Saturday, 9 April 2016

Midnighter Book 1: Out (#1-7)

"These people think they don't know fear. But they don't know me" - Midnighter

OK, now regular readers might remember that I've already covered Book One of The Midnighter's Wildstorm series (a surprisingly sensitive five issues penned by Garth Ennis), but this is the DCYou Midnighter, new series, newly single and carving out a place for himself as a solo hero.  I must say when I first heard he and his lover Apollo had been split up I wondered if this was some dastardly attempt by DC to "de-gay" him.  I needn't have worried, to be frank after the incredibly chaste and angsty relationship he and Apollo had in The New 52 series Stormwatch, seeing The Midnighter hit the Scene, clubbing and dating and shagging hot blokes is really fun to read and while obviously things don't get too sexually graphic, I was surprised at how raunchy he is being allowed to be. So well done DC you finally made it into the 21st century with your portrayal of an out and proud gay man heading his own series, and you haven't even slapped a "For Mature Readers" warning on it either.  In case you're reading this and don't recall much about The Midnighter, he's a genetically enhanced human with a brain like a computer capable of analysing every possible outcome of a fight in a split second plus superhuman healing abilities.  He also enjoys his "job" perhaps a little too much, he's never happier than when he is breaking heads although he's on the side of good thankfully.

This newer version of Midnighter first appeared in the Grayson (Dick Grayson having been "outed" as Nightwing now continues his work without a secret identity) series where a new backstory that is elaborated on in this volume was given to him.  The collection begins with a sneak peak from the Nightwing/Oracle mini that was part of the Convergance crossover, where we see him defeating aliens who are transporting into human bodies.  But that's only a few pages and somewhat lacking in context so I am skipping past it to begin with the series proper, just noting that has been included if you decide to pick this trade paperback up.  Onwards.
On a date with Jason.
The story begins proper at "The God Garden".  Someone has managed to get past security, the person running the place - The Gardener - tries to defend herself but the unknown person zaps her away and says they are here to take all "these wonderful, brutal, innovative treasures."  Then we cut to Oakland where Midnighter is out on a date with a man he met via his somewhat twisted online personal.

They flirt, then Midnighter's senses tell him an attack is imminent and he tells his date to get down.  In teleport some "Modorians" who want the Modorian "traitors" hiding in the USA and the restaurant is now their hostage.  As their leader rants, Midnighter gets changed into his superhero garb and tells them:

Midnighter: "Beaming in here, you must think you're pretty great.  But I have a special computer in my head that lets me see every move you're going to make...I won the moment you spoke out of your sphinchter of a mouth".

He goes on to say by letting him talk he was given time to allow his eyes to heal and he lays a brutal beatdown on them.  One of the hostages says "awesome" as he looks on.
Midnighter in action.
We rewind a bit to Midnighter at a seedy bar called "Al's Masse".  Al asks him where Apollo is, and Midnighter says they broke up.  Al commiserates, but Midnighter says it was his idea, "he's better off."  In the present, Midnighter has used his teleportation door technology to take his date Jason to Moscow.  Then they go to his "inner sanctum".

Jason: "Can anyone gain access?"

Midnighter: "No, there's a rigorous physical examination".

Jason says his life is ridiculous, a door that can go anywhere is crazy.  Midnighter says his apartment is the hub and that apartment is grown from "undifferentiated urban cells.  Superhero housing".  Jason decides to make a move and sexy times ensue.
Fredric Wertham is spinning in his grave.
Jason wakes up the next day to find Midnighter sleeping on the floor, after a few years on the streets he never got used to beds.  As Jason makes breakfast, Midnighter says to him:

Midnighter: "I'm a fighter.  I fight for normal people but will never be one.  I'm not a hero.  Some people can't handle that."

Then he slaps a GPS/Communication patch on Jason so he can be one of his "assets", reporting to Midnighter if they see anything out of the ordinary.  Jason understandably reacts a little freaked out at being tagged and asked if his last boyfriend had this done to him.

Midnighter says no, because it was Apollo a superhuman who he clicked with right from the start.  But Apollo hated Midnighter's involvement with The Gardener and the loyalty he felt to her.  Midnighter, twisted as it is, still considers her family.  Then he is called away by her.
The God Gardener.
He finds her dying and is annoyed that he is going to have to clear up the mess of the theft from The God Garden.  But that's not all that was stolen, The Gardener had a dossier on Midnighter's life before she erased his memories and that's been taken as well.

Midnighter: "And someone walked out of here with it.  Good.  He won't be walking for long."

