Today, Patrick and Michael are discussing Midnighter 6, originally released November 4th, 2015.
Patrick: I’ve got beef with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s one of my favorite books in the series, largely because of Rowling’s characterization of Alastor Moody. He’s a hard-as-nails, paranoid-but-right nut job, and he gets Harry. Moody understands the severity of the whole Voldemort situation, and he gleefully ushers the narrative into the series end game with a confidence that’s unmatched by anyone else in the book – even Harry. When — spoilers, I guess — Moody reveals himself to really be Barty Crouch Jr., there’s an enormous audience-ally-vacuum. I know I spent the rest of the series desperately looking for someone I could trust as implicitly as I (wrongly) trusted Moody. It’s sort of a genius stroke on Rowling’s part: just like Harry, we will no longer feel even remotely safe in this world. Steve Orlando and Aco have always done a great job of gifting the reader Midnighter’s perspective on the world, through neat little insert panels giving a peek into the inner workings of his fight computer, but they do one better with issue six. While they continue to imbue us with Midnighter’s advantages, it’s in inflicting his weaknesses upon us that their storytelling proves most effective.
It should go without saying for all of these Alternating Currents, but this was such a great twist that I’d really hate to ruin it for anyone. There will be full spoilers for Midnighter 6 going forward. If you haven’t read the first six issues, do yourself a favor and read them right now and then come back to discuss. It’ll be worth your time, I promise.
Back? Great! Fun read, right? OKAY LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT TWIST. Matt is either the person responsible for stealing the Garden tech or works with the team that did. On the surface, that wouldn’t be that much of a gut punch, but Aco and Orlando do their damnedest to tell the sweetest, most earnest story they can revolving around their idyllic relationship.
And actually, maybe “idyllic” isn’t quite the right descriptor there. Matt and Midnighter’s relationship seems to be built on understanding, but isn’t anywhere near the Norman Rockwell fantasy of something we saw in, say Avengers: Age of Ultron. Instead, Midnighter’s idea of a perfect relationship is one that allows he and his partner to travel the world, camping in Garden yurts, drinking in exotic bars, and hiking waterfalls. All while not having to take time off from kicking the shit out of bad guys.
It’s an impossibly sexy and comfortable lifestyle, and because we’re so used to seeing Midnighter succeed, it doesn’t really feel off in the way that it probably should. It’s a beautifully subtle re-calibration of the American Dream: instead of settling down, buying a house and having a baby (or… whatever the American Dream is supposed to be…), Matt and Midnighter continue their adventure together.
That’s where Orlando has tapped into something truly special. I feel like I may have missed the cut-off for Millennial status, but I am frequently accused of being one. I don’t have cable, I use Venmo, and I do freelance writing work in addition to my stuff here at Retcon Punch. I also work a nine-to-five, so I’m not totally of the generation. But one of the more common traits attributed to Millennials is their appetite for adventure. They need freedom, stimulation, novelty, and they seek it at the cost of traditional comforts. In this way, Midnighter is one of the more genuinely progressive superheroes: he lives a life that actually aligns with the values of current generation of young professionals. The New 52 may have bragged about de-aging the superheroes back to their mid-20s, but Midnighter might be the first to do it convincingly (second, if we want to count Batgirl.)
Midnighter’s life is set to be a life that the reader’s could aspire to (however abstractly), but that’s not the complete picture here. Orlando finishes the equation by making Matt a suitable love-of-Midnighter’s life by exploring Matt’s family and his home town. Orlando taps into such a rich vein of paternal empathy, I don’t really know how you can’t have an involuntary emotional reaction to it.
I mean, holy shit – that’s the simple truth of a Baby Boomer with a gay son right? My own father — who had to endure both my own coming out and my little sister’s — has expressed this same sentiment. He just wants his child to be happy, even though he knows the world is going to arbitrarily make that more difficult.
