There really is nothing quite like pulp radio shows. Back in the day, shows like The Shadow and The Green Hornet ruled the airwaves. Among them was another hero that I admit I had never heard of until now: Captain Midnight. In his original form, Captain Midnight aka Jim Albright was a flying ace who flew with the Secret Squadron to combat the likes of Ivan Shark and Baron von Karp before, during, and after WWII. This is some classic pulp material. Now, Dark Horse Comics has reintroduced Captain Midnight for a modern age with author Joshua Williamson and artist Victor Ibanez at the helm. Captain Midnight #1 hits shelves today, but should you pick it up? Read on!
Captain Midnight has been retooled for his latest outing: rather than being a flying ace who operates in WWII, he is now a genius-inventor-flying-ace that suddenly finds himself in the present day, after flying through a time vortex in the Bermuda Triangle. After being detained for questioning on an aircraft carrier, Captain Midnight steals a fighter jet and escapes, which brings us to the start of the issue #1. This was a perfect recipe for pulpy awesomeness… right up until the whole “ends up in the present day” part. From that point on, I couldn’t shake the “Captain America ripoff” vibe (somewhat of an irony, consider that Captain Midnight pre-dates Steve Rogers by a few years.) Still, it’s a shame because, if they had left this character in WWII, I would have been all about this book.
Captain Midnight #1 starts with a flashback to a mission during World War II. Captain Midnight, his sidekicks Joyce and Chuck, and the rest of the Secret Squadron are mounting an attack on Ivan Shark’s Nazi fortress at the North Pole. He attempts to take Shark alive, but during the fight Shark is accidently thrown off the fortress and has his head ripped off by a polar bear. During the attack, Fury, Shark’s daughter, is able to escape. This flashback was the best part of the book. This is what I was hoping from a Captain Midnight book, cheesy dialogue and all!
Williamson then jumps us to the present. Joyce’s granddaughter Charlotte, as a favor to her grandmother, scales the side of the old Secret Squadron hidden base in an attempt to find Captain Midnight before the government does. The feds show up at the same time and witty banter between Charlotte, her ex-husband Rick (a Captain Midnight expert and the pilot whose plane Captain Midngiht landed on when he appeared in the present), and Agent Jones ensues.
Actually, “witty” may be the wrong word. Williamson resorts to the “that’s not the only thing he couldn’t find” standby to help illustrate the relationship between Charlotte and Rick. I think I actually heard a rimshot and crickets when I read it. Rick’s main reason for wanting to find Captain Midnight is to protect him from Fury Shark, still kicking around in the present, seemingly unaged.
We move to Fury Shark, who is now the head of Sharkbyte, a defense company located in London with a bitchin’ headquarters, shaped like a shark fin at the top. Fury has been negotiating with a US general in an attempt to get the US military to dump Albright Industries in favor of Sharkbyte’s (evil) tech. When word comes down that Captain Midnight may have been discovered, she sends the general on a tour and orders a “terrible accident” to befall his ride home after signing the contracts. With revenge on her mind, she actually has a pretty cool plan for Captain Midnight. What’s the best way to stop and or to distract a genius? You give him a problem they can’t help but solve. Fury claims to already have men on it. (Sadly, they weren’t “top men.”)
Meanwhile, Rick, Charlotte, and the feds they have discovered that Captain Midnight was indeed at the old Secret Squadron base. Rick finds the stolen jet and discovers that Midnight has actually dismantled and improved it in the process. Rick notices that there is no dust on the tools, indicating Captain Midnight is still there. This was a cue for Fury Shark’s men to jump into action: they opened fire and gunned down all the agents who didn’t have a name. They remove their helmets to reveal that they are actually green, glowing, skeletal monsters. Captain Midnight chooses this moment to make his grand entrance and takes out the monsters with an assist from Charlotte, closing issue #1.
This wasn’t my favorite book by any stretch of the imagination. I loved all the pulp style and characters, but they felt really out of place in the modern world. Victor Ibanez’s art is really the shinning point of this book. His character designs for the regular folks are fine, but when he gets to play with the fantastic, he really shines. His Captain Midnight looks awesome and there is a scene at Sharkbyte HQ where we see some nefarious device with some unknown purpose, but Ibanez made sure to show us that it would be good.
I think Captain Midnight has potential. This was a rough opening, but the pieces are there. If Williamson finds a way to make the pulp and modern worlds meld more cleanly (and perhaps a little less seriously), they may have a hit on their hands. I look forward to the next issue with hopes that there will be marked improvement. If not, then I fear Captain Midnight will again find himself lost to time and obscurity.