This third volume of the new Captain Midnight series from Dark Horse is a game changer. Obviously, for one thing, the stakes are raised. The stakes have to be higher in every issue in order to maintain audience interest, but they’re higher in a very different way than they were in Volume 2.
In Volume 2, they raised the stakes by bringing in bigger and more powerful villains for Captain Midnight to face. Will he be able to defeat Skyman, who uses the Captain’s own weapons against him? Can he be victorious over the seemingly indestructible Hollow? Well, we’re now into a third volume, so, obviously, the answer was yes, on both counts.
In this volume, however, the stakes are on a moral and ideological level, which is much more interesting than just facing off against a new villain. In WWII, morality was easy. We were the good guys. The Nazis were the bad guys. Anyone on our side was a good guy. Anyone NOT on our side was on the Nazis’ side, and, therefore, a bad guy. Now, in the years since the Captain has been gone, morality has gotten much more complex.
Or maybe it was always that complex, but WWII made it seem simpler, by giving us such a clear enemy. Or maybe morality was always black and white, and it just seems gray because humanity has become adept at ignoring the evil around us and making excuses for it. These are the questions that Captain Midnight must answer for himself as he faces off against his nemesis, Fury Shark.
We begin with a flashback to the 1980s, as Cap’s former companions, older but still not yet out of the game, try to track down and stop the recently resurfaced Fury Shark. On the way, we meet a mercenary named Helios, who’s also on Fury’s trail. Then, once we get back to the present day, and Captain Midnight decides, finally, to take the fight to Fury, Helios shows up again.
Helios is, essentially, Captain Midnight’s polar opposite. Cap operates at night, Helios during the day. Cap wants to protect the innocent and bring the guilty to justice. Helios works for whomever pays him and kills without thinking twice. Cap is good. So, it stands to reason that Helios is evil. But, compared to Fury Shark, who’s a bona fide Nazi, is Helios truly evil, or just that shade of morally gray that Captain Midnight is trying to get used to?
What makes Helios a good villain is that the question when we see him is not, “Who will win when he and Captain Midnight have their epic brawl together?” but rather, “How can Cap defeat someone whose every moral aspect is so diametrically opposed to his own? Someone who, rather than brawl, wouldn’t hesitate just to shoot him in the head and walk away?”
There are other villains in this issue too, though, who aren’t as overtly bad as Helios. Even Fury Shark, who IS evil, doesn’t seem quite so evil as before. Sure, these villains’ actions are terrible, but their intentions may actually be good. Is there an acceptable death toll, when you’re ultimately working for a better tomorrow?
This is definitely a heavier volume than the previous two—almost uncomfortably so at times. Previously, in the action-focused story arcs, it’s mainly been about seeing Captain Midnight kick butt all over the 21st century. But, in this adventure, it’s clear from the get-go that the Captain isn’t going to get out of this one unscathed. There will be losses.
Things are darker and realer in this volume than they have been. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it makes the comic better. Certainly better than the last volume, which was good but not great. In its own way, it may even better than the first volume, which I had nothing but praise for. If you’re looking for action and adventure, there’s plenty of that in Captain Midnight Volume 3. There’s great writing, great artwork, cool characters, and general fun. But, this volume also has something just a little bit more and deeper. And, that something is what really makes it worth a read.