So it’s no wonder that all of this — combined with the stolen Garden tech — is fucking up Midnighter’s ability to predict what’s coming next. Gotta say: it totally worked on me too. I had NO IDEA that this was coming:
Aco spares us no gore here, even if the script dictates green circuit-board guts. Not only do we clearly see BOTH eyes, and a detached bottom jaw, but the spiral in the background (presumably courtesy of colorist Romulo Fajardo, Jr.) delivers the deeply disconcerting blood-red color we’d expect to see during such a head-splosion.
Holy cow man, this issue really really worked on me. Michael, sometimes I have a hard time relating to the perfect Midnighter, but this issue did a great job of a) introducing me to his flaws and b) revealing that I share those same flaws. Did this twist work on you too? Or did your fight-computer see it coming? Also, is Prometheus an established villain in the Wildstorm Universe? If not, Orlando picked out a perfect name for that character. Stealing fire from the gods, indeed.
Michael: Bro, you don’t know Prometheus?
This particular version of Prometheus was created by Grant Morrison in 1998 for his JLA run. And like many Grant Morrison creations, subsequent writers haven’t really been able to flesh out the character and give him interesting stories. It’s actually super fitting that you would confuse Prometheus as a Wildstorm character however, because he is definitely a villain born of ‘90s bloodlust and hyper-violence. He’s essentially the exact opposite of Batman: his criminal parents were gunned down by police. He swore vengeance, trained to become a master fighter and strategist and nearly single-handedly took down the entire Justice League. The more that I think about it, Prometheus is a perfect foil for Midnighter. That goofy knightly helmet that adorns his head observes, analyzes and mimics the skills of whoever he is fighting (in the ‘90s, this was of course stored on a “compact disc.”) But like I said, it’s kind of brilliant to throw that kind of enemy against the hero who “knows how every fight is going to end.” I’m sure that we’ll see a physical throw-down next issue, but as far as a battle of wits, Prometheus has already bested Midnighter; Midnighter didn’t even know he was in a fight.
Like Prometheus and Midnighter, I feel like the computer in my brain is always at work when I’m reading a comic book. Though he’s clearly become more than just a Batman knock-off, a character like Midnighter typically only has stories that end in tragedy. I was expecting Matt to either die or leave Midnighter for fear of his father’s safety. But just like Midnighter, I was not expecting Matt to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – not until it was too late at least. When you’re as jaded and (fairly) seasoned a comic reader as I am, it’s always a treat to be surprised by a comic book. Midnighter is a genius strategist full of justified confidence, so his life is probably gonna go any which way he wants it to go. But in hindsight, all of those millennial adventures of reckless abandon seemed to be too good to be true, don’t they? Matt’s dad can accept his son’s sexuality, but don’t you think that realistically he’d be a little pissed off at the guy (Midnighter) that was ultimately responsible for him getting the shit kicked out of him? And besides a “minor blow-up” at Midnighter for not gaining any leads on his father’s attacker, Matt is pretty much the perfect boyfriend 24/7. Again I don’t think many of us blinked an eye at this initially, but it seems pretty clear that Orlando was laying it out for us. Another thing that definitely went over my head was ACO’s use of a version of the Prometheus symbol: first on Matt’s computer, then on Prometheus’ outfit on the final page.
Speaking of ACO, how about that page reveal where Matt betrays Midnighter and stabs him post-embrace? ACO has brilliantly utilized Midnighter’s extra-sensory “anticipation powers” with sonar-styled panel breakdowns. I found this page in particular to be impressive as it plays up both Midnighter’s shocked confusion and Matt’s wicked glee. This reminded me of numerous similarly gruesome/heartbreaking scenes in (the amazing) series Hannibal. I think it was a wonderfully cruel decision to make Matt attack Midnighter in this particular way with this particular weapon. No matter how many different ways mankind invents to kill ourselves, the knife always seems to be frighteningly personal. Prometheus could very well pull out a gun and shoot it at Midnighter, but this more personal touch – following a loving embrace – just adds insult to injury. Prometheus’ actions basically say “you thought you had it all figured out but you don’t know a fucking thing. I don’t love you, I’m going to kill you.” A great reveal on so many levels; I wouldn’t mind if Prometheus became Midnighter’s #1 villain forever and ever amen.
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?
Part of me wants to make a comment about the semiotics of a knife being used…