Of all of the evolutions in character relationships over the last few years at DC, none seem to be as exciting or make more sense than the dynamic that has developed between Dick Grayson and Midnighter. Their team up in “Midnighter” #4 is fun, sexy and full of action as writer Steve Orlando continues to wrap his arms around the titular character and make him his own. The issue is another stop on the road to discovery for Midnighter as he works his way down the rabbit hole towards an inevitable showdown with Akakyevich.
Orlando delivers a healthy balance of fan service with superb storytelling, aided by Stephen Mooney’s sexy linework. The duo have the most fun in a sauna fight scene as Dick and Midnighter beat several privileged Russian men senseless after they paid top dollar to murder vampires. Both characters thrive in the heat of action, with Dick in the role of straight man to Midnighter’s gleefully violent lead.
As the characters crack wise under Orlando’s pen, they crack skulls under Mooney’s. His action choreography is a blend of “Bourne”-inspired hand-to-hand combat and comics-style bombast that adapts to fit the scene as needed. The panel choices are all clear and readable, maximizing the page real estate to move time as required by the plot. Midnighter’s multi-panel takedown of rats and roaches towards the end of the issue is a great example, as it is both hilarious and spot-on for the character. The ruthlessness of the star can be jarring and Mooney doesn’t shy away from it, such as when Midnighter explodes a genetically-modified vampire’s skull with a well-placed knee to the face. The tone of this book establishes that violence can be entertaining but that it can also be incredibly jarring as it invades the page. The best shots are used for ends or turns-of-page, which add to that effect in an excellent use of the interactive nature of a comic book.
The downtime moments in the book are just as good, with Orlando populating the fringes with weird characters full of personality. The writer gives everyone a voice and even the silent woman who guards the vampire club speaks volumes of who she is after Midnighter delivers a spot-on breakdown of her struggles and she gives the duo access to the horrors within. Watching Grayson be forced to spend time with Midnighter and Midnighter’s subtle enjoyment of the situation are the creative team working on full blast.
Midnighter is on a quest for identity, a personal stake masked in an altruistic motive. Akakyevich shows his hand at the end of the issue, revealing what role the hero plays in his black market schemes. Orlando has done such a great job of reestablishing the danger and skill of Midnighter in this series that the thought of more than one of him is a serious threat. Though it’s been four issues of cat-and-mouse, it’s been important to give the story time to redevelop and rehabilitate this character. The potential seen in the pairing of these characters is huge and DC should very much consider a crossover between this and “Grayson” if possible, as the writers on both series seem to have a strong understanding of both their characters as well as their worlds. Fans of the series have come to expect a great read from this series and “Midnighter” #4 just adds to that with another excellent installment.