Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Midnighter 2, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Michael: As it has been said many times on and off the comic book page, superheroes (mutants, meta-humans or otherwise) are the next step in human evolution. The hyperbolic comparison of superheroes to gods is almost as commonplace as any one political party calling the other Nazis or Hitler. The former argument/thesis is probably grounded a little more in reality however. Superheroes’ elevated abilities and roles of authority do necessitate a whole new set of rules. It might not exactly be fair but then again, “fair” is not really a pre-requisite for this life of ours. Midnighter 2 takes a look at how those supergods and corporations look from below – from the human perspective.
Midnighter 2 continues the topics of the first issue: hijacked superweapons and the ongoing love life of everyone’s favorite gay Batman. Our yet-to-be-revealed bad guys make another attack; this time by taking advantage of a grieving widow named Marina. Powered by a God Garden weapon that allows her to access “the six killing sounds,” Marina goes after the corporation that is ultimately responsible for her husband’s death: Windcrest. Midnighter eventually neutralizes her, but not without feeling sympathetic to her cause and breaking the arm of one of Windcrest’s higher-ups. Meanwhile, Midnighter goes on a date with a guy he rescued last issue after he “came on too strong” with his previous beau. We also get a bit of a glimpse as to why Midnighter and Apollo called it quits.
The first page of this issue references a Supreme Court ruling that is so ridiculous that it fits better in a comic book than in real life: “Corporations are people” – it’s things like this that make me a more cynical Mike, you guys.
Writer Steve Orlando is taking the opportunity to write about corporate bullshit – ironically from a totally corporate sounding board. As I am prone to reminding in my write-ups, regardless of stupendous storytelling, our favorite superheroes are corporate mascots. If real corporations are people and fictitious superheroes are gods then we might as take it a step further and say that corporations are gods themselves. With the sprawling amount of data, power and influence major corporations have on the American people it’s hard not to think of them as omnipotent and omnipresent.
Marina plays the role of the righteous angel of vengeance, speaking out against the gods of Windcrest. This reminded me of a similar scene in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, where the two fallen angels come to take down the false gods of McDonald’s placeholder Moobies. Marina calls out Windcrest for being too far removed from the people and not considering that there are human lives behind their consumers. She challenges that — no matter what we may perceive, or they try to portray, corporations are NOT gods because as she says: “There’s one thing we all have in common. We all die.” Unfortunately corporations have a longer life span than the rest of us.
Orlando’s Midnighter is a Rorschachian Batman who very much resents the notion that he is a company man/superhero. You could argue that since he’s a Batman knock-off that writers want to try to make him as different from the Dark Knight as possible, but it kind of seems like Midnighter himself is actively making those choices to be different. Sure he’s gay and he doesn’t mind the blood but he also just doesn’t give a shit who knows what. With no real civilian name, Midnighter is just…Midnighter. He’s the same person in and out of uniform. In fact, you could argue that his “civilian persona” is the exact opposite of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He walks around homophobic Russia in an American tank-top with a pompadour haircut while holding the hand of another man; conspicuous to the nth degree. Midnighter’s lack of shits gets him called out by a Moscow resident (Moscownian?) who is not so comfortable with Midnighter’s open sexuality.
While it’s a pretty cut-and-dry scene of bigotry, I also read this as a critique of the corporate superhero/god status. Misguided he may be, Mr. Moscow is also representative of the everyman, asking Midnighter – a representative of the superhuman community – “You think you can do whatever you want?” It’s fundamentally the same question that Marina poses to Windcrest – those in positions of power play by their own set of rules. Acting within the confines of the corporate comic book structure, Midnighter is trying to be the anarchist superhero book. Midnighter is the “superhero” that refuses to play by the superhero rules and expectations. Sure, he punishes those who break the law, but he also breaks the arms of corporate big wigs and openly admits to enjoying the violence he inflicts.
