In its second issue, “Midnighter” quickly develops a rhythm that is both fresh for the character and yet still hews closely to the storytelling mechanics of his creator Warren Ellis. Steve Orlando’s script is efficient and entertaining, a lean and tightly paced affair that explores the character in and out of the mask. The writer is backed by strong visuals from Alec Morgan, himself reprising the widescreen layouts of original character artist Bryan Hitch. The creative team uses these elements as nods to the character’s past while also utilizing them to give a fresh, grounded take on Midnighter that helps round him out and makes him more than just, in his own words, “a nameless, homeless fight robot.”
Midnighter begins to feel like less of a pastiche of other characters and more like his own man in this issue. Even with the Wildstorm integration into the DC Universe, he still had a difficult time finding a role other than a more reckless Batman. Here, Orlando develops the character as a selfless vigilante, which makes sense with the understanding that there was never really a self for him to begin with.
In some ways, this is a post-breakup comic book, a man struggling to find his own identity after coming out of a long-term relationship. Orlando reveals the fate of Apollo/Midnighter and, though it’s truncated, the scene is still very sad and feels real. In some ways, it may be the most real thing that has happened to the title character, whose reality has mostly been about being a fantastical myth on outrageous adventures. Now, he is forced to carve out an identity as himself and has trouble identifying to the world at large without doing it through the lens of his previous relationship, even while on a date with someone new. Morgan cleverly designs Midnighter’s new date based off of his ex, yet another classic mistake people make in these moments. If one of the mission statements of this series is to humanize an outrageous character, then this team is doing a great job of that so far.
On the flipside, Orlando and Morgan cut loose as Midnighter stops a woman from going past the point of no return in her quest for revenge against a corporation responsible for the death of her husband. The creative team tells her entire story in an efficient one page summation, spinning a very tragic story in the first two panels alone. Her weapon of choice is the perfect type of offbeat sci-fi and forces Midnighter to do something disgusting to himself to stop her. It’s clear Orlando understands how to best maximize Midnighter in an action scenario and Morgan steps up with strong fight choreography and excellent character work. Marina’s rage is palpable, barely contained as she’s swallowed by the emotion while tearing through her opponents. She’s a good foil at this time in Midnighter’s life, allowing him to see what that loss can look like when left unchecked.
“Midnighter” #2 weaves in and out of its narrative seamlessly and fans of the character will most likely want to show up for what feels like the best representation of him in years. While many other creative teams have struggled to find something to say with the character beyond his first gear and “Authority” days, Orlando and Morgan use those old elements to evolve the man into his own person.