By rights I should have hated Ray-Anthony Height’s Midnight Tiger from Action Labs, but I didn’t. It’s actually a good fun read from a guy who clearly loves comic books. While I could never see myself shooting the breeze with Alan Moore, Height’s seems like the type of guy you’d be comfortable hanging out in a comic book store with.
Midnight Tiger could be called derivative or even a barely disguised rewrite of Spider-Man. Maybe, but it’s not. This comic is, in fact, a loving and intelligent homage to the best comics has to offer. I have mentioned before that while Frank Miller is a towering genius, I am getting tired of his countless imitators. Not every comic needs to get the “Dark Knight” treatment. Sometime a comic book needs to be just a comic book and not the industry’s answer to War and Peace.
That’s where Height gets it right.
The premise is pretty basic, young high school student Gavin Shaw gets injured when trying to help a superhero who’s getting his head handed to him. While Shaw lingers in the hospital between life and death, the hero, Lion’s Blood, slips a drug into the IV. Shaw makes a miraculous recovery and has gained superpowers. Raised by a conscientious and strong father, Shaw, who is also a superhero nerd, dons a costume and heads off to fight evil.
If Height told the story as starkly as the synopsis above, I’d have advised against buying this comic. But, he captures both the fun and spirit of comics from the 1970’s and 1980’s. He also slyly pokes fun at the genre itself.
For example, where do these spandex costumes come from? Shaw goes to a website called “Cosplay Castle.” His response to some of the offerings are amusing. Spiderman’s costume is “too colorful”, Wolverine’s mask is “ridiculous” and there’s another one which is “too black and panther.”
He finally settles on a costume which would have looked right at home in a mid-1980’s Marvel comic. And in case you missed the homage angle, in one school scene, one panel has Shaw drawn with his mask covering have his face.
Dwayne Feenstra writes the script from Height’s plot and delivers clean and sharp dialog. They keep the story and action moving right along. This is comic telling for the joy of telling it.
I haven’t seen any other comic book reviews on this title, and I am a little curious to see what other people think. Personally, I love the retro feel. Not only is the story retro but at $1.99 so is the price. When comics can run $3.99 an issue, $1.99 for a solid read is too good a bargain to pass up on.