Reading “Midnighter” #3, I kept feeling like I was somehow coming across storyboards for a never-filmed streaming television series. There’s something about the pacing for this comic in Steve Orlando’s understanding of telling complete stories while still having an episodic, part-of-a-series feel that just grows stronger and stronger each month. Add in ACO and Hugo Petrus’ art, and the end result is a comic that doesn’t take the easy way out.
One of the many things I appreciate about Orlando’s scripts is that the more we see of Midnighter, the more we see that he’s not a terribly likable person. He’s a great hero and he’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard to try and imagine yourself a friend of his, because his lack of a strong core of empathy gives a somewhat gruff exterior. He gets the job done, but he’s lousy at the small talk. It’s the most on display when we see more of how his and Apollo’s relationship came crashing down; Midnighter can win every physical battle, but Apollo’s comment that Midnighter just finally lost a fight is both cutting and apt.
At the same time, Orlando isn’t afraid to show us that Midnighter is trying in his own emotionally callous way. You get the impression that he really thinks he was doing the best thing every time, and that his logical, analytical, predictive thought process has always led him to victory. It’s part of what makes “Midnighter” an enjoyable read; Orlando walks that fine line of giving us a flawed character but not one who’s deliberately nasty to good people. He’s just not quite right.
For those looking for the action, though, Orlando, ACO and Petrus provide in spades. Midnighter’s attempt to find and rescue Amanda is fast-paced and more-or-less non-stop, even as it zigzags back and forth through the course of several hours. Orlando gives us a series of small sprints, and ACO and Petrus bring those to life. I love how ACO continues to use the small inset panels throughout his page layouts; it lets him “zoom” the focus in and out while using an economy of space, in addition to providing some inventive layouts. As he pulls in all the information around him, the orbits of circular panels around Midnighter’s head is dazzling, as is the download of rectangular panels zooming down on the next page. Panels are full but never overloaded, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. gets a lot of credit for using his colors to make every character and item look unique without creating a visual cacophony on the page.
“Midnighter” #3 continues the strong trend that the first two issues began; it’s a real pleasure to see such a smart and mature take on the character. Who knew that Midnighter’s personal life could be as much fun as his walloping on bad guys? Add in another great cliffhanger to lead into next month’s issue — with a rematch that promises to be entertaining — and I’m good and thoroughly hooked. Another good job from all involved. “Midnighter” knows what you’re going to do: buy this issue and enjoy it.