Thursday, February 17, 2011

LGBT Reading Challenge 2011 - Midnighter: Anthem

Brighton Blogger over at Book after Book said comics were eligible for her review challenge, so here I am.

Midnight is part of the Wildstorm universe.  I haven’t read a whole lot of this publisher’s books, but I get the impression it’s meant to be a dark and edgy superhero universe.  If alarm bells start ringing, consider yourself forewarned.

Midnighter is an uber superhero.  He can beat anyone in a fight and has precognitive abilities, so he can see how a situation will turn out and take steps to avoid it.   And he’s gay.

This first issue in this collection is by Brian K Vaughan and it plays with the
precognitive theme.  The story runs backwards in time, each page taking place a few minutes before the previous one.  So you start with the culmination of the story, and you end with how it all started.  The opening page is this:
How often do Marvel and DC give you that sort of image huh?  Glorious ain’t it?  Nicely composed and nicely drawn.

This story is interesting solely because of the backwards structure.  Read in chronological order (i.e.  starting at the end), it’s average, but front to back it’s impressive, and yea, even breathtaking in it’s production.

I will admit, I do have a soft spot for this type of structure.

Unfortunately, the rest of the issues in this collection are absolutely terrible.  It’s not bad as a mystery – discover the bad guys and their motives and defeat them – but the morality and presentation of the story is horrible.
(For some reason when I converted this from a pdf to a jpeg it flipped the image. but you get the idea about the graphicness of this comic.  Technology is not my friend)

Midnighter kills regularly.  He beats the living tar out of people.  He kills them in fights.  He kills them after they’ve made a truce.  And he’s presented as the hero!  The good guy!  It’s not like in DC where the Secret Six or the Flash’s Rogues know they are of dubious morality, accept that and get on with their lives.  We are meant to root for Midnighter, we are meant to support him.  There’s no examination of his character of motives here.  He’s just violent because that’s supposedly adult.  Mature.  Macho even.  Ok, this is usually a role given to very straight men, but the fact that he’s gay doesn’t make it subversive, or make him more likeable.  I guess it’s a step forward that there exists a gay character who can be this macho prick, but it doesn’t make the story any better.

I have heard how he is meant to be a Batman or Superman analogue.  Well, as much as I despise Batman, at least he does right most of the time.  And Superman, well even in Superman’s currently ill fated walk across America he’s not like this.

Adult doesn’t have to mean this.  There are plenty of mature, adult books out there that are violent, but still weave a good plot.  This book, this is childish.  There’s no debate of morality, no acknowledgement of a different way, no contrast with anyone else in this universe, it’s just violence for violence sake.  Superboy Prime would be horrified.

Then, then there’s the computer hacker who has downloaded child pornorgraphy.  So Midnight snaps his neck.  After deliberately choosing this guy for the job, just so he could kill him afterwards.  These aren’t the actions of a hero, or justice.  It’s crass. It’s paedophilia for shock value, included so that the reader can be smug and feel like they are right on.  Whatever happened to building good characters through, I don’t know, characterisation?  Plot Development?  Instead, we just get a sordid, ugly story.

Add in all the scantily clad women and we have sexism on top of a terrible, boring read.

As this diatribe is nominally a book review, I should probably drop in some things about the plot.  Midnight is a character with no memory of his life before becoming a superhero *cough wolverineripoff cough*.  An associate locates and gives him his life’s records.  He visits the town where he grew up and discovers Bellwethers - Dudes with American flags on their faces.  These Bellwethers keep order by shooting people who speak out of turn and banning all metas from the town.  Fights ensure.  Debates over freedom versus safety are had.  These debates don’t hold up because it’s Midnighter arguing for freedom, and I ain’t about to use him as my moral compass.
(Another flipped image.  Me and technology really don't mix)
On the LGBT theme, Midnighter’s sexuality is at least a real and integral part of his character.  It’s not a gimmkic, it’s not his defining trait and it’s not ignored.  For this portrayal, it might be worth picking upt he book.  But only for the first time-goes-backwards story.

I hate this book.  I want my superheroes to actually be Super, thank you very much.

If you want a decent LGBT comic go and look at my New readers..start here! site.  We've got about 20 LGBT comics reviewed, and there will be many more coming.

EDIT - Forgot to include the credits when I pasted this.  They are as follows:
Fait Accompli (the backwards story):
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inker: Karl Story
Colorists: Randy Mayor and Jonny Rench
Letterer: Phil Batsman

Anthem (the one I really hate):
Writer: Keith Giffen
Pencillers: Chris Sprouse, Chriscrossm, Rafel Sandoval, Jon Buran
Inkers: Karl Story, Troy Hubbs with Chriscross, Rick Burchett
Colorists: Randy Mayor, Darlene Roger, Pete Pantazis
Letterers: Travis Lanham, Pat Brosseau, Steve Wands

What a mess of creators on one story arc.  Pity, cos Travis Lenham and Pat Brosseau generally do good work.

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