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In what’s becoming a regular monthly trend, Midnighter and Apollo is exactly the comic I need this week, two weeks into the most dangerous administration my country has ever elected. Point blank, Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. have once again performed an alchemy to create something topical, universal, and somehow utterly informed and made real by the queer experience.
In terms of plot, this issue focuses primarily on the fight between Neron and Midnighter in order to rescue Apollo from Neron’s castle in Hell. When Midnighter defeats Neron, Neron transports Apollo out of the castle into some endless void. He claims to a physically battered Midnighter that Apollo was never there at all. Neron says that he had destroyed him well before Midnighter arrived. In the last pages of the issue, Apollo hears from far off Midnighter’s voice and immediately heads toward him, reversing the roles they have so far held.
The genius of this issue is encapsulated in this quote, the longest single line in the issue, spoken by Midnighter after brutally defeating Neron in a brawl:
“You hurt Apollo. You hurt me. You thought you were safe here, entrenched in centuries of power. Fear. You’re used to doing what you want. I can see it in your eyes. You think you answer to no one. But you’re wrong.
“You answer to me.”
Midnighter, really, is the hero I need, and, unlike Batman and Gotham, the hero I deserve. Unapologetic, ready and willing to do whatever needs to be done to get what he needs and wants out of life, ready to do anything to protect the people he loves. Midnighter, stepping up against Hell itself and telling it it has no power over him, is absolutely what I need.
Because when Midnighter says this quote to Neron, it could just as easily be me saying it to an administration and a society that would do to me what Neron did to Midnighter. That could, at any time.
This issue shows us how to resist, even when evil has power over us. We must continue to act as if it does not. We must continue fighting until it does not.
It will hurt. It may leave us lying broken in the very pit of hell.
But others will come. The people we protect will protect us in turn. You see, that’s the secret that you learn in times of struggle: you save others to save yourself.
Aside from its thematic relevance, the issue is also perhaps the best-paced and best-illustrated issue of the series so far. The inks feel a little rougher, perfectly suiting the gore and brutality of Midnighter’s battle with Neron, a dirty, unsophisticated brawl. A fair amount of repetitive panels pace the fight perfectly, and I love every second of it.
In terms of color, Fajardo Jr. defines the issue in reds and golds, with Neron’s sickly bluish-yellowish tones looking weak against the ink-heavy and glowing Midnighter and Apollo. This is a moment of triumph, even in the panels where it seems the heroes may fail.
They can’t fail, and everything about this story tells us that.
I can’t wait for next month, when we’ll see how Apollo comes to save Midnighter. It will be so, so cathartic to see them become our happy ending, our hope.
I hope that you pick up this issue of Midnighter and Apollo, and that one, too. Because this comic book is worth far more than its cover price.