Back in Oakland a woman called Marina is mourning the loss of her husband.  Then a mysterious figure gives her one of the weapons from the God Garden.  He tells her "Windcrest foods" knew about the fact they might poison people with a rare exotic allergy, like her husband, but they pushed for release anyway.  "Acceptable risk" they said, now with her new weapon she can get revenge.

Back at Al's Masse, Midnighter and Al are playing pool, Midnighter says Jason friend-zoned him after the whole tagging incident.  Then he is called away again.  Marina has been given the power of the "six killing words" and is storming Windcrest foods taking out security on her way to the boardroom.  Midnighter confronts her and she knocks him out briefly with one of the words. She reaches the boardroom and stands on the table ranting at them.

Marina: "You intimidate.  You settle out of court.  But this is how I settle.  Here and now.  There are always faces at the end of your business conditions."
Marina out for revenge.
Midnighter comes around and abseils in through the boardroom window.  Then we jump forwards a day to Midnighter with a man called Matt who was the one who said "awesome" in the restaurant shoot-out.  They are in a bar in Moscow holding hands.  Some thugs come over and tell Midnighter and his "girlfriend" to leave.  Midnighter smashes them through a table.

He then tells Matt how he dealt with Marina and we return to the day before.  She tries to use one of the words on him but he has blocked his ears (by ripping his eardrums out).  He knocks her down and the Windcrest board thank him and ask him to restrain her.

He however, starts breaking their limbs saying they will pay for everyone who she hurt today's medical bills, they will seek the lightest sentence against her and they will publically accept responsibility for why this happened, "because if you don't, I'll know, and I'll bring her back."  Then he cuffs her and takes her away.
On a date with Matt.
Back in Moscow, Matt is impressed.  They go to the "Izmailovsky market".  Midnighter says he and Andrew/Apollo used to go all the time.  He likes to watch people and eat the barbecue there.  Matt says he hopes he measures up, Midnighter responds, "you can. You do.  I'm just being stupid."

Matt: "We're owning moments together.  Do them with someone before?  They're ours now.  Hostile takeover."

He goes on to say anyone not impressed by what the Midnighter means is the real idiot.  "It can lose it's lustre" says Midnighter.  We flashback to him fighting with Apollo.  He admits his civilian identity "Lucas Trent" is just something he made up, he has no knowledge of his past before The Gardener erased his memories.  Apollo is furious that he has been lying to him, but Midnighter kisses him then leaves saying he knows how this fight will end.
Fighting with Apollo.
Marina is in jail but is now one of Midnighter's assets and can talk to him.  He is in an underground carpark, she say she never saw the face of the person who gave her the technology.  Then Midnighter says he is excited and it's revealed he is surrounded by many identical attackers.  "I guess I do know when my birthday is" Midnighter says.

The beings introduce themselves as "Multiplex" and Midnighter gets ready to fight them.  Cut to a few hours earlier.  Midnighter is in a nightclub with Jason, Al and Matt.  Matt is dancing and Jason encourages him to join him, but Midnighter chickens out and stays at the bar with Al.  Al says Matt is a good guy,  and "it's good to see you back on track."  Midnighter grins.
Out clubbing.
Later he visits a woman called Mrs. Riley.  He heard her daughter had gone missing and wants to talk about "beating inventively and repeatedly the people who took her."  Mrs. Riley invites him in and tells him she never came home from school one day and the police didn't care when she reported it to them.  He reassures her he'll get her back.

He finds a human trafficker and tortures the information on who took the girl out of him.  "The Zardiis" screams the man.  The stolen God Garden technology is being used to transfer the "life force" from one body to another, powered by the "raw material" who is the girl.  Midnighter busts in and crushes them all and frees the girl who is scared of him.  Midnighter says no one will hurt her now, but "what about the old man and the costume guy?" she asks.

The costume guy turns out to be Multiplex who Midnighter destroys every body of.  He discovers the old man there as well, he begs Midnighter to leave his face intact for his grandchildren's sake.  "They already know you're a prick" retorts Midnighter and kills him.
Multiplex no match for Midnighter.
He delivers the girl back home.  He reasssures her that no one will hurt her now.  He went through the same thing as a child, kidnapped and experimented on.  "I.. didn't have a me to fight those people" he says.  She invites him in for a midnight snack but he declines saying "hopefully you'll never see me again".

Midnighter and Matt do some nearly naked cuddling.  Midnighter asks Matt if the blood still on him puts him off.  Matt says his mother was a doctor, "I don't run at the sight of blood."  Later they are dressed and standing on the top of the building.  Matt says he chose to contact Midnighter and he'd do it again.

