“Midnighter is who I am, no matter where I am”, is fair summing up of a character hardly brimming with internal tension.

There have been ties between this series and Grayson, and they’re strengthened early when Midnighter agrees to work alongside Helena Bertinelli and her Spyral group of covert operatives. That leads into what occupies most of the book, a tussle between Midnighter and the Suicide Squad, which becomes more complicated than it might usually be via the use of applied technology. Continuing from Out, Steve Orlando never tires of telling us in detail every single chapter exactly how Midnighter’s powers work. It’s never been subtle, and it’s now become tiresome, but it has a relevance to the plot as someone’s found a way to negate that.

When it comes to artists Aco (sample page) is again the star contributor, and again such is the complex thought and detail applied that he can only draw half the book. His page layouts are beautifully designed, and while Hugo Petrus makes a game attempt at mimicking the basics of Aco’s style, to reconvene the entire picture requires Aco’s unique visual sense. Petrus can manage consistency, and in other circumstances he’d be impressive, but in Hard he’s second best. That’s way above the opening chapter’s David Messina. His pages look as if composed by layering individual illustrations into backgrounds rather than designing a picture to begin with, and are very awkward.

While there are interesting moments, this is a lesser volume than Out. That provided a finer balance between Midnighter as a superhero and Midnighter as a human being. It’s the latter that’s largely sidelined to expand the fast-paced and scarcely believable action. Despite a good purpose being introduced, that’s diminished by the deus ex-machina appearance of Superman analogue Apollo, discarded by Orlando in the previous book surely to prevent such commonplace cheating. The reason for that is to close this series down as DC rebooted yet again and decided Midnight and Apollo made for a better series than Midnight on his own.

Over two books there’s been much to admire about Orlando’s work. The naturalism of a gay superhero is well handled, and the action sequences thrill as they should, but there’s never been a sense of anything other than surface about the writing. That’s a missed opportunity.