Sunday, June 5, 2016

Catching up on Comics with CGraig: Midnighter #11-12

The Wildstorm Universe never felt like a home.  It felt like one of DC or Marvel’s alternate earths, one where you could pop in for a curious visit, but not somewhere you'd care to stay too long.  It came to be in the 90's during a time when artists and their "hotness" were the driving force of comics, and a time when tits and violence were getting so much more of the focus than the actual stories being told.  

Wildstorm was a reflection of all of that.  It was not a place I went very often.  It wasn't for me.  The characters didn't make much sense, they didn't really look that great either, and it wasn't until the whole "hot artist" thing died that it got creative over there... with Alan Moore, Joe Casey, Warren Ellis and Ed Brubaker pushing the limits of a shared continuity.  Once the writers took over, it was more their show. It was a place where writers could do things to characters that the Big Two wouldn't allow.  Similar to when the artists dominated, the characters didn't quite matter, there was no preciousness to the continuity that the company was trying to protect.  Wildstorm was always a bit of a wild west show that way. Their characters weren't iconic and had no real defining aspect to them, so once the writers took over anything could happen.  But it was still hard to really care.  It's fairly telling that the two characters that tend to persist since Wilstorm folded into DC were the Superman and Batman analogs, Apollo and Midnighter.

I never liked their pairing as the "gay Batman and Superman".  I have no problem with them being gay, nor Batman or Superman analogs, but their pairing always seemed like a dumb 1-note joke of the Mark Millar variety, one which seems smug and self congratulatory in its supposed cleverness.
So even though their rekindled relationship in these two issues is written very,very well (as an extension of M's growth as a character and not for whatever negligible shock value remains in Batman and Superman kissing) it's still not something I like for the character, or, for that matter, a series which managed to fully invest me in a Wildstorm character for the first time in it's 20-something year existence.  (I know, Wildstorm is no more and is now an amalgamated part of the DCU, perhaps a contributing factor to the darkening of DC over the past few years...instead of brightening the Wildstorm characters to fit, perhaps they darkened the DCU instead?)

M's story over these 12 issues has been about dealing with his past, which is a nice thing to force on a character who is always looking forward, calculating all the possible outcomes.  It's also been about fighting and flirting and dating and most importantly, character growth.  Mighnighter isn't a psychopath... but he does really enjoy hurting people who deserve it.  Writer Steve Orlando has defined this character over 12 issues, made him so much more than a more than a brutal, sci-fi Batman.  He's got no dual life, he is who he is in and out of costume and Orlando's run had him coming to terms with that.  (The only difference is that when he's out of costume he's very dapper and more charming, rather than threatening).  

Orlando has told the best story of a gay male in mainstream superhero comics to date.  There's nothing in twelve issues that feels sensationalistic.  It's natural and honest depiction of a gay vigilante's life, abandoning all stereotypes, and never deigning to say that this gay life represents all gay life as so many mainstream stories written by straight men (or women) feel the need to do.
It was a great run, cut far too short, and one that I'll need to do a second read through on just to a better sense of the larger picture that Orlando had in mind.

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