Even though they are both attractive men with good senses of humor and uncanny fighting abilties, Midnighter and Dick Grayson have one major difference. One kills, and the other doesn’t. But instead of turning this into the moral argument that breaks out every time Batman and Jason Todd (or the Punisher in that one 90s crossover.) are in the same room, writer Steve Orlando gives both characters a mutual respect for the other’s methods. They also have a natural, breezy chemistry even if Midnighter likes joking around and doing outrageous things like putting his partner (in fighting genetically modified folklore monsters) in handcuffs more so than Dick, who settled into his team dad role in Batman and Robin Eternal #1. But he’s a hot dad and isn’t afraid of wave after wave of creatures that Russian criminal Akakyevich sends against him and Midnighter as artist Stephen Mooney gleefully crafts a new monstrosity each panel in the middle part of the issue. Orlando also doesn’t neglect Midnighter’s relationship with his civilian squeeze Matt, and his appearances act as idyllic or not so idyllic bookends to the story.
If some of the previous issues could be described as action films, Midnighter #5 is the video game issue as Dick Grayson and Midnighter progress to different checkpoints (or stations in Russian public transit), beat a variety of goons that increase in difficulty before facing a boss and defeating him in a creative way. Then, they find out cryptically that there’s a bigger fish in the pond, and the issue ends. Orlando’s plot is linear, but far from boring as he gives Grayson and Midnighter an easy patter while letting Midnighter show off his wild side with some weird gadgets that end up (I think he’s making fun of Batman, and one of his accessories wouldn’t be out of place in a knight’s gear.) helping them win the overall battle. Again, Midnighter uses his opponent’s obsession with proving his masculinity to best him (This time with superpowers). However, he gives Akakyevich a little nuance in an early scene where he makes his own meal, but then states to his female companion that this makes him more of a man.
In keeping up with the video game theme of Midnighter #5, Stephen Mooney starts with a grid layout with a touch of white space before increasing the “difficulty” and using more complex and iconic spreads like one of Midnighter wielding a medieval weapon before some kind of alien enhanced wolf being. And throughout the comic, he doesn’t skimp on Midnighter smirks or gore to show how ferocious he as a fighter as teeth and blood fly all culminating in a brain falling out of one of his opponent’s heads. The amount of gore up to this point ensures that the image of Dick’s grappling line shattering Midnighter’s killing shot resonates with the reader to show that there is a big line that he isn’t willing to cross. However, all is sunshine and roses with a warmly colored image of two clinking glasses and basically pillow talk. Midnighter and Dick Grayson are a true example of how to work together and compromise for a common goal with someone who might not share your exact values.
Steve Orlando, Stephen Mooney, and colorists Romulo Fajardo and Jeromy Cox are in fine form in Midnighter #5 bringing the witty one-liners and ultraviolence that has become this series’ formula while adding some extra moral dilemmas and eccentricity thanks to our special guest star Dick Grayson. However, everything isn’t fun and games as the issue’s final page cliffhanger hits Midnighter in what his closest equivalent to happy place and adds another layer of mystery to the proceedings.