by Steve Orlando
Illustrated by Aco
Spinning out of GRAYSON comes a solo series starring the man who can predict your every move… but no one will be able to predict what he’ll do next! A theft at the God Garden has unleashed a wave of dangerous biotech weapons on the world, and Midnighter intends to put that genie back in the bottle by any means necessary. But something else was stolen from the Garden as well…the secret history of Lucas Trent, the man Midnighter once was!
“Midnighter” #1 features a confident hero who embraces every facet of himself. Whether it’s his passion for defending the underdog, his sexuality, or his “job” (which he describes, charmingly, as “aggressive anthropology”), Midnighter doesn’t hide from himself or society. The moniker of “gay Batman” is not a fair one. Unlike Batman, Midnighter has no secret (identity or otherwise) and has fun smashing the faces of those who attempt to kill him or innocents. And sometimes he will kill with artistic aplomb. Mystery, insightful characterization, bombastic action, and sexiness drip off every vibrant page of one of this year’s best first issues.
Steve Orlando is able to juggle the many facets of Midnighter’s character in this debut issue. We catch glimpses of his past and how it has affected him, get quite a few humorous moments sprinkled throughout the issue, and also see him make time for a dating life. Orlando teases a lot of pertinent information about Midnighter’s personality into twenty pages while never overwhelming the reader. Like the cover by Aco and Romulo Fajardo, Jr., the issue is mesmerizing and feels like there is much more than those twenty pages. Orlando doesn’t “write for the trade” as some writers are wont to do, but instead tells a story that hops between mystery, romance, and skullcracking without a single boring moment.
Midnighter is shown to be a complex character through the smashing of the rigid dichotomy between what is accepted as feminine and masculine traits. He is a violent man who revels in the game of brutal battle, yet embraces an equal passion of baring his emotions setting himself up for inevitable observation and judgement. In “Midnighter” #1, Orlando has our hero snapping a spine in one panel and then opening up emotionally to a man he has just spent the night with. Brutality and vulnerability are two concepts that Midnighter embraces without shame and Orlando beautifully and successfully depicts this complexity in the issue. He opens up the possibility for further exploration of the character and gives us just enough to whet our appetite.
The artistic violence suits a book like this, where a hero such as the Midnighter relishes every moment of defending the innocent and those weaker than him. Aco fills his panels with kinetic energy and uses those panels, both big and small, liberally in their quantity and effectively in their storytelling power. The ever-changing point of view of the characters is integral to how he lays out his panels and depicts the perspective of Midnighter and those around him in a way that jumps off the page. The violent energy is not only evident in the action sequences but in the more subdued scenes. When Midnighter interacts with his date, we get the sense that our hero is always alert and ready to respond to any threat.
Aco’s art feels playfully experimental in the way he uses perspective. A nasty fight scene in a restaurant is chock full of mini-panels that highlight a sweating bad guy, Midnighter’s playful facial expressions, and the precision of his fighting style. There are even x-ray panels that are more violent than if the actual guts or blood were spilled because it shows in the most intimate way possible how that person was precisely killed. The perspective of the love scene is also magnetic and energetic as well. Small panels show clothes being aggressively unbuttoned and removed while a bigger panel’s perspective is from above Midnighter and his date. “Camera” angles in this scene and throughout the book are tilted in every direction, giving the book a sense of movement. Like Orlando’s script, Aco transforms the issue into something that feels tangible and alive.Continued below
Fajardo’s color palette is grounded in reality, with muted colors bringing a realism to even the more fantastical elements of the book. The crackling blue of the only splash page in the book transforms Aco’s art into something eerie, otherworldly, and yet something that our eyes can comprehend as something scarily possible. Fajardo’s ability to depict lighting is also especially effective in enhancing the themes of the book and its star. A pre-coital scene takes place in a room with lighting that appears to place a spotlight on Midnighter and his date. The lighting saturates Midnighter pre- and post-sex, highlighting the fact that this is the book’s star and he revels in who he is without shame. Fajardo is masterly with his color choices (as well as co-inking with Hugo Petrus) when it comes to enhancing Aco’s already dazzling pencils.
It’s refreshing to see a character who is gay, complex, and well-written. He’s a hero but definitely not without his foibles, which includes a penchant for killing. Midnighter isn’t handled delicately. The lobotomization of a character that can result when their story is infused with political correctness is nowhere to be found in Orlando’s story. Sterilization and milquetoast are not in Orlando, Aco, or Fajardo’s vocabulary. Midnighter is imperfect, has emotional issues, and yet has a hero’s heart. He truly cares for the innocent. Darkness and light concurrently mingle to create such a promising and exciting opening chapter to what has the potential to be something great.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – Midnighter is a hero worth getting to know and “Midnighter” #1 is a charming introduction by creators who are assuredly treating this book as a labor of love.