Midnight Nation 4
Review by Mike Helba
Midnight Nation is a 12-issue comic book series written by J. Michael Straczynski and published by Top Cow under the Joe's Comics imprint.
Issue 4 delves headlong into the true nature of Midnight Nation. From the start, it was obvious that Midnight Nation is a more allegorical story than Straczynski's other works like Rising Stars. This issue develops the themes that Straczynski wants to address.
As with Babylon 5, Midnight Nation strongly stresses the importance of personal responsibility. Detective David Grey and his guide, Laurel, meet several people in the place in-between and hear their stories of how they slipped through the cracks. The stories all have something in common.
Each person who speaks feels that they had no choice in their path that led to their fall through the cracks. They harp on the point that no one else understands and no one believes that they had no choice. However, in the two stories that are told in full, someone tries to intervene. There is a person who cares about the main character and tries to convince them that they do have a choice. However, these words of encouragement fall on deaf ears.
The people who fall through the cracks refuse to accept any responsibility for their predicament. They only repeat that they had no choice.
Straczynski goes one step further in exploring this theme than he did in Babylon 5. In Babylon 5, the failure to make a choice is usually shown as a symptom of group dynamics. It's a study on how fascists come to power and how otherwise honest people can look the other way while atrocities are committed. Fear is sometimes responsible for this behavior, but more often greed or apathy are the culprits.
Midnight Nation is all about fear. The inhabitants of the place in-between are afraid. They were afraid before they fell between the cracks. They were afraid to make a choice, to take a risk, to change their lives. They were also afraid to admit that they had a choice and that it was their fault that they weren't making it. The only safe option is to stubbornly deny that they ever had a choice.
The cost of allowing fear to incapacitate the inhabitants is revealed in a chillingly ironic scene. One isn't sure whether to laugh or cry when David and Laurel discover the stupidity of the situation that fear has locked these people into. This one panel illustrates how fear can hobble society's ability to accomplish anything.
Issue 4 is all about exploring these themes of personal responsibility and fear. I don't think Issue 4 will have much direct bearing on the plot in a simplistic sense. David probably won't come back in a future issue to rally these people and make their lives better. But then I don't think Midnight Nation is about fighting some bad guy to get David's soul back either. This story is about the journey and the things that David - and the readers - learn along the way.
As a result of his experience with the people in this issue, David learns something about himself. David is adamant that he doesn't belong in the place in-between. He only arrived there because his soul was stolen. However, in this issue David begins to see the choice that he avoided out of fear. This personal revelation will have significant impact as David's journey continues.
Issue 4 of Midnight Nation makes the reader think. It calls on us to examine our lives, our choices, and our excuses.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 4. It contains spoilers.