Midnighter is a title that knows what it is and what it’s aiming for. It is a comic about a gay superhero designed for a gay and bi male readership, but with plenty to offer every other reader too. The artwork is inventive and gorgeous, even as it depicts gruesome violence. It knows how to use a metaphor in clear, nuanced ways. It balances grit, hard choices, and vigilante glee. Although I’m not in the primary demographic for this title, I still found myself engaged enough by the end of the volume to want to seek out more of Steve Orlando’s Midnighter issues and disappointed to read that the title was likely canceled with DC’s Rebirth plans. Midnighter fills a clear void in LGBTQ+ hero-oriented comics, and I’ll be sad to see DC scrap it. I hope they reconsider.
Midnighter has been a gay superhero for 20 years and icon for the LGBTQ+ community for as long. He was introduced with his crime-fighting partner Apollo, a kind of analog to Batman and Superman, but gay. Not that that was clear from the beginning. Midnighter has often been a victim of his times depicted as a mirror of what seems acceptable to a cisgendered comics reading audience, and because of that, M’s sexuality has often been mishandled. From being cagey about the orientation in the first place, to having villains throw homophobic taunts, to allowing chaste kisses within life-partnered monogamy, Midnighter has been at the mercy of the day’s acceptability.
Except Midnighter isn’t so much about what others find acceptable. He’s a true vigilante, willing to embrace the darkest parts of night. Is he also a bad guy? That’s the question of identity explored through the volume. Midnighter has a computer in his brain that calculates all possible outcomes in a split second. His body has been enhanced for fighting. He was built to be a weapon. The choices he makes are merely pointing that weapon in the right direction. He repeats he’s a vigilante rather than a hero. He’s got no qualms killing criminals. Just how reckless with life he might be gets detailed in the volume’s opening fight where a little girl appears to be possessed, and for a long, tense moment, the reader wonders if he will kill her or save her. He’s no boy scout. Heck, he’s no Batman, who despite his violence, at least attempts to lock up his antagonists, not kill them. He does sport Batman underwear though–he’s got a pretty great sense of humor.