Review - Midnight Tiger #1

"...I was getting superpowers. It only took getting my guts ripped open and being in a coma for three days. No big, right? Just trying to be a Good Samaritan."

Gotham gets a bad rap. Sure, it's polluted by a seemingly endless supply of criminals, but it's also got Batman. The Caped Crusader does everything in his power to keep the city from falling into the brink. It's an unenviable task for sure, but someone's got to do it. And in Midnight Tiger #1 from Action Lab Entertainment, that someone is Gavin Shaw. The issue is written by DeWayne Feenstra and Ray-Anthony Height, illustrated by Height and colored by Paul John Little.

Gavin Shaw is a high school senior who doubles as a disillusioned teen living in Red Circle. Red Circle has a little crime problem, prompting Gavin to lose faith in the heroes he admired growing up. After trying to save a hero named Lionsblood, Gavin finds himself imbued with superhuman abilities and facing the potential destruction of the superhero community.

Readers of Midnight Tiger #1 will see obvious parallels to Peter Parker, but most teenage superheroes tend to feel that way as well (for instance, Billy the Pyro is another one). Feenstra and Height put Gavin in a much grittier situation than Parker though, as he's forced to contend with a city on the brink of collapse. His characterization comes largely from the interactions of those around him and some quick crime scenes, both of which hammer home the difficulty of his situation. It's a testament to Feenstra and Height to craft a character and setting so devoid of hope that even the promise of superheroes doesn't really make things any better. In fact, a supervillain is on the loose and the city seems resigned to it. Some parts of the script feature an excess of narration and dialogue, although there's a very subtle nod to the plight of the Waynes on that fateful night in the alley.

Probably the strongest selling point of the book is Height's art. Gavin is illustrated as a very lean and potent superhero who you have no problem believing could go toe-to-toe with some of the city's more fierce opponents. What slightly takes away from that is the fact that almost every other character in the book is also illustrated as very fit. It isn't completely outlandish, but when the superhero's dad looks like he could beat Superman in an arm-wrestling match, you do wonder if Gavin isn't the only hero in town. Height also does some rather interesting 3-D illustrations in some ways, as some characters overlap other panels that makes their actions really pop off the page. Little uses colors that live on the darker end of the spectrum, underscoring the grittiness Gavin faces everyday.

Midnight Tiger #1 skips a lot of the origin stuff and goes straight into the drama. Gavin comes across as a mix between Peter Parker and Kick-ass, blending the educational aspirations of the former and pure heart of the latter. Feenstra and Height want Midnight Tiger to deal with aspects of life that even normal people don't want to deal with, throwing him into a rather fierce fight to save himself (and likely the city). Height's artwork is very impressive, effectively carrying with it a level of kinetic energy that fits a superhero like Midnight Tiger. Midnight Tiger #1 is setting up to be a book that pulls no punches and doesn't want to offer any semblance of a happy ending, which should keep things refreshing.

Midnight Tiger #1 is slated to ship in July.