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It’s that time of the month again! Midnighter and Apollo #2 hit stands and screens today, and man, I loved it! Monologuing villains, civillian friends not realizing that Death’s Cheap in superhero comics, a gay guy literally trapped in literal Hell —
Yep. They went there. And it was awesome.
I have to say, I really love hyperviolent pulp. Sex and violence as catharsis and escapism always have a place in my heart. Midnighter provided a lot of it, and this miniseries does too. Steve Orlando crafts it beautifully, too. Where a lesser writer would flounder and let the cliches dominate the script, Orlando makes the cliches work for his characters. Of course Midnighter responds to Bendix’s monologue by throwing something sharp through his neck. Of course Apollo’s time in Hell includes the line “forget your lover and the wound will fill.”
Most impressively, I totally buy that Midnighter ends the issue with the following line:
“…Right. Then it looks like a lot of people are going to get their wish…I’m finally going to Hell.”
As a fan of pulp, I have to say this is the good $#%@.
Aside from totally taking the cliches of the revenge quest and the Orpheus story and making them totally his own, Orlando gives the supporting cast some great moments. Marina tries to deal with Apollo’s death by trying to help Mid deal with it. Midnighter, however, in prime form, just refuses to accept Apollo’s death at all. He keeps his body in livable condition and makes an appointment with his friend Gregorio de la Vega, who fans will recognize as the magician Extraño.
de la Vega gives Midnighter some magic tea that allows him to see what’s happening to Apollo. That’s how Mid finds out Apollo’s in Hell. Additionally, we get to see de la Vega’s adoptive daughter with his partner Hugh. I confess I don’t know anything , else about the family, but I’m really glad we caught a glimpse of that relationship.
The art by Fernando Blanco and colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr. continues to uphold the high standards of the book. I particularly really love the way the eldritch Hell monsters were drawn. Hell’s coloring is phenomenal. Additionally, Blanco and Fajardo get to play with a cliche of their own, when Apollo dies. Midnighter holds him Pieta-style, and the moment feels almost understated, the repetitive visuals almost soothing. The only dialogue is Apollo’s name, softly, once. Then, we get the snapping of camera flashes in the middle panel of the page.
That really got to me, the pictures people take of Midnighter in his moment of grief. It felt realistically callous. After all, people will, in universe, share these pictures on their social media. It will be all these people know about this moment, and for some, this relationship. I think that gives Midnighter’s determination to bring Apollo back even more weight, and for this reason:
Gay people die a lot in straight media. We just do. And usually, it’s so that the straight protagonist can learn a lesson about sacrifice or kindness or tolerance.
That’s the in-universe narrative that will grow around the pictures people take in that panel. Apollo died saving people, and his lover cradled his broken body after coming too late to save him. Those people, though, won’t see Midnighter storm hell to bring Apollo back. Frankly, they wouldn’t care.
It breaks the narrative. Instead of gay tragedy for straight edification, Orlando and his team force readers to confront the outright rejection of tragedy. When I interviewed Mr. Orlando at New York Comic Con, he said to me:
“[T]hey give us hope, and that’s where we’re going with Midnighter and Apollo. It’s this idea that now, more than ever, a gay couple is facing down evil, and facing down death, and they’re looking them straight in the eye and they’re saying ‘No, fuck you.’”
Midnighter and Apollo, I think, also shows us just how good a gay comic can be. It focuses itself on being not just one thing or the other — it’s not just a gay comic, but it is undeniably one. For example, it means more to see Apollo thrown into hell, for example, than it does for Batman to get thrown into hell. Midnighter’s homosexuality doesn’t define him, but his unapologetic viciousness in general makes his fight against the forces of Hell a cathartic experience in particular for LGBT readers.
Having a bisexual author writing these characters makes all the difference, I think. Orlando understands on a human level what these storytelling choices mean, so he’s the one best equipped to make them.
Anyway, I loved the issue, and cannot wait for issue #3 of Midnighter and Apollo next month. See you then!