Matt: "Think I didn't expect baggage?  You are programmed for only fighting.  You give a damn.  That's why I'm here.  Not for sugar coating.  And not everything has to be a fight."

Midnighter remembers the last time he saw Apollo.  He says to him that "I don't know how to be me without you".  He says he still loves him, he just needs time.  Apollo turns his back and leaves.  We return to Matt and Midnighter who says he wants the file on his past. 
Apollo and Midnighter's last coversation.
Matt says it doesn't matter who he was, what matters is who he is now.  Next day we join Dick Grayson doing his secret agent thing until the Midnighter shows up and gets him in a choke hold saying "it's date night".

Some drunken Russian douchebros go to a secret location to pay top price to stake a "vampire".  A being chained, starved and pleading.  When they kill it they hi-five each other and say they are heroes.  Midnighter, Grayson meet another of Midnighter's assets, a man called "Evengeny Maxsimovich Baraanok" who tells them about "Noi Akakyevich" and his "thrill-kill" club.

Later Midnighter and Grayson go into a Russian sauna where the young men are.  Midnighter wants to know who attended the "Inn of Guire Grande".  The men attack them but Midnighter and Grayson eaily beat them and they confess to having gone.  As they leave Grayson says didn't they know this already? "Not the point Dick.  It's the journey" says Midnighter.
Later that night the head vampire feeds on a homeless person.  Some more young men arrive to kill a vampire, chained to a wall and pleading for its life.  Then Grayson and Midnighter burst in and take down the guards.  The lead vampire grabs Midnighter and seperates him from Grayson.  Midnighter says he's not a real vampire, he can see the cellular enhancements.

Midnighter: "Thing is you might not be a vampire, but you can die like one".

He smashes the vampire in the head, it summons a hoard of rats that Midnighter deals with.  Grayson appears and warns Midnighter the vampire is back up and Midnighter slices it's head in half which finally takes it down.
Rescuing the "vampires".
Midnighter has a chat with a bored Marina.  He and Grayson freed the unwilling vampires.  The tech from the God Garden was able to weaponise folklore. "Humans treated with reprogrammed Martian cells, mimicking vampirism".  Grayson hoped he could reverse the process but the cells were booby trapped and the vampires all burn up.  "Sounds like you've got more work to do" says Marina.

In a Russian bar, Grayson says he managed to ping Akakyevich's nano-signature and knows where the cells were made.  We cut to Akakyevich talking to some military looking types, he says his vampires were a lure that worked perfectly, what he is really after to sell is Midnighter's computer brain, "coming soon" he says.

After a jog, Matt speaks with Midnighter over the phone.  Midnighter and Grayson are taking out some of Akakyevich's goons.  "You bought back up?" says Matt in surprise.  "He's an intern at best" responds Midnighter. Akakyevich meanwhile is down in his labs with his human/animal hybrids being tested.  He says that Midnighter and Grayson are "behnd schedule" so he uses the device from the God Garden that controls the teleportation doors to switch on but block an area round where the lab is.
Battling the beasts.
Midnighter detects it's been turned on and finds the place they can't door into.  It's an unmapped Metro station so they go to catch a train there.  Midnighter cuffs himself to Grayson to make sure he does things his way.  They get on the train then off at the unmapped stop and are greeted by the "beast battalion".

Grayson: "Look at these things.  If I die handcuffed to you I'm going to kill you."

Midnighter says these are mutated humans but have no higher brain functions anymore, "gruesome golems."  Grayson wonders why they have been sent to greet them if Akakyevich wants them to come right to him.  "It's called showing off" says Midnighter and they kill all the monsters ending with a huge "werewolf".  Then they bust down the lab door.

Akakyevich greets them and shows them the telekinesis powers he got from the God Garden.  He makes Grayson and Midnighter fly up and smash through the ceiling into the room above which breaks the cuffs.  Midnighter says he detected Akakyevich's TK implant and used his ego to get him to throw them exactly where he wanted.  He is able to disable the door block and teleports down behind Akakyevich and kicks him in the head, smashing the TK implant to bits.
Taking down Akakyevich.
Akakyevich angrily says that Midnighter is nothing to him, "just spare parts" that don't understand their market value.  Midnighter hurls a shard of glass at him, but Grayson smashes it with one of his billy clubs saying "no...killing".  A shard still lodges in Akakyevich's spine and he collapses in agony.  Midnighter interrogates him, but Akakyevich wasn't the one who stole from the God Garden, he was just a middle man.

