Sunday, March 23, 2014

Captain Midnight Volume 1: On the Run

Not too long ago, +Dark Horse Comics had the first nine issues of Captain Midnight on sale for $2.99 in digital format. Written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Victor Ibanez, Pere Perez and Fernando Dagnino. The first few issues are very self contained and hint at a larger world while not overwhelming new readers.

Now me? I personally knew nothing about Captain Midnight. I was completely unaware of his vast swathes of history which are summed up much better on the Wiki over here than I could hope to do.

The art reminds me of Neal Adams. It's not a comparison I make lightly as Neal is a treasure for the comic book world. Thankfully +Dark Horse Comics does a lot of preview material on their website so you don't have to take my word for it. For example, if you wanted to see some pages from the first issue, go here. The colors are vivid and eye catching being easy to read and view on a computer. Hell, I read mine on my Gateway monitor. They don't even make Gateway monitors anymore!

The Dark Horse take on Captain Midnight is part homage to Captain America and part nod to the old serials. His introduction is straight from the fields of World War 2 and in that aspect, he finds himself a man out of time whose nemesis, I kid you not, Fury Shark, has taken his technology and is corrupting its original purpose and use.

There is a bit of a spy and mystery element to the series as well. Black Sky is introduced as little more than a name and a rumor but turns out to have old ties to Captain Midnight himself.

The first nine issues break off into self contained stories that don't tag much into the larger super hero world that Dark Horse is building. This is a good thing because it keeps things nice and simple for new readers.

The run is a bit rough for me though. Captain Midnight fits too well into the new world. It's like he's so far ahead of his own time that his acclimation to modern times is near instant. The problem though turns out in how that's portrayed. For example, when discussing the internet, he 'doesn't trust it' and instead relies on newsprint. Eh? That's not man out of time, that's just an old person.

The authors had some real opportunity to take a man out of time, his clothing, his outlook on race relations, his outlook on the opposite sex, pollution, environmentalist issues, and hell, even the borders of the world compared to WWII, heck, the  various results of WWII and run with it.

Instead we get a person whose dedication to good and justice is only slightly flawed through his unwillignness to 'follow orders' such as when he's initially introduced to modern times and he MUST go out and see the modern world.

On one hand, I'll admit that I'm tired of seeing 'heroes with mud' on their feet so to speak. Not every take on a character has to involve them being some homophobic, woman hating racist. On the other hand, it's such a wash that it leaves Captain Midnight very little to distinguish himself from other heroes. It's a problem that even DC has faced with many of its own characters who were often too powerful for their own good.

The good news is that the action is fast and furious. In a matter of nine issues Captain Midnight battles numerous foes, including Skyman, an inheritor of the Captain's own technology. Apparently there is a new Skyman who has his own comic but I haven't delved into that character yet. The battle though, between Captain Midnight and Skyman, is reminiscent of Captain America, the 'original', fighting against the 50's Captain America whose outlook and attitudes did not translated well to the modern world. It's a good scene and isn't afraid to blow things up real nice.

Another benefit for potential future stories involving Captain Midnight, outside of any 'dream' or alternative reality takes of Captain Midnight meeting some of Mike Magnolia's World War II creations, is that because he is an established character from that time, there are all sorts of 'flashbacks' that the company can use to introduce all sorts of crazy stuff to the story.

The first volume of Captain Midnight is available from Dark Horse comics at the link earlier here, as well as Amazon.com for $11.32 in paperback format. Note that Dark Horse has also published a lot of the older material in various omnibus editions in hardcover so collectors of the older material can hunt down Volume 1: Battles the Nazis, for $34.10 or Volume 2: Captain Midnight Saves the World for $38.99.

For those who follow comics closer, any readers of Captain Midnight? Any other favorites out there that stand out among the crowd? For me, if it's an inexpensive trip, like this collection initially was when I purchased it, I've got no problem plunking down the funds for it.