Despite the fact that Graeme insists at the end of every podcast that I’m the punctual one here, I’ve fallen woefully behind. I’m not just behind on writing and posting, though–I’m behind on actually reading the damned books. And given the lunatic velocity with which DC has been releasing issues of their Rebirth titles, that has created an enormous backlog. (Like, literally enormous. Like a three-foot tall stack of books on my bedside table.)
In an effort to trim the to-read list and get some #content posted on this here site, I’m going to be writing more frequent, shorter posts while I try to get on top of this insane backlog. Today: Midnighter and Apollo #1, written by Steve Orlando, drawn by Fernando Blanco, and colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
I wanted to like the Midnighter series that preceded this. I really did. I have a deep affection for the character dating back to his first appearances, I and applauded DC’s willingness to have an unambiguously gay male lead with a lively dating/sex life. But it never quite came together for me.
It was clear that Orlando has many of the same superhero reference points I do (the surprise villain reveal in that series was a high point, as was the use of the Tom King/Tim Seeley incarnation of Dick Grayson), but something in his writing didn’t click for me. It felt promising, but maybe like he wasn’t quite up to clearly conveying the stories around the stylistic tricks he was using. ACO’s art ran into very similar problems, which didn’t help matters: the renderings were gorgeous and the pages full of clever David Aja/J.H. Williams-esque flourishes, but the storytelling clarity wasn’t always there.
I stuck out a few issues then bailed. I tried to dip back into the second trade in preparation for reading this series, but found myself skimming across it like a skipped rock.
So I was pretty surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the new series’ first issue. Part of that is that the art now much better serves the story. Blanco still indulges in some cool stylistic stuff in his pages (the two-tier double-page train fight with inset panels, for example, only half of which appears below), but his base style owes a lot more to someone like a Chris Samnee, with a thick line and tremendous basic storytelling chops.
That, in turn, means that Orlando’s writing is doing much less heavy lifting, so his strengths come through much more clearly. For example, when it comes to great superhero reference points, digging up the Subway Pirates from Manhattan Guardian is brilliant. (And then he goes ahead and pulls something from Hitman which obviously makes me even happier.) I love the casual double date/dinner scene, and the interpersonal sex/romance/soap-operatics that follow–I think I’m more invested in Midnighter exploring this relationship (especially in a second go-round) than I was in any of his dates in the last series.
There are some good light comedy bits, which Blanco has the chops to pull off, and a suitably dramatic cliffhanger. It’s a book that feels like it’s trying much less hard than its predecessor, but accomplishing much more.
Part of me worries that I’m a mark for the book because it hits on so many things I enjoy–I recently reread Warren Ellis’s Stormwatch run and loved it almost as much as I did the first time, so even just seeing Henry Bendix again was fun–but there were a lot of those things in the previous volume and that totally fell flat for me.
In the end, there’s nothing here that feels revelatory or earthshaking, but it’s a solid comic book, executed with competence and flare, and sometimes that’s enough for me to stick around for the full six-issue run. Or it will be enough as long as we get another Dick Grayson team-up before it all wraps up.