Later in their hotel room, Grayson and Midnighter have a drink.  Midnighter says that he respects Grayson even if he doesn't like all his rules.  Grayson admits he admires the way Midnighter never gives up pursuing something he wants.  Back in the USA Matt has prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for them both.  Midnighter says it's his first one but as they tuck in an ominous helicopter hovers behind them and a sniper takes aim at their heads.

Midnighter senses the threat and throws himself on top of Matt to protect him.  Matt kisses him and says "go get them."  Midnighter leaps through the shattered window and grabs onto the helicopter which is being flown by more of Multiplex.  He murderises them, and lands the 'copter on the building roof.
More Multiplexes get taken out.
We then get a montage of Midnighter tracking down more stolen tech while the flat is remodelled.  Finally it is finished, he grew it using the same cells as his place.  But then Matt gets a phone call, someone has beaten up his father because they saw him and Midnighter together on TV and took it out on the old man.

The door to his house in a rural area, Matt calls it a "white picket death-trap".  Matt and his father Grant hug, then Grant says to Midnighter it's good to meet "the man who is making my son so happy".  Midnighter says he shouldn't have been hurt, "that's not a reality I can allow."  We then cut to Midnighter quizzing some local thuggish types who he lays a beatdown on, finally one screams they just don't know who did it.
Midnighter chats with Grant.
Midnighter returns to Grant saying he can frighten people but they can't tell him what they don't know.  And as the people who assaulted him left no forensic traces he is stumped.  Grant says he doesn't mind if Midnighter drops it.

Midnighter: "If I'm not keeping as many people safe as possible, I'm not doing my job."

Grant says as long as Grant keeps his son safe he is content.  Matt though is having a wobble, maybe Midnighter can't protect him.  Midnighter is still confused at how clean the area is:

Midnighter: "This never happened.  Something is wrong here, everything's too perfect and I can't.. I don't.. I don't know what's going to happen."

Then a bus tries to run them down.  Midnighter tells Matt to go home and jumps aboard.  He fights with the thugs and they end up melting.  They aren't real peope, "Holt-Griffin skin" from the God Garden.  "How long have I been blind?" says Midnighter to himself.  Then he returns to Grant's house and punches the old man's head off, it explodes in green gooey liquid.
Matt is horrified.  Midnighter says now he knows what to look for he can get the people who did this, and he hugs Matt.  And Matt stabs him in the chest.  He then walks away as Midnighter slumps to the floor saying "you almost had it".  He returns in costume and is revealed as the supervillain Prometheus.

Prometheus: "You want to protect people?  Be the sword for the unheard?  So self important. So confident.  Look at you now. Time for some fire".

We get some backstory on Prometheus whose parents were gangsters who were killed in a shoot out with the cops.

Prometheus: "My parents loved me.  Justice killed them.  There's no justice in that.  I had to destroy justice at the roots."

He inherited his parents money and underworld connections, when he got older he did a Batman style training tour of the world.  He became Prometheus.  He stole the God Garden techology, his body is "hardwired to learn... I can record any skill and install it in my brain".  His Holt-Griffin skin cells blind the Midnighter's enhancements, even now.  His brain can't predict him, he has the skills of the thirty best fighters in the world including Midnighter.
Prometheus explains his evil plan.
They start to fight as Prometheus rants about the hypocrisy of heroes, "killing for the 'crime' of killing."  He wound the Midnighter up and watched him run around blind.  Now he's going to "rip out your technology and use it."  Midnighter says he won't make it easy. As they continue to trade blows, Prometheus says he has Midnighters secret file downloaded in his head.  He grew the house from Midnighter's memories.  Midnighter starts to get the upperhand.

Midnighter: "All that time you spent with me.  You didn't learn when to talk and when to punch someone in the face?"
You can't keep Midnighter down.
Then he punches Prometheus so hard his helmet shatters.  Prometheus says if he kills him he'll lose the chance to find out what his past was. "Your move fighter" he says.  And Midnighter smashes him so hard either side of his head (in a double page spread I can't scan) it looks like it gives Prometheus a pretty serious brain injury as shattered memories of Midnighter fly symbolically out of his head.  "I know exactly who I am" says Midnighter to the crippled Prometheus who manages to activate a teleport and escape.

Midnighter: "Hmph... pushover.  I wouldn't have run."

