Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CBR Dr Mid-Nite


I've always been a big fan of the underrated-type of characters. They often make for the most brilliant little stories everyone appears to ignore.

Since I haven't reviewed a DC Comics title in a while, here one right up my alley!

Comic title: Doctor Mid-Nite 
Art by John K. Snyder III
Written by Matt Wagner

Published by DC Comics
From 2000
Lineup JSA, Doctor Mid-Nite
Format: Trade Paperback which collects the deluxe mini-series Doctor Mid-Nite #1-3.

Here's a character not a lot of people will be able to recognize at first.

Yet, Doctor Mid-Nite is a character that has been around for at least 72 years already(!).

The original Doctor Mid-Nite was named Charles McNider. He was a surgeon that was helping on a case related to mobsters. Blinded by a grenade meant to stop him, McNider thought he had touched bottom. Since the character was an offshoot of sorts meant to replicate the success of Batman, it was an owl that came crashing through the window that inspired him to become a vigilante. And use darkness in his quest for justice.

This first Mid-Nite then joined the Justice Society of America shortly after, branding characters in a team book was a way to keep them "alive" back then.

Then came DC Comics' big Crisis crossover event. Which kept the JSA in the long distant past.

A new Mid-Nite resurfaced finally. This second iteration was now a woman named Beth Chapel who became the new "Doctor Midnight" (notice the typo). Sadly she was not given much of a chance though.

And here we are with the third Mid-Nite!

The series came out as a 3-issue prestige limited series in 1999 first. It was written by Matt Wagner who didn't take double duty with the artwork for a change. Instead he made this mini-series with artist John K. Snyder III.

The story is narrated by Carmilla Marlowe who is a young webdesigner.

It takes place in Portsmouth, Washington.

Carmilla suffers from a skin condition, she can't take direct sunlight.

She found a way to get some relief, with the help of A39, an illegal substance which is a derivated from the steroid Venom (responsible for the Batman villain Bane).

One night she is followed around by a certain Dr. Cross who treats her for free.

Intrigued by this man she follows him around for a while. She finds out doctor is called Pieter Anton Cross and has been giving free medical advices, helping at homeless shelters, giving some medical care to prostitutes. He's also been working on experimental chemical alternatives and even robotics!

Cross also hangs out with a bunch of reformed street kids that help him out in return.

But actually Pieter Cross has been searching for leads on this drug traffic while operating his free clinic.

The A39 was actually sponsored by what appears to be an evil corporation run by the Terrible Trio - three men called Fisk, Shackley, and Volper that take on animal masks of a Fox, a Shark and a Vulture for ritualistic purposes. Calling on the spirits of earth, air and water they hope to claim fortune for the trade of causing disasters and spreading disease through the city.

They provoke a car accident after poisoning Cross with A39. A woman Katherine Blythe is killed and the car engine's explosion leave Cross blinded, with the nearly total loss of primary vision.

But he didn't loss his eye sight completely, due to some strange occurrence he is now only able to see in total pitch black.

Since Pieter Anton Cross was already partially acting as a vigilant before, he takes on the identity of "Doctor Mid-Nite" to face those freaks.

In the end Carmilla joins our hero and decides to be a novelist from now on while setting up "Dr. Mid-Nite Web Site" web page giving free advice to people.

This is not your typical tale of a cliché lone vigilante in a quest for revenge. Pieter Cross already had been helping people out for a while and even had his own network of allies long before becoming Doctor Mid-Nite.
He was a real hero long before the "super" part came into the story.

To help him he uses an arsenal of high-tech equipment, more than simply weapons besides his blackout bombs. And his back-up count a lot of reformed gang members from his community such as Nite-Lite, Ice Sickle, the homeless named Lemon, a mute lawyer Mouthpiece and later Carmilla as well.

He isn't afraid to count on them when things get though and actually doesn't hesitate calling for the feds at the end of the day.

Matt Wagner's modern Dr. Mid-Nite not only revamps and update this character but makes this story about the man behind the (later) mask.

It is quite a suspenseful story (at least until the reveal of the new Mid-Nite).

This brand new iteration of the characters make this hero a real believable character for once.

It is a humanizing story, portrayed in a realistic way. Our hero doesn't always win, he needs to breath in a while if he doesn't want to suffer exhaustion and doesn't instinctively magically duck and leap all around panels.

The story is beautifully rendered through John K. Snyder III's gorgeous painted illustrations.

Overall, it's a fantastic story!

A very engaging read, beautiful, dark, moody and unique.

The three deluxe-sized issues have been collected in this easily available trade paperback, containing two introductions and some bonus content.

This tale wasn't followed by an on-going series, as Matt Wagner mostly focuses on mini-series first and foremost.

Doctor Mid-Nite would go on to be featured on the roster of a newly launched JSA.

A physician first and a vigilante second, he is a very fun different kind of hero.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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