Spencer, good sir! What are your thoughts on Midnighter’s latest chapter? Do you think I’m completely off the money with my powers-that-be allegory? Also, how awesome was the Midnighter/Apollo breakup scene?
Spencer: That was a rough scene in a lot of ways, Michael, but I think it’s going to be a vital one going forward. The Midnighter we see in that fight, recent as it may be, isn’t the same Midnighter we’ve read about for the past two issues. I get the feeling that Midnighter’s severe case of honesty — his “coming on too strong” that chased away Jason — stems directly from this fight. So Apollo is upset that Midnighter kept secrets from him? Fine — then he’ll be as upfront as possible from now on.
As we’ve alluded to, this is a plan that isn’t always super effective, as the overwhelming honesty (especially for a first date) drove away Midnighter’s most recent beau. I really love Midnighter’s romantic woes, and especially how much of them stem from his own actions — Midnighter is a character who can veer a little too close to “perfect,” so seeing his romantic foibles helps to humanize him. The big bad Midnighter is a monogamous softie at heart, and as much as he may enjoy sex, he seems even more interested in maintaining a relationship — so, of course he’s awful at them.
Anyway Michael, I don’t think you’re off at all with your reading of this issue. We’re repeatedly reminded that Midnighter sees things differently than most people, and even if his perspective is intrinsically one that’s much more uplifting than most humans’ (and certainly any corporation’s), it’s still one that’s beyond the comprehension of any normal person.
But if corporations don’t think of people at all — or only think of them as potential profits — than Midnighter’s the exact opposite. He may be violent and ruthless, he may enjoy fighting, but he still puts the lives of innocents first — and that makes his targeting Marina only natural. No matter how noble her intentions may have been, she became so blinded that she ended up attacking — and doing serious damage! — to innocents who had absolutely nothing to do with her husband’s death.
For some superheroes, this would be enough to justify locking Marina up and throwing away the key. Yet, while Midnighter makes sure to condemn her approach on more than one occasion, he also has a lot of sympathy for Marina, and as he later admits, even respect for the sheer guts it must have taken her to launch her attack. Midnighter’s role as a superhero gives him a perspective from which he can see the downtrodden and feels compelled to act, be they entirely innocent (like Marina’s victims) or simply misled (like Marina herself).
It’s also notable that Midnighter’s approach to handling Marina is absolutely vindicated within the issue.
If Midnighter had just beaten Marina up and thrown her in jail, it’s very likely that he would have made a life-long enemy. Instead, though, because he could look past Marina’s violent actions and see the reasoning behind them, Midnighter ends up making an ally of sorts out of Marina. This is almost without a doubt what Midnighter had in mind, and it’s a fascinating application of that computer in his mind. Midnighter doesn’t just see how to win every fist fight he winds up in — the same goes for battles of words, minds, and wills.
Of course, for all this talk of Midnighter’s perspective, this issue really only shows it to us through Midnighter’s actions. Artist ACO, in issue one, used dozens of small, intersecting panels to provide a visual representation of how Midnighter perceived the world around him. At times it could be overwhelming, but that was the point — it put us in Midnighter’s shoes. Alec Morgan’s art in issue two is more than competent — a few awkward faces aside — and is surprisingly similar to ACO’s work, but I still feel like Morgan missed more than a few opportunities to delve deeper into Midnighter’s head, especially since it’s a storytelling tool already established by the previous issue.
Still, that’s a minor complaint. Orlando has a fine handle on Midnighter, and I’m particularly charmed by how gleefully obscene much of Midnighter’s dialogue is under his pen (“I don’t speak jackass”). Between the intelligent exploration of modern society, some intriguing mysteries (What role will Marina play in Midnighter’s life? Who robbed the God Garden, and what do they gain by giving its treasures to someone like Marina?), and the complicated, often conflicting personality and morality of its title character, Midnighter is absolutely a title I plan on returning to. No worries; it didn’t come on too strong.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?