The comic book owes a huge debt to the old pulps of yesteryear, but in the case of Captain Midnight, he began his existence on the radio during World War II, though he was designed to be a World War I hero. At the time, of course, there were few things as exciting and heroic as the classic flying ace, which was the premise behind Captain Midnight, a pilot who performed his missions with precision and gained his moniker because he returned from a critical mission at the stroke of midnight.
He went on to appear in an adventure daily, in comic book form published by both Dell and Fawcett and even film serials and television. Captain Midnight has made the rounds, but has recently been relaunched in the pages of his own adventure book by Dark Horse.
Captain Midnight is Jim “Red” Albright and he is a man out of time. Presumably during the previous set of adventures it goes in to the details of how he landed in the present, but it is alluded to in this collection that he and his high tech airplane emerged from the Bermuda Triangle.
Heroes the caliber of Captain Midnight inevitably have those who assist and we are quickly introduced to the enthusiastic young Rick along with Charlotte, who seems to resemble a version of Lara Croft. It is Albright’s interactions with Charlotte that show just how new he is to our day (page 12). He recalls again that “Sweetheart,” “Dollface,” or “Dame” isn’t necessarily a term of endearment in this new world.
Poring through newspapers as he doesn’t trust this newfangled internet, he stumbles across a story about a criminal using high flying stunts to perform his capers. The costume this crook uses is also familiar to Captain Midnight and he is determined to get to the bottom of things.
So it’s off to New York City from the secret command HQ and Albright is dressed for the occasion, or so he believes in his classic double-breasted suit and fedora. He is soon reminded yet again that things have changed significantly during his absence and he’s not certain he likes it. Not one little bit. (page 16) We get further insights into what makes Captain Midnight tick when he stops a mugging on the street, taking no prisoners in the process.
Elsewhere in our nation’s capital, Agent Jones is doing some work of his own, trying to determine details about “Black Sky.” That subplot will have to wait, though as Captain Midnight is about to go into action. High above the city, he scans for his prey and then spots him. Time to bring in some justice. Instead of “Fury,” however, he encounters Skyman. (page 24 and 25) Some battling and bantering go on and it seems this “hero” is skirting dangerously close to fascist territory.
The battle continues, interspersed with flashbacks providing backgrounds on both costumed figures. Midnight is determined to defuse the explosives Skyman has set and the latter is even more determined to go through with his chicanery.
Elsewhere Agent Jones is in Orlando, Florida, continuing on his quest for intelligence when he discovers a murder victim in a private residence and the perps are still in the vicinity. Bullets fly and at least one bad guy dies as the plot thickens.
As the pages turn, we find Albright doing his level best to defend the principles of the United States that he loves and reveres. He ends up going up against Hollow, who could pass for a steroid drenched monster like Bane. Despite taking a beating, Captain Midnight never yields and never considers surrender. He ultimately defeats the antagonist with some brainpower to join the brawn.
Still, many things continue to brew in the background as Agent Jones tries to unravel the mystery of Black Sky. It becomes evident through photographs and other intelligence gathering that Midnight is somehow involved. The question is whether or not his motives are for good or for malicious purposes.
This, of course, is the stuff of an adventure serial and the cliffhangers tend to leave the reader wanting more.
The artwork on Captain Midnight is impressive. The action is engaging and take particular note of his aircraft and the detail put into it. (page 61 and 64) This lends some of the vintage feel to the story and also showcases Albright’s technological and engineering skills. Captain Midnight is a lot more than raw fisticuffs.
Bonus features in this edition include a reprint of a Captain Midnight story originally presented in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund benefit book Liberty Annual 2013 published by Image with another encounter with Skyman and a sketchbook along with some impressive chapter break art by Steve Rude, among others.
As an interesting aside, Skyman has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts as well, including appearances in Project Super Powers #0 and #3 published by Dynamite and in the fanzine Ditkomania #92 from January of 2014. Included is a commentary by Ron Frantz discussing his purchase of the character in 1986 for publication in his Ace Comics line. There appears to be some controversy over the Skyman character and according to Jason Sacks, this may soon be explored further here at Comics Bulletin, so stay tuned.
Captain Midnight is an enjoyable read, filled with nostalgia and intrigue. In many ways it reads like a noir film and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarities with the latest film versions of Captain America, where we also witness a vintage hero trying to make his way in a new world. Despite the challenges inherent with being shifted into the present from a several decades absence, he is determined to do what is right.