Thrust into the present after fighting Nazi’s in the forties, Captain Midnight’s fight hasn’t changed much – the world has just accepted Nazi’s into its embrace, quietly.
Story: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Fernando Dagnino, Victor Ibáñez, Pere Pérez, Roger Robinson
What They Say:
In the forties, he was an American hero, a daredevil fighter pilot, a technological genius . . . a superhero. Since he rifled out of the Bermuda Triangle and into the present day, Captain Midnight has been labeled a threat to homeland security. Can Captain Midnight survive in the modern world, with the US government on his heels and an old enemy out for revenge?! Collects Captain Midnight #1-#3, Captain Midnight #0, and the Captain Midnight Free Comic Book Day story.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
One of the things I love about comics is that you can get something with an incredibly rich history that you never knew about and just doing a little research can be eye-opening. Delving into this collection of issues from the launch of Captain Midnight, we get a character whose life started back in the late 30’s as a radio drama before being adapted into a comic book itself that ran for several years in Fawcett as well as having a serial comic strip in newspapers. I don’t pretend to be worldly about all the comics that have existed, but the Fawcett characters are ones that often remain a mystery to me except when they’re revived in the present. Captain Midnight has a rich and fascinating history that feels like a property that should have been bigger but just didn’t survive the various transition phases.
With this incarnation of it, we get something that takes the past and accepts a lot of what happened but just starts treating it from today’s perspective. We’re introduced to Jim “Red” Albright, the famed Captain Midnight that would fight the Nazi’s in the forties and had a particular foe in dealing with Ivan Shark. Both men are geniuses in their own right that developed a lot of fascinating technology which became the foundation for so much that followed in the decades afterwards. The two had a long rivalry, but one that ended badly back in the day as during a fight in the north, Ivan was killed by polar bears while Jim and some of those from his support group watched on. It was a grisly death, one that certainly made sense considering the devious and fiendish things that Ivan built. But that death changed his daughter, Fury Shark, even more as she was intent in making Albright suffer for what he did. The two had a contentious relationship to be sure during the war, but it was one that took an unexpected turn.
Over the Bermuda Triangle. You have to love a story that kicks off with that. With nods to alien powers that are mentioned only briefly and curiously, we get a situation from the start where Albright it sent into the present day while chasing Shark, only to find that she popped out of the time vortex years earlier. For Albright, the war is still on since he just stepped through, and it’s hugely difficult for him to see that things have changed. But in a way, they haven’t, as we learn that Fury has spent her years pretending to be her own granddaughter and shaping the world through her company, Sharkbyte Technology, taking her fathers creations even further through her own intelligence. For Albright, all he sees is that the world has largely become dependent on Nazi technology, even though most don’t realize that it is. World leaders have made deals and allowed it all to happen simply to gain access to some impressive tech.
With Fury there so many years earlier, she knew Albright was coming and has set up a variety of traps and ways to get at him. They’re not the most expedient of ways, but you can understand her being a little circuitous in what she’s doing because she wants him to suffer like she did over her father’s death. That has some odd turns along the way, and some comical ones as well since it involves the granddaughter of one of Albright’s associates, Charlotte. Her grandmother Joyce was one of the Secret Squadron that operated with Albright in his Captain Midnight mode to fight the Nazi’s, though it’s something that Charlotte wants little of. Her tie-in to it is that her ex-husband, military man Richard Marshall, is a huge fan of the Captain Midnight lore and really took it all in from Joyce during that time when they were all a part of the same family. He’s on board the USS Reagan when Albright comes flying in from the past and tries to get everyone to realize who it is they have, providing the reader with clues about Midnight’s past and just how much they do all owe him. Not that anyone really cares or gets it as they’re more intent on seeing him as a threat. Which makes a certain sense since he could be upsetting the world order and lots of international issues by going after Fury, since she is now a world famous, popular and influential CEO.
This collection brings in the issue zero that was done in 2012 as well as the Free Comic Book Day story and the first three issues of the ongoing. Because of the disparate nature of the releases, it definitely has an uneven flow about it as it gets going, made a bit rougher by having several different artists on it as well. It manages to stay mostly cohesive, but reading it as a complete volume left me with a little bit of an off feeling, mostly from going from that issue zero into the main series itself. One of the things about this title is that while there are the down moments of exposition, a lot of what we get is just movement from place to place as Albright is going after Fury and laying traps for the military men that are coming after him as well, since he doesn’t want them to stop him. It almost moves too much and it’s hard to really pin down some of the why’s of what the military’s doing, mostly through the Agent Jones character that sees him as the main threat to world stability. There’s just a lot of blinders going on with him even after all the things Richard fills him in on and what else they see, which makes his turnaround towards the end harder to believe.
There’s simply a lot going on here and it’s the kind of title where a second read through a few days afterwards will help to settle it some, which isn’t a bad thing. Captain Midnight wants to introduce a lot of stuff and is hitching onto some of what happened in past material, though doing it in a loose enough way that it can acknowledge it but not be bound by it. Which is smart and works nicely. There’s also that period where you have to adjust to the fact that this may be a situation similar to Captain America in a way, but this is a very, very different character. Albright has his reasons for acting like he does, but he’s so rough around the edges, so sure of himself and his genius, that it can be really off-putting and difficult to root for him. So much so at times that I really found myself drawn more to Fury’s story by wanting to see more of what she built up, what she controls and how she did it all over the years since arriving before him.
After getting into a few other books from Dark Horse as a part of their Black Sky project that’s binding things together, I was definitely intrigued by Captain Midnight since it’s a collection and I wanted to see what they’ll be bringing to the table with it. The character has far more history than I ever realized, from radio dramas to comics to dozens and dozens of serialized episodes. This incarnation takes from all of that and places him squarely in the present, but still making it feel like he’s a product of his own time. And that’s a difficult thing to do because men were very different then and his intellect and style makes him all the harder to connect with. The book introduces a lot of material, characters and back story all while keeping it moving ahead, often at breakneck speed. It has a lot of interesting ideas but just feels like it needs to slow down and really start exploring them, to allow us to connect and start understanding the characters. A re-read definitely improves the book and it has me interested in seeing where it’s all going to go from here.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: January 29th, 2014