Best Shots Review: MIDNIGHTER & APOLLO #3 'A Gory But Heartfelt Romance' (10/10)

"Midnighter & Apollo #3" preview
Credit: Fernando Blanco/Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (DC Comics)
Credit: ACO/Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (DC Comics)

Midnighter and Apollo #3
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Fernando Blanco and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Credit: Fernando Blanco/Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (DC Comics)

Midnighter’s Orphean quest finally takes him across the threshold to the underworld in this month’s installment of Midnighter and Apollo #3, leaving the Authority alum to cut a bloody path through the depths of Hell while Neron drags Apollo into a game of the world’s worst predecessor to Trivial Pursuit. Writer Steve Orlando’s clever and engaging retelling of the classic Greek myth maintains a steady pace as the series enters its halfway point, offering up a well-balanced blend of action and emotional storytelling that never feels heavy-handed in the way it touches on the themes of classical religious tales.

Artist Fernando Blanco and colorist Romulo Fajardo, Jr. continue to impress, offering up otherworldy visuals like the cloudy backdrop to Apollo and Neron’s ill-fated game. Fajardo’s vibrant colors in particular go a long way to emphasize the nebulous nature of what Midnighter is throwing himself wholeheartedly into, from Gregorio’s ephemeral magic to the vivid golden glow of Apollo’s spirit.

Blanco elevates Orlando’s strong writing with the emotional nuance his artwork brings to the book. His expressive faces give an especially strong punch to the conversation between Apollo and Neron that anchors this issue, giving Apollo a vulnerability and sincerity that drives home his personal struggle with his and Midnighter’s actions in the mortal realm.

Credit: Fernando Blanco/Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (DC Comics)

With the Mansion of Happiness (a real game no one should ever play, by the way), Neron hopes to trap Apollo into a game he can’t win. If Apollo doesn’t believe he belongs in Hell, Neron suggests, he can prove it. He cuts the game short when the answer is less “I don’t belong” and more “it’s not my time,” perhaps leaving Neron to realize there isn’t anything he say to break Apollo that he hasn’t already told himself time and time again.

Rather than leaving Apollo to languish in brief cameos to focus on Midnighter's action-packed, demon-slaying jaunt through Hell to find him, Orlando relishes in the opportunity to explore Apollo both through the strength of his character as the man Andrew Polanski and in the choices he makes in taking on the Apollo identity. He exists not just as a counterpoint to Midnighter but as his own person, who may not have gone through the same traumas as Midnighter but suffers and perseveres all the same.

Credit: Fernando Blanco/Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (DC Comics)

Midnighter and Apollo #3 is the strongest issue yet, packing a powerful narrative into gorgeously illustrated pages. It’s a gory but heartfelt romance, and a smart superhero update on a classic myth that captures the spirit of the tale without being so literal it broadcasts the ending upfront. It’s riveting without being overwrought, and Orlando and Blanco leave enough light touches throughout to keep the book firmly planted in the camp of darkly humorous rather than just dark - the western turn the issue takes towards the end is a particularly nice touch. From the start this has been exciting and emotional genre-hopping tale that throws Midnighter elbow-deep into the unknown, and Midnighter and Apollo #3 will make readers glad they decided to join the ride.

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