‘Midnighter’ and ‘Doomed’ Trade Paperbacks Reboot Familiar DC Comics Characters

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Midnighter
Midnighter: Volume One. All Images: DC Comics.

The character of Midnighter is not new to comics in general. Midnighter was created by Warren Ellis as part of the Wildstorm comics label back in 1998. The character appeared off and on over the next decade or so, often affiliated with different teams and organizations. When DC Comics relaunched their brands in 2011, Midnighter resurfaced as part of the “New 52” titles, appearing in books like Stormwatch and Grayson.

In 2015, Midnighter received his own title of the same name. This week’s trade paperback collects the first seven issues of the series. For those unfamiliar with the character, this is a great place to jump in. Enough relevant backstory is revealed throughout the book to give you a feel for who this character is and what drives him throughout this book.

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What is that backstory? Therein lies part of the mystery. Midnighter is not a traditional superhero in that he doesn’t possess superhuman abilities. Think along the lines of Batman, with a few major differences. First, Midnighter doesn’t have a secret identity. He is who he is, and he’s not hiding himself from the world. If the bad guys want to find him, all they have to do is look for him.

Not that they would be wise to do so. Again, Midnighter is a trained fighter, only one enhanced with a supercomputer in his brain that calculates all the ways an encounter can end and allows Midnighter to select the path that ends in him standing over the bodies of his enemies. And there are lots of bodies. Unlike Batman, who employs violence but refrains from taking a life, Midnighter has no such qualms. Midnighter enjoys the violence, as illustrated by the big ol’ smile on his face in the illustration at the top of this article.

Finally, Midnighter appears to be doing a better job than the Caped Crusader at striking a balance between his vigilantism and having meaningful adult relationships. This story comes on the heels of Midnighter’s break up with another superpowered hero, Apollo, which leaves him a man searching for what it means to be in a relationship. Throughout the book, we’re introduced to Midnighter’s various friends and romantic partners, for whom he has genuine, healthy affection, and who appear to have genuine affection for him, which is a refreshing change of pace for an otherwise violent book.

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The setup for the book’s storyline is this: someone has broken into the God Garden, a repository for all sorts of advanced and alien technology, like the supercomputer implanted in our title hero’s head, and is putting those weapons into the wrong hands. Not all of the recipients are bad guys. Some are innocents who have been wronged and suddenly find themselves in a position to enact revenge against those who wronged them. This book exists in various shades of moral grayness.

What drives Midnighter is that it’s not only weaponry that was stolen from the God Garden. Also taken was the only existing file on Midnighter’s life before he became the computer-enhanced vigilante we meet here. Midnighter doesn’t remember whatever’s on that file and doesn’t particularly care to know about the life he can’t remember, but he doesn’t want to see that information in anyone else’s hands, either.

Midnighter: Volume One is written by Steve Orlando. Aco, Stephen Mooney, Alec Morgan, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. are all credited as artists for the book. The writing is at times violent, humorous, and heartfelt, giving real depth to what could easily have been a two-dimensional character or a Batman-meets-Deadpool mash-up without a unique personality of his own. The art is slick and stylish. The fight scenes are jarring, with a main panel of action interrupted by various, seemingly chaotic snippets of specific highlighted moments of action, serving to reinforce that in the confusion of battle, Midnighter’s already crunched the numbers and knows what he needs to do, and when he needs to do it, in order to win.

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Finally, given the character’s history in print, it’s a given that some familiar faces are going to show up in the pages of this book, creating a team-up that leaves you wanting to see these characters together again in future issues.

Recommendation: This is a mature book. The violence can be graphic at times. While never explicit, there are romantic relationships. The themes dealt with are universal but intended for more mature readers. I certainly wouldn’t use this book to introduce someone under 15 years old to the DC multiverse, but you know your own children better than I do. I’d just suggest you read the book first and then decide whether you are comfortable with your child reading the book after you’re finished.

For those whose sensibilities aren’t offended by a little (or a lot) of bloodshed, romance, sarcasm, and dark humor, this book is a must read.

Doomed
Doomed.

Doomed is a new title to the DC Comics lineup. It comes on the heels of Superman’s infection/possession by the villain Doomsday and being healed with the help of the team at STAR Labs in Metropolis.

Our story picks up with Reiser, a normal guy dealing with normal guy issues. Finding a third roommate to share the apartment with him and his best friend Roman. Looking after his going-senile aunt Belle and her yappy dog Oui Oui. Trying to hook up with Clarice (one of the potential roommates they passed on) or Jayne (a fellow student at Metropolis University).

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Things are looking up for Reiser when he and Jayne are accepted as interns at STAR Labs. By “looking up,” I mean that they get their feet in the door and get to work where the best and the brightest punch the clock every day while coming up with modern miracles of science. Not that either Reiser or Jayne will be doing any of that. Someone has to mop the floors and scrub the toilets.

Reiser is decontaminating a room that–unbeknownst to him–had been infected with Doomsday spores, when he removes the mask of his biohazard suit in order to get a little fresh air. This ludicrous setup drives the narrative from here on out, as Reiser’s body starts being taken over by the spores. Whenever Reiser is in a heightened state of arousal, be it amorous or a perceived threat, the spores take over, changing him into a being of increased strength.

The downside to this change, the “doom,” if you will, is that Reiser looks like a monster and is rendered unable to articulate speech beyond grunts, growls, snarls, and groans. In a city where the good guy looks like an idealized every-man and the bad guys often look like walking sideshow attractions, everyone fears the transformed Reiser, which leads to confrontations with various super-powered heroes, including Superman.

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Doomed is all about judging (or misjudging) others based on appearance. It’s the Frankenstein’s monster for the modern comic reader. Reiser and the heroes question whether the transformation leaves the well-intentioned young man in control of an enhanced but alarming body or if the villainous Doomsday spores are possessing and changing Reiser’s body in an effort to eventually assert their control over the host.

Doomed is written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Javier Fernandez. The writing is pretty standard fare for a story like this, almost to the point of being cliché. You’re not going to find anything groundbreaking here. As mentioned above, the whole setup is far-fetched. What STAR Labs intern would take off his mask in a room he’s decontaminating? Likewise, the art is adequate. There’s nothing particularly appealing about the book, netiher is there anything overly egregious about the art. The whole project is pretty run-of-the-mill from cover to cover.

Recommendation: This book screams “puberty” to me. If you’re looking to pick up a book for someone struggling to come to terms with their bodily changes, then Doomed might be a book they can relate to. Even though Reiser is a college student, or perhaps because of that, the testosterone-and-adrenaline-fueled changes seem relatable to who I’m guessing is the book’s intended audience of 11 to 13-year-old boys.

Both Midnighter: Volume One and Doomed are on sale this week at your local comic store and wherever trade paperbacks are sold.

Disclaimer: Review copies were provided. The opinions above are my own.

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