We all have that comic title where the artist’s work has us moan, hiss, pace, and scream “WHY SO TALENT?” at the pages. Today, in honor of the release of Midnighter Vol.1: Out (written by Steve Orlando, colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr., and pencilled by ACO, Alec Morgan, and Stephen Mooney) I am showcasing one moment from each chapter that made me physically react as I read. Of course, although I worked to keep them to a minimum, spoilers from Midnighter: Out appear from this point forth.
ACO, the main artist of the Midnighter title, nails down a feel for the title first issue on, including a numerous amount of inset panels as well as a few ocular tricks that will repeat in later issues. Much of ACO’s strength as an artist sources from their intelligent use of space and, within that, their varied layouts. On this page, we see the first fight Midnighter has in the series and how ACO builds tension before climaxing the effect.
The first inset panel contains perhaps the most classic superhero image known: the revelation of the chest insignia. ACO keeps this panel the smallest, probably partially because we already know from previous pages that Midnighter is Midnighter all the time and therefore isn’t having a dramatic “Clark Kent” moment and partially because Midnighter’s doing it invisibly within all the chaos that’s occurring in the restaurant. Letterer Jared K. Fletcher quietly underlines the motion with an avid and yellow-colored “zzzzzzzip” sound effect to keep an amount of needed poignancy.
The second inset panel comes significantly larger for ACO to show off the environment, particularly the ceiling where many bright explosions occur. They puts the Mondoran leader dead center so that we further understand the threat, but angles the panel so that it seems that we are looking at her while hiding underneath a table. This brings the reader into the fray as a participant as well as an observer.
Fajardo, Jr. shows off his coloring skills in the third inset panel. Although the knife through the wrist is a violent image, he shades most of the panel in cold blue and green colors. This allows contrast with two elements: the spurt of blood and the impact shape. The blood’s warmth sits as the only warm element in the panel, making it seem all the more dramatic, while the yellow shape highlights the pain and suddenness of the stab.
Among the interesting choices included in issue #1 is that we don’t see Midnighter in full gear as a beast unto himself at first, but rather as a reflection in one of the Mondoran’s sunglasses. This is just as likely a writing choice as much as an artistic choice, but ACO bends Midnighter’s form in a way that seems large and intimidating the moment before he lands the attack and Fajardo now brings in warm colors to the background in order to fire up the tone. Both carry the impact into the following panel, where Fajardo dresses the skeleton inset panel in a cold electric blue to make the skull fractures all the more intimate, and ACO brings a fork and plate up close to the reader to show how the restaurant has been thrown into a haphazard state.
Here, we find ourselves at a much calmer restaurant, with Midnighter and his date, Matt, in the background. Fajardo, Jr.’s work is particularly interesting in this panel as he dresses the bar foreground in cold colors to sink them more into the shadows in order to keep the important part of the scene in focus. His choice in warm colors could also be attributed to the “warmth” between Midnighter and Matt as they enjoy their time together.
Morgan’s linework tremendously differs from ACO’s. I find it a much looser style, more emotional and impulsive. My colleague, Mark Stack, said that “the frayed lines suggest violence, even at rest,” which is, needless to say, an appropriate approach to a comic about a character like Midnighter. Turning our attention to the bars lighting, we notice that the bulbs aren’t drawn in a consistent shape, which suggests quite a bit about Morgan’s intentions in this issue. In an industry where consistency and an extreme amount of detail have become standard, this issue calls back to not only contemporary indie comics, but to prior ages where the desired type of styles at DC and Marvel weren’t so limited. For sure, Morgan’s work is jarring for those used to the Big 2’s stringency, but it is also undeniably unique and attention-grabbing in a sea of mainstream comics that mostly look all the same.
This issue had so many exciting moments that I found it difficult to pick one, but eventually I settled on this panel in order to explore ACO’s strength in conveying emotion through facial expression. Apropos, given that “Midnighter #3” is a very emotional issue. When dealing with expression, ACO often chooses to accentuate mouths–we see this in other issues where inset panels solely center on characters’ mouths in order to imply the rest of their reactions or on Midnighter’s mouth in order to see his snarl simultaneously with the main action of the page. Here, Mrs. Riley’s mouth puckers outward, in such an uneven state we can imagine them trembling. Her eyes are downcast, shadowed more than the rest of her face and looking far off so we can see how profoundly she is affected. ACO also added a number of wrinkles in order to further emphasis the undue stress she has experienced. We come across a number of hurt people in Midnighter’s adventures, but Mrs. Riley’s pain is among the deepest and most raw.
Mooney filled in as artist for “Midnighter #4” and “Midnighter #5,” which happened to be the crossover issues with Dick Grayson. I know a number of readers who chose these as their favorite issues, for obvious reasons. Mooney tends to work on darker comics and his rougher lines work to make good horror, which these issues needed. He has two modes that are often witnessed simultaneously in contained single issues: a very precise approach with anatomical accuracy and sharp edges as well as a simpler style, which I may admittedly find more interesting at times with its hinted anime influences and kind of Golden Age vibe.
Letterer Tom Napolitano does some kickass work here across the board. We can hear that deep bone crunch as we look at the juttering sound effect above. Further down on the same page, some more sound effects appear in liquid form and a vibrant green shade that serve to show how gross Midnighter’s job is this issue.
I am a simple woman with simple pleasures and sometimes those simple pleasures include a panel with Dick Grayson’s butt as the main attraction.
ACO returns with a vengeance in “Midnighter 6” and brought some of that serious Jim Steranko influence with them. As a spin-off title from Grayson, which has more Steranko influence involved than just artwise, it pays to see how Midnighter benefits from aesthetically tying into the other series. That said, check out that violence! Midnighter usually has so much fun running around torturing people that he doesn’t get so emotionally invested, but this time we can see that he’s pissed as all hell. The gore frames the panel so that we know what we’re supposed to see here and what we’re supposed to see is total destruction.
Fajardo, Jr. shows off some effective coloring work by using complementary colors red and green to bring out the tension. We can see the details so clearly because of how the red and green speak to one another. It’s science and we as readers are in excellent hands.
Alright, I have done my best to limit the spoilers as much as possible, but as “Midnighter #7” is this arc’s final issue, I can only do so much. By this point, if you have not read this series before and this article has not changed your mind and convinced you that it is crazy great and that you need to grab it ASAP, consider going to the doctor because you may be broken.
Without further ado:
USING CAPES TO THE FULLEST, YAAAAAAS! My god, just look at the thing. It’s fucking theatrical, it is! Ripped edges, dark folds, rippling waves. You know that Prometheus is originally a Batman villain because he’s just as damned melodramatic as he is. Then Midnighter stands in the middle, completely uninterested by all the beautiful bullshit, and watches the sucker stutter in his suffering. This the ideal broken heart, everyone. This is how we all want to look when some jerk betrays you and you kick his ass in response.