Another week, and a whole slew of new comics on the horizon. This week I’m going to review a superhero relaunch, as well as one of the longest-running superhero comics around: Captain Midnight #0, and Invincible #103. Heroes, heroes, everywhere!
Captain Midnight #0 (Dark Horse Comics)
Joshua Williamson (w), Victor Ibáñez, Pere Pérez (a), Nate Piekos (l)
A Nazi-fighting pulp hero brought forward into the modern-day by mysterious circumstances, the plot of Captain Midnight #0 is nothing new. But, as seen by this issue (which collects together three strips which were featured in Dark Horse Presents), there’s still life in the old boy yet.
Which is good news for Dark Horse, because this is another one of the characters appearing in their new Superhero line, along with characters like Ghost and The Answer. Joshua Williamson is the man in charge of this relaunch, and he does a good job tackling well-worn ideas and giving them a fresh lick of paint. He has to deal with time-travel and Nazis and an old-fashioned patriotic hero, and yet manages to ensure that Captain Midnight doesn’t just come off like a second coming of Captain America. This is especially impressive because the art from Victor Ibanez (in particular) looks like it would’ve fit right in with the Ed Brubaker/Butch Guice run with the character.
The pacing helps, in this respect. With this being essentially three stories which thread together at the end, Williamson can leave the origins until the very end of the issue, and focus instead on the fish-out-of-water aspect. We never see anything through the eponymous hero’s eyes this issue, instead focusing on how everybody else reacts to him. There are hints at an ongoing plot, as well as how the supporting characters will mesh together once the character launches proper with issue #1 later this year.
One thing I did think was interesting was that the colours from Ego keep consistency between the two artists, apart from with one character – the black character. Whose skin, by the time we reach the third part of the story, has lightened considerably. Noticably.
This issue gets the exposition hurtling out the way, establishing who the character is and how he came to be, the supporting cast, and the ongoing premise for the book. The narrative is lighter and simpler than you might expect, meaning issue #1 will have to ramp up the intrigue in order to keep readers interested – but on the basis of this issue, Dark Horse have another success on their hands.
Invincible #103 (Image Comics)
Robert Kirkman (w), Ryan Ottley (a), Cliff Rathburn (i), John Rauch (c), Rus Wooton (l), Sean Mackiewicz (e)
I’ve only ever read the first trade of Invincible, which was a really good fun take on superheroes. Similar in tone and style to Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, it tells the story of a young hero growing up with superpowers. The book follows how Invincible develops into a fully-costumed superhero with a light-hearted touch and wonderful set of supporting characters. It was funny and smart.
I’m told that after the first trade, things turn into a bit of a gore-fest, albeit one with the great supporting cast and character dynamics still intact. But I’ve never personally felt like Robert Kirkman thrives with violence. Whilst, yes, it’s in basically all his comics and is the conceit of Walking Dead, his use of violence has always felt like it deflected attention away from his real strengths as a writer.
So that’s probably why I liked issue #103 of Invincible, despite now being almost a hundred issues behind. Happily for me, this turned out to be the start of a new storyline which re-establishes the characters and where everybody is. It’s a good jump-on point for readers like myself, who haven’t bothered keeping up with 15 or so trades-worth of storyline. Kirkman introduces readers to all the main cast quickly and efficiently – making sure that each scene also pushes characters further into the narrative, so continuing readers don’t have to sit through exposition.
Ryan Ottley’s art is perfectly suited to the book, looking very similar to the work Stuart Immonen did on the aforementioned Ultimate Spider-Man. The faces do sometimes over-emote at times, but that cartoonishness actually works in the comic’s favour. It’s fun and brash and bold, marked by Cliff Rathburn’s chunky inking. The colours, too, are vivid – this has the complete look of a superhero cartoon series, through and through.
The characters all seem pretty fun and interesting to read about. There are some violent scenes and rough sections, all of which are the least interesting and most skippable parts of the book. I enjoyed reading Invincible as long as the book was about Invincible. When we were asked instead to look at garish scenes of violence/abuse, my eyes rolled and I skipped away onto the next character-led scenes. Now, I’m sure the violence is probably what makes Invincible sell so well – it’s just a shame that it’s needed, because nothing in the book suggested a story which couldn’t have been toned down and written for all-ages.
Super Dinosaur remains Robert Kirkman’s best series, but Invincible does stand out as a distinct and interesting take on the superhero genre. However, it seems hamstrung by its own need to be edgy.