So…in the interest of full disclosure, I want you all to know that I started writing this review while watching Piranha. If you’re familiar with the joy of that gratuitous comedy/horror/boob-tacular film, then I've just told you something about my standards for entertainment. Modify your expectations of this review accordingly. It may also be important to mention that I had never heard of Captain Midnight before yesterday. I saw a man fighting a bear on Felipe Massafera’s lovely cover; how could I resist an opportunity to review this comic, whatever it was?
Despite the low issue numbers for Dark Horse's new Captain Midnight series, the Captain Midnight character has quite a long history. He first appeared in radio serial form, running from 1938 through 1949, accompanied sporadically by comics and television appearances. You can actually listen to recordings of the old radio show, sponsored originally by the Skelly Oil Company and later by Ovaltine.
If you are brave enough to dive into the Wikipedia black hole, then I invite you to look up the title for some additional background information. However, I have gone through the trouble of paraphrasing Wikipedia for you because I’m hoping that the extensive history associated with the series may shed some light on the most recent iteration; brought to us by Joshua Williamson with interior art by Fernando Dagnino. Of course, by this I mean: I’m lost and trying to distract everyone with fancy context. I have no idea whether to classify this title as “so bad it’s good” or just “bad."
Issue # 3 opens with a flashback, revealing that our primary villain, Fury Shark, is motivated by an intense desire to make Captain Midnight pay for not actively preventing the death of her father. Her three-fold plan involves; (1) corrupting Albright Industries using her Sharkbyte technology, (2) feeding the damsel in distress to some polar bears, and (3) not allowing her henchman to kill Captain Midnight immediately because she wants him to suffer first. Fury describes this plan while looming over a bound and temporarily incapacitated Captain Midnight. After we combine the World War II overtones pervasive throughout the story with Fury's buxom blonde character design and her demonstrably underdeveloped decision making skills, it's difficult not to confuse Fury with Dr. Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Despite all of my criticism, Fury is still the most interesting character in this issue. The damsel in distress, Charlotte Ryan, is plucky enough to evade the polar bears and hold her own in a fight against Fury, but not plucky enough to avoid falling out of an airplane. This provides Captain Midnight with an opportunity to swoop in and save Charlotte, Superman-style. "Knew you'd fall for me," he jokes. THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS.
Perhaps all of this silly plot nonsense can be forgiven if we assume that Joshua Williamson is intentionally bringing us a campy, cheesy, cliché riddled vehicle for telling a larger story. Honestly, three issues aren’t enough data to decide, so I’m going to assume the best for now. In either case I would want to look at how Fernando Dagnino’s art does or does not support this generous interpretation of Captain Midnight.
Dagnino draws Captain Midnight, the character, very well. He is drawn with chiseled jaw and broad shoulders, dynamically exploding across the panels. On the other hand, supporting characters seem to be perpetually shouting and grimacing, with very little subtlety in expression. Is this Dagnino’s artistic rendition of a D-list actor or simply bad art?
Dagnino seems to have a problem with drawing breasts. I don’t mean that he’s reluctant to draw them, I mean that there’s just something not quite right about how his female characters fill out their clothes. In his pursuit of exaggerated sexuality, Dagnino seems to have stepped just slightly past the bounds of anatomical plausibility, into an uncanny valley where boobs are like tiny cannonballs. If I can be an apologist again, perhaps drawing the women in this fashion is intended to represent the commodification of supporting female characters in traditional comic book storylines, equating the unnaturalness of their breasts with the unnaturalness of stuffing a lady in a refrigerator. Or maybe it’s just bad art.
My final verdict? Captain Midnight may grow into a beloved guilty pleasure. I look forward to sneaking peaks, but denying it when you ask me later.