Review by Ian Keogh
Spoilers in review
A first chapter that opens with hints of disaster on Earth in the future, looks at two women and an intelligent dinosaur on a spaceship and then jumps back to King Midas in ancient Greece certainly fulfils the brief of hooking readers. Several mysteries are set up, Ryan North cleverly dropping hints that life in the future isn’t idyllic either, and by the end of that opening chapter we’ve had one hell of a surprise. It really needs discussing to review Midas accurately, but also shouldn’t be spoiled, so if you’d prefer not to know, take our word for it that Midas is a creative and thought provoking story with enough adventure to thrill any youngster, and don’t read past the second paragraph.
It was wisely decided to contract the title to plain Midas for graphic novel publication in a single volume, the original serialised Midas Flesh over two volumes perhaps too creepy for an all ages audience. By the time they began work on it North and the art team of Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb had already established a comfortable creative relationship on Adventure Time. This calls for more discipline and less wacky art than Adventure Time, but Paroline and Lamb pitch it perfectly, with a smiling and sympathetic cast, and a brightness to the colour when needed effectively contrasting the darkness of space.
So, the gimmick is that in the days when Greece was the epicentre of the known world, Midas wished that everything he touched turned to gold. Instead of this just working through his fingers, it applied to his complete body, and it spread to envelop the entire planet. If a flying bird alighted on Earth, they too were transformed, the result being that when other planets discovered Earth it was immediately quarantined. When Cooper, Fatima and Joey turn up centuries later they figure out what happened without knowing how, and that’s where the original title comes into play. One severed finger kept in stasis could be dropped on a planet as the ultimate weapon, and there are some nasty people out in the wider universe. Perhaps the Federation’s domination could be ended.
There’s a considerable density and imagination at play in Midas, the way our crew discover a planet erased from official records for one, the ethical discussion when it looks as if they’re trapped, and North running through possible methods of using a weapon that turns everything to gold. Also nice are the parallels with our own doomsday weapons, and how the cast are so divided. Conflicting viewpoints are exchanged for some while, with the art bringing out the way fundamentally decent people are when major principles are at stake. To contrast them, we have the misguided and the fundamentally evil. As in all good thrillers, there comes a point where all appears to have been lost, so do the creative team give us what we want? Well they certainly cultivate a fine sense of desperation, North’s plot offering solutions and escalating the threat by almost immediately countering those solutions, and playing that game for a couple of nailbiting chapters. While it’s impressive, it’s also showing off to a degree, and over-complicating matters for the intended audience. Still, if being too clever is the only detrimental point*, then it’s pretty safe to say Midas fulfils expectations for a good read. It comes with a nice post-credits scene too.
* It’s not quite the only detrimental point. In the book version it’s not obvious that a spread near the end needs to be read across rather than as two standard comic pages. Again, minor.