Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
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Letters

Review: MIDNIGHTER ANNUAL 2021: Time Travel And Cyborg Beatdowns – Wildstorm Style

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From writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad and artist Michael Avon Oeming comes the standalone conclusion to a complex and fraught story. Midnighter Annual 2021 takes our favorite Wildstorm couple and places them within their own struggle in a complex internal and external fight. Despite being held back by a semi-confusing and formulaic script as well as oddly-fit visuals, this is still a thoroughly entertaining annual.

“Midnighter traveled into the future to help get himself out of a jam, only to swap places with his future self. Now, the Midnighter from the future finds himself trapped in a paradox, working his way back to his onetime present to swap places again. Don’t worry if you’re confused—so is he! The key to this whole thing is Andrej Trojan, the nefarious industrialist who tried using Superman’s mission on Warworld to his own end. Midnighter has been carrying Trojan’s robotic skull with him, hunting for the 2021 iteration of the man, and shutting his whole company down before any of this trouble even starts.”

Writing & Plot

Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad take Midnighter Annual 2021 as an opportunity to tie off a loose end. This issue takes place after Future State: Superman and resolves plot points introduced there. It doesn’t end there though. This Annual also leads into Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin’s Superman And The Authority. While this is all cool news for fans of the DC Universe at large who have been keeping up, what does it mean for more purist Midnighter fans? Unfortunately, this comic does suffer from feeling like a small part in a larger story.

In my view, annuals and one-shots are a good opportunity to tell a single solid story. The story can of course connect to other plot events going on in the surrounding universe, but I feel that it should be an accessible single chapter. Midnighter Annual partially accomplishes this. At the very least it smooths out the “you had to be there” moments from prior books to be more palatable. It does still read like you’re walking into a room halfway through a conversation though. I have to give Cloonan and Conrad credit where it’s due. Their script manages to take some pretty off-the-wall events and sort them out to a new reader without gobs of exposition.

Any fans of Midnighter and Apollo, aka the best couple in comics, will still be pleased with this Annual. Despite its connection with other DC plot points, this still remains an entertaining comic on its own.

Art Direction

It has to be said that Michael Avon Oeming (Powers, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye) is an odd fit for Midnighter. I sincerely adore Oeming’s singular cartoony-pulp art style. His work is pure perfection on certain comics, such as Cave Carson. However, his art just doesn’t do Midnighter any justice, and vice versa. Oeming’s brand of animation and expression don’t fit the intensity of a Midnighter comic book. Even with the stereotypically silly cyborg enemies (the kind of thing Oeming excels at) the human weapon fights here, the pencils just don’t work.

This effect is unfortunately doubled down on by Taki Soma’s colors. Soma does a fantastic job filling in Oeming’s pencils with her saturated and deep palette selection. There’s an almost early 90’s Genndy Tartakovsky aesthetic to this comic thanks largely to Soma’s work here. The visuals are fantastic on their own. They just happen to be in a comic that does them no justice. Dave Sharpe’s lettering is solid work, but nothing exemplary. He uses a clean, contemporary font for dialogue and standard, unobtrusive SFX lettering. This is a great looking comic book. It just has the wrong team for this character and story.

Verdict

Midnighter Annual 2021 is a decently entertaining one-shot that suffers from its connections with other DC Comics events. Cloonan and Conrad manage to smooth over  of the more obtuse references and get the gist of the story without too much exposition. However, it still feels like walking into the middle of a conversation. Oeming and Soma’s visual work is brilliant in its own right. That’s why it’s sad to say that it has been placed in the wrong comic. If you’re a diehard fan of Midnighter and Apollo, be sure to grab this Annual when it hits shelves on 8/31!

Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.

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