Review by Frank Plowright
This awkwardly titled volume brings Joshua Williamson’s generally entertaining revival of 1940s hero Captain Midnight to an equally awkward close. Since arriving in the 21st century Captain Midnight has been working his way through a series of problems connected with his arrival, or coming to a head because of it. Remaining are are Black Sky, an organisation Captain Midnight help set up back in the day, and someone known as the Archon, a threat from the 1940s who’s lived through the intervening years and intends to take over the world. As seen in the opening chapter, Captain Midnight and allies are diligent in running though alternative scenarios, but can’t settle on any form of resistance that doesn’t end in a world war. It’s unconvincing.
Three artists are used over the five concluding chapters. Michael Broussard’s early pages are detailed and delightful, but already losing some detail by the end of the first chapter, a spectacular final page notwithstanding. Manuel Garcia may over-emphasise gruesome events, but he’s otherwise the artist of choice, with neat layouts, effective action and able to convery people’s personalities. Miguel Supulveda draws the final two chapters, the first obviously in a hurry given the better quality of the second. In the first the individual panels are overcrowded and panel to panel continuity is puzzling, with plenty of occasions when it’s unclear how people progressed from one panel to the next. The final chapter, however, looks far better, with the cast given the space to breathe.
As the sample art shows, Williamson has plenty of others helping Captain Midnight over the course of the story, ranging from the peppy enthusiasm of Goody, to the single minded brutality of X, protector of Arcadia, now ravaged by the Archon’s forces. Everything works well over the opening chapters. Williamson escalates events effectively, consistently upping the tension, and because we’re now seeing Team Midnight, splitting those chapters over two locations doubles the suspense. The deterioration begins when the Archon finally appears in person. He looks very healthy for someone already an adult during the 1940s, but as noted in story, he’s hardly the intimidating personality anticipated from his reputation. Yes, he’s stronger than most, but somehow underwhelming. It’s also disappointing that Williamson’s given him fairly well the same motivation as Chuck Ramsey in Lost Time, gathering power and forces in order to face an even larger threat.
The final two chapters are supposed to be the climactic finale, and disappoint even if discounting the Archon, because it’s clear Marked for Death ends unsatisfyingly due to premature cancellation, with several plot threads left hanging. There’s an irony of Williamson tying up the story of the Mark, a forgotten superhero series from the 1980s, when crowding him and others in eventually uses up space that could be better employed completing Captain Midnight’s own plots. Accepting Williamson had little notice of impending cancellation and had already embarked on an epic tale with plenty of characters and locations, Marked for Death at least deals with the major plot elements, but it falls well below the better volumes of Captain Midnight.