BOOKSHELF BUILDING: Midnighter vol. 1 Provides a Wild, Gory Ride

Going into Midnighter by Steve Orlando, I only knew that it focused on one of DC’s iconic gay characters.  I knew about his relationship with Apollo.  That, and I knew that people sometimes reduce them both to ‘Gay Batman’ and ‘Gay Superman’.  My curiosity piqued, I stopped by Steve Orlando’s table at FlameCon, and picked up a signed copy of the trade paperback.

I had, frankly, no idea what I was getting into.  Midnighter violently dispatches bad guys on panel — do not read it if you have problems with that.

The book opens with Midnighter naked, the morning after a one-night stand.  Someone called ‘Asset 23’ calls him on a very high tech phone.  He gets out dressed and heads out to go handle a group of baddies with a gun that ‘marks [people] for demonic possession.’

As an introduction to the character, that seems to cover it.  Mid’s sex-and-violence lifestyle marks the entire book.  If you took a Tarantino movie and made it gay (er, gayer than Reservoir Dogs, anyway), you’d find yourself with Midnighter.  As a fan of that kind of content, I loved this book.

The book follows Midnighter (often called ‘Mid’ by friends) as he tries to find out who stole from the God Garden.  The Gardener tells him that someone stole files about Midnighter’s past that Midnighter does not remember.  Additionally, the thief stole really powerful technology that needs reclaiming.  In the midst of this, Mid falls into a relationship with a civilian named Matt.

The same weekend I bought the book — at FlameCon — I had the pleasure of attending a diversity-in-comics panel.  At this panel, Steve Orlando discussed the idea that characters often get stuck with representing a whole community.  He talked about not bothering to do that with Mid, something that I really appreciate.  In focusing on making Midnighter Midnighter, Orlando neatly sidesteps potential stereotypes.  He doesn’t apologize, either, for the ‘stereotypical’ behavior that Mid sometimes engages in: Midnighter’s active sex life serves a purpose in informing his present characterization.

Midnighter broke up with Apollo before the book started.  His behavior as a single gay man after such an intense relationship makes a lot of sense.  Additionally, his rebound relationship with Matt provides a real highlight to the book.  Mid communicates well and openly with his new civilian boyfriend, which feels different from from a lot of superhero romances I’m familiar with.

Not to call Midnighter a superhero, though.  Mid definitely lives in the anti-hero region.  He actually tells one person that he’s a bad guy who kills worse guys.  I really loved that aspect of the book, as well.  Mid knows himself, and doesn’t dwell on it much.

Another highlight of the book arrives about halfway through in the form of Dick Grayson.  As Midnighter’s ‘abdominally gifted’ friend, Dick provides a moral foil for Mid that I really like.

In terms of the art, this book shocked me with some of its beautiful artwork.  I love it when books do something new visually, and this book definitely does.  It uses a lot of small inset panels to focus in on details, and to provide visual repetition.  This gives the book a really consistent visual character, despite being worked on by multiple artists.

The one part of the book at I didn’t really like was the climactic twist.  I won’t spoil it for future readers, but it feels cliche.  However, by the end of the book, Midnighter is single again.  I won’t say any more than that.

Next Wednesday, DC will release the first issue of Orlando’s next Midnighter story: Midnighter and Apollo, which will bring the famous lovers back together.  I really hope that they get back together, because Orlando’s use of Apollo in flashback really rocks.  I want to see where Midnighter and Apollo can go after their breakup, but, most of all, I’m curious about if they’re ready to get back together.

In the end, if you really like gay anti-heroes, and can handle significant gore, please pick up Midnighter, because you won’t regret the read.  Mid is funny, fun, and unapologetic about every aspect of who he is, and that is something I want more of out of my LGBT protagonists.

Murphy Leigh

Murphy is a vaguely femininish malady who spends most of their time worshipping at the altars of Lois Lane, Chloe Sullivan, Jean Grey, and Wanda Maximoff. Their first confirmable event-memory is Princess Leia at the start of A New Hope. Has more in common with Lex Luthor than Lex Luthor would probably like to admit.

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