The best kind of surprise ending is when it’s the proverbial icing on the cake, rather than the sole reason for a story to exist. That’s the case with “Midnighter” #6, which takes a comic that was already sharp and thrilling and adds one final twist. Because while Steve Orlando, ACO and Hugo Petrus’s comic was great even before the final surprise, that sudden gut punch — where pieces we didn’t know existed fell into place — made it that much more exciting.
Most of “Midnighter” #6 focuses on what happens when Midnighter and Matt’s relationship has strong and serious consequences for Matt’s father. When Matt’s father is beaten up as a way to get at Midnighter, the two go back to the town of Porter, Connecticut to try and find the bad guys — and that’s when things get a little complicated. As Midnighter’s shtick is his ability to anticipate the moves of his opponents, it was inevitable that Orlando would come up with a foe Midnighter couldn’t read. What makes it work here is twofold. First, strictly as an action story, it’s fun to see Midnighter go up against people who he can’t “read” in advance, but still be able to mop the floor with them. It’s a reminder that Midnighter is more than just a single gimmick, and Orlando shows us what a capable character our protagonist is.
Second, and more importantly, it’s a shift that mirrors most of the comic as Midnighter is taken out of his comfort zone. After gallivanting around the world while Matt’s Oakland apartment is rebuilt (after an opening-page Thanksgiving attack destroys it), it’s fun to see Midnighter having to deal not only with small town America but also his boyfriend’s family. While Matt’s father Grant is about as supportive and welcoming as one could hope, it doesn’t change the fact this is an obstacle that Midnighter simply can’t punch his way past.
ACO is back this month (with some inks by Petrus) and his layouts are the spiritual heir to Frank Quitely’s work. Just the opening page alone is a great example of that, with lots of little panels exploding out of the point of impact as Matt’s apartment is attacked. It simultaneously gives us an impression of what the attack is doing, even as we get to see multiple glimpses of the damage being done. It’s impressive enough that you almost miss Midnighter’s somersault through the air as he’s rescuing Matt — almost, but not quite, as ACO is in complete control of the page.
Every page and panel looks great here; the differences between Matt’s modern, revamped apartment and the slightly older-styled homes of Porter, for example, are careful and deliberate. The bandages on Grant’s face are numerous, but not overly so to the point of parody. I simply adore the cascade of panels shooting out of Midnighter’s head, all showing green static overlaid on Midnighter’s red figure to perfectly indicate Midnighter’s sudden lack of his signature ability. Not only does ACO draw it perfectly, but Romulo Fajardo Jr. uses the contrasting red/green shift to make the image pop off the page at the reader.
“Midnighter” #6 is a great comic, and the final reveal at the end of the issue is pure brilliance. It involves someone we haven’t seen in a while, and I’m dying to see what a creative team as clever as Orlando, ACO and Petrus will do in the next part of this story. “Midnighter” #6 is the sort of comic that’s as smart and fun as you wish all superhero comics would be.