The Midnighter #1
“Killing Machine, Part One”
Writer: Garth Ennis
Pencils: Chris Sprouse
Inks: Karl Story
Colors: Randy Mayor
Letters: Phil Balsman
Cover artists: Sprouse & Story/Michael Golden (variant)
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN
I wasn’t exactly taken with Garth Ennis previous new title, The Boys. Furthermore, I’ve been generally underwhelmed by Wildstorm’s relaunch event, “WorldStorm.” So it was with some trepidation that I approached this debut issue. Fortunately, not only does Ennis come through with a compelling script that demonstrates a real appreciation of the title character, but the artwork by Chris Sprouse is thoroughly pleasing, albeit in an unusual way. Ennis doesn’t approach the Midnighter as a Batman knockoff or even as an uber-violent super-hero. The writer views the protagonist as a soldier, which makes this title book something that Ennis does better than most: a war comic. Mind you, it’s a war comic dressed up in science-fiction elements, and the writer doesn’t stray too far from the political overtones of the property from which this series spun off.
The Midnighter doesn’t follow what’s happening on Lost. He doesn’t have a favorite football team. He doesn’t have a hobby. He’s forged a life with the Authority and with Apollo in particular, but that life feels like a piece of clothing that doesn’t quite fit right. The Midnighter does one thing well, and when he takes time for himself, he immerses himself in that skill. He fights, but one trip off the Carrier to fight for what’s right turns out badly and lands him in a kind of trouble he’s never faced before: uncertainty.
I love Chris Sprouse’s artwork and have ever since I first saw it on Legionnaires years ago. I enjoyed it on Alan Moore’s Tom Strong as well. When I heard Sprouse would be the penciller for this title, I was a bit taken aback given that his style boasts lighter leanings. When one considers a character as harsh as the Midnighter, Sprouse’s clean linework and attractive faces aren’t what come to mind. However, Sprouse has demonstrated in the past he’s capable of bringing darker stories to life as well (just see his contributions to Ocean and Starman). Here, I find his brighter, crisp style serves as an interesting contrast with the dark, monstrous circumstances that are commonplace in the Midnighter’s world. Sprouse handles the choreography of the Afghanistan military sequence incredibly well. It’s exciting and action-packed, but it seems real and horrifying as well.
Ennis’s script makes no reference to where this story fits into Wildstorm continuity or even how it relates to the state of the Midnighter’s team in the recently relaunched Authority title, and that’s a smart move. I don’t care how the two relate to one another, and as long as there are no glaring, major inconsistencies between the two, there won’t be any great distractions.
The narration in the opening scene is simply presented but gets to the heart of the personal story of the impossible protagonist. Furthermore, the subsequent scene in Afghanistan brings real-world credibility to this otherwise over-the-top, extreme and incredible plot of torture and time travel.
What makes this story interesting is how Ennis explores the Midnighter not as half of comics’ most prominent gay couple but as a man who feels completely isolated not only from his friends and family but from just about every other human being on the planet. It’s like Ennis is telling the story of a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s not the Midnighter’s training and experiences that isolate him, but his very nature as a killing machine (as the story arc’s title suggests). 8/10