Midnight Nation 1/2
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.
Technically it's a 13-issue series now.
Midnight Nation 1/2 is a special issue that was available through a mail-in offer in Wizard: The Comics Magazine 115. The price was $3.00 in addition to the cost of the magazine. The comic comes in a special Wizard slipcase with a certificate of authenticity.
The cover features a beautiful piece of artwork by Gary Frank featuring David Grey and Laurel flanking this issue's guest star, the Caretaker. The Caretaker is brandishing his broom against their enemies. Gary Frank provides the perfect appearance of the Caretaker to accompany the personality that comes out of Joe Straczynski's writing.
Unfortunately, I was in for a disappointment when I opened the book. Despite the erroneous credit on the inside cover, Gary Frank is not the penciler for this issue. Michael Zulli provides the art. Zulli's style includes heavy scratches and squiggly lines to indicate shadows. It just doesn't work for me.
Gary Frank created the original character design for the Caretaker, and Michael Zulli uses the design well. In fact, Zulli's rumpled style works far better on the Caretaker than it does on David and Laurel.
As expected, this is a standalone issue. You can skip Issue 1/2 without missing anything important to the 12-issue story. Still, it wouldn't be like Joe Straczynski to leave us with nothing. Issue 1/2 provides us with more insight into the motivations and weaknesses of the Walkers. It also provides some extra character development for Laurel.
Straczynski has a bit more fun in this issue. The Caretaker has a very dry sense of humor. It isn't just what he says; it's how he says it.
One possible problem with the story is that the Caretaker's inventory doesn't fit well with the established rules of the fantasy world of Midnight Nation. The Caretaker keeps all the creative works that were never made because their creators died too soon. The idea would have fit better if he cared for works that had slipped between the cracks. Surely there are many forgotten novels, lost poems, crumbled statues, and paintings lost to fire or decay. I just chalk this up to the argument that the whole story is just a metaphor so I shouldn't worry about it too much.
Where does Issue 1/2 fit into the timeline of Midnight Nation? This isn't explicitly stated. David and Laurel are still in the desert, so it must be set in the first third of their journey. I would recommend placing Issue 1/2 between Issue 4 and Issue 5. Issue 4 concludes the introductory material that teaches David Grey and the reader about the place in-between. Issue 5 begins ramping up the tension in anticipation of David's confrontation with the Other Guy. Issue 1/2 fits nicely in-between as an adventure along the otherwise uneventful portion of David and Laurel's journey.
The story is only 12 pages long. Six other pages contain a Michael Zulli interview and sketchbook. Finally, there are two pages of Gary Frank sketches that include his original Caretaker design plus proposals for two different covers.
If you missed your chance to order Midnight Nation 1/2, you can purchase a different edition with an alternate cover that was distributed to comic book shops. This version has a much higher price. You can also find it on eBay, but the prices there also tend to be inflated.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 1/2. It contains spoilers.