Y'know that feeling where, after binging an entire series on your streaming service of choice, you drag your feet when the series finale is within earshot? And some people won't even watch the last episode. To do so would be to admit that the thing they've invested in -- emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically if they put off enough sleep -- is finally over, and there won't be any more of it ever again.
That's what I've done with Midnighter.
This review is a week late, and I apologize for that. I've had this last issue on my desk for a week, with ACO's cocksure badass presiding over a cascade of unconscious bad guys looking up at me, asking if I think he's done.
Shit, we TALKED to Steve Orlando about this. We talked to him about the series wrapping up, and how this isn't the end for this amazing character. Orlando left the door wide open for a return to Midnighter, admitting how much he loved that crazy, leather-clad fight machine.
And yet, a week later, I cracked it open, enjoyed the hell out of it, and now I'm left with not quite closure, but not quite despair either.
The issue picks up with the Unified going berserk at the behest of Henry Bendix and his machinations to get to this point. Apollo and Midnighter are working with Helena Bertinelli & Spyral, and the Suicide Squad. It's mass chaos, and shit's about to get SERIOUS.
And yet, even when Apollo begins laying into the Unified with seismic blows, and Multiplex sets his sights on roughing up Midnighter, there's a scene that brings out the humanity that's always been the backbone of this series:
Settling a rattled police officer in a war zone to preserve an innocent civilian? Beautiful.
As the fight goes on, Waller realizes what a nutjob Bendix is - especially after Bendix barfs out his intense and unrepentant philosophy on not just world safety, but how he approaches anyone or anything that seems to openly disrespect him. And as Waller flips on Bendix, we also see Apollo beating the Unified senseless and burning away some of his enhanced abilities, leaving him broken in front of a gleeful Midnighter, armed with a sonic handgun.
Needless to say, the fight scene is immensely enjoyable, and it's almost a vicarious thing to watch the main protagonist of a finished series striking out at something that's supposed to signify the end of his existence and usefulness.
When the fighting is done, Midnighter makes his rounds to all of his friends and relationships, reveling in the fact that his long mission is finally over. He visits Mother in the God Garden (a chilling scene), he stops by Boston and Opal City, and also in Detroit to visit with Amanda Waller in one of the city's most revered coney spots.
But which one did they settle on?
And then it's over with a loving kiss between Apollo and Midinighter. This is what I'd been waiting for, because quite frankly those two are one of the best couples in all of comics. Their relationship has been complex, open, and explored by some of the most talented creators in the business, and Orlando just nails it. The man has a gift for writing these characters, and it shows in every page of interactions.
ACO gives an outstanding performance, making the action frenetic and powerful, all with his signature mini-panels heightening the levels of craziness. There are pure emotions conveyed with his work, and Hugo Petrus' work isn't to be overlooked because of ACO's pages. In fact, Petrus matches ACO in action and expression, never letting the pace waver. Romulo Fajardo Jr elevates both of the artists' work, crafting environmental ambiance like an auteur setting up a beautiful frame.
Also deserving of praise is Tom Napolitano, whose lettering is perfect - you can hear the voices emphasize speech patterns, the action sound effects work seamlessly with the sequences, and the speech bubbles or caption boxes are NEVER overwhelming the panel, which is a lot harder to do than one would think.
This was a truly inspired series. It examined and highlighted the humanity in a person who sometimes felt too removed from the normalcy of life. It took glee in dispensing justice where so often it must be grim and gritty in comics. It showed vulnerability and ferocity, thoughtfulness and action, happiness and betrayal. This was one of the best books DC Comics put on the shelves, and even though it was criminally under-advertised it still managed to shine more than almost every other book on the shelves.
But now we have to say good-bye (For now), and enjoy Orlando's incredibly deft touch with the DC character stable (did anyone else notice the Commander on the final splash page?) when his Supergirl run begins. He'll bring an introspective look to the Girl of Steel, but no matter how much success that series will encounter (and it will), just know that out there somewhere in the DC Universe is the one-time misnomered "Gay Batman," cracking skulls and grinning menacingly. A fantastic end to a fantastic series.