And in the debris of the house he finds a photo of himself as a teenager.  Days later back in Oakland, Midnighter is hanging out with Jason.  He is distracted and Jason says he wishes he could punch Matt/Prometheus in the mouth for him. 
Jason reassures Midnighter.
Midnighter is just sad, the second time he let someone get so close to him he was stabbed in the heart literally and metaphorically.  When he says he can't trust his judgement anymore, Jason says that just makes him as imperfect as the rest of humanity.

Jason: "I've known that all along and I'm sticking with you."

Later Midnighter has a chat with Marina who is still in jail, then we see Apollo come home and find the photo of teen Midnighter framed and left on his bed.  Then we get what looks like a sneak peak of the next big storyline involving the assassin Deadshot and we wrap up this volume with Midnighter drinking at Al's.  Al commiserates with him again, Midnighter says he never saw the betrayal coming, he didn't know that was possible:

Midnighter: "But I do know one thing.  There's one thing that will never change.  I'm never done fighting".
He gets knocked down, but he gets up again.
What an enjoyable collection of issues. It really fleshes Midnighter out in a way that hasn't really happened to him before.  His sexuality is upfront and unashamed as he navigates his way through the dating and clubbing scene making friends, finding love, getting his heart broken but bouncing back, it's all good stuff.  He's always run the risk in the past as coming over as rather one-dimensional, so contrasting his "off-duty" life with his crime fighting has proved to be a good decision on the part of writer Steve Orlando who fills the book with snappy dialogue and heartfelt moments.  The art has a nice, crisp, "gritty" feel to it and stays remarkably consistent between artists Aco, Stephen Moody and Hugo Petrus, with some good use of layouts to convey Midnighter's enhanced battle senses. Also putting him back in his pre-New 52 costume was a good move, because that stupid, neo-nineties, overbusy, chin-spiked nightmare he wore in Stormwatch was just one indication of how much DC didn't seem to "get" his character then.  He doesn't need armour and spikes, his body and mind are his weapons and his simple leather coated look is a timeless classic. His new origin and the mystery behind the theft of technology from The God Garden makes for interesting reading, and his choice to sacrifice the possibilty of knowing his real past so he can take out a larger threat is powerful stuff. His gift of the photo of his teen self to Apollo is sweet, first loves can loom very large over ones emotional life no matter how many times you fall in love afterwards.  I'm glad he is still shown caring about him, but also it's nice how he's determined to pick himself up after "Matt's" betrayal and not angst about it.  Permanent happiness might still be off-limits to major DC characters but dammit, Midnighter won't stop fighting for it.  Anyway, I'm totally sold on this series I just hope it survives the 2016 DC relaunch.

[OK so I got worried and impatient and googled if it would be continuing and... Oh Son Of A Whore, it isn't. Fuck you DC! All those nice things I said about you in the intro, I take them back! Expect some angrish about the "failure" of the DCYou when I wrap things up with a hoped for volume two, and as this relaunch decision seemed to have come about before the first wave of DCYou TPB's were released I guess I should be angriest at trade waiters like myself, because obviously our patronage means nothing in either the short or long term. Feh.]


  1. why didn't I know about this?! why didn't dc publicise it more? i read grayson and loved him in that, and now I find out this existed and has been cancelled and so has grayson. :(

  2. I have dark conspiracy theories about the self sabotage of the DCYou I shall probably discuss when the second and final round of DCYou tpb's come out....

  3. Only goes to show, G: to know what's really going on, read Sophie's blog!

    People who don't know the meaning of fear need to buy a dictionary.

    This dialogue and art is so good that it makes my comics-loving brain weep soft tears of relief.

    Midnighter is exactly the sort of person bourgeois, boring, stick-up-her-butt me would avoid in real life. But if I were in a hostage situation, there's nobody I'd rather see coming to the rescue. Dude's a pro.

    If I were gay, I wouldn't go on a date in Moscow. Heck, I probably wouldn't go on a date in Moscow if I were straight. 'Tis a scary place.

    Is Grayson not Nightwing any more? Shame. Nightwing is a cool name.

  4. Right on, though I do seem to be the kiss of death to a lot of series!

    I'd probably like to go out clubiing with Midnighter, bet I could convince him to come and dance.

    I'm pretty sure with Midnighter, anywhere is a safe place to go on a date. He has a way of dealing with homophobes that is pretty cool.

    Dick Grayson got unmasked as Nightwing during one of the New 52 crossovers. So he became like a super secret agent instead working for an organisation called "Spyral" and his book was relaunched as Grayson. Which was critically acclaimed and popular, so of course it's being cancelled -_-