Comic Review: Action Lab – Midnight Tiger #1

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Midnight Tiger #1

Ray-Anthony Height

DeWayne Feenstra

Action Lab

We begin with an angry man, on fire, walking into a bar, and ignored by the people onmidnighttiger1 the street who think he’s as high as they are. Our narrator is the Tiger himself, describing this scene in the past tense as the reader gets to watch it happen.

The narration continues as we get to see the police hold a press conference to a now-alarmed public. The arsonist who burned down the bar and the section of Apollo Bay called the Promenade is a superpowered supervillain called Infernus and now people are upset.

We get a little ableism in the narrative: “where they see superheroes as often as Stevie Wonder sees well…anything…”

A page or two later we get our first look at Midnight Tiger, along with a race joke: The Tiger references Mississippi Burning even though the opening fire-scene was a white guy setting a bar full of white people on fire. I guess our hero knows his racial history of the United States? Um, yay?  Kind of an odd way to show our teen hero is a man of letters, but let’s go on.

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The titular hero is still in high school, though, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh. All kids make stupid, tactless, inappropriate jokes at that age…so it’s technically realistic writing and hopefully the character will grow out of it if the book prospers enough to let him grow up and become a man. Right now he’s in the unrderstandable excitement phase of having just recently acquired his powers immediately after a three day coma.

While I can find an in-universe explanation for the ableism and the weird race reference, Thomas Uribe, the white janitor, getting attacked by the black street gangs is just typical tropes at work. And oh, the gangbangers aren’t just misguided young men. No, they’re hardened thugs who enjoy causing fear and violence.

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The hero of the book has to have something to do, right? It’s harder to root against the bad guys if they show a little humanity and potential to reform, I suppose. Height throws in a cute little tip of the hat, though. As the muggers are dispatched by Midnight Tiger, preventing a little kid from becoming an orphan in a dirty alley, we get a word balloon of the father calling out to his wife and son:

Thomas: Martha, Bruce, this way!

Tiger is trying for the quippy tone of Spider-Man, which I am guessing is another tip of middnighttiger4the hat. Fanboy made good, writing the comics now, showing his cred and saying thanks to the stuff that put him where he is. I can respect that.

Also like Spider-Man, he’s still in school with homework to do, but unlike the wall crawler, Midnight Tiger worries about staying out too late. He thinks out loud a bit too much, too; hopefully Height or his editor will sort that out or make it a plot point that causes him problems later.

We discover the Tiger’s real name (if you hadn’t already read the preview, which is where we see his origin) is Gavin, and he studies music theory. Which is interesting for a young black man in an inner city high school, but the choice also shows us he’s not just an average underprivileged kid. He has aspirations.

However, I still can’t give this book the praise I hoped to heap on it. Even with the clever and slick digital editing to make it seem quasi-animated in this digital edition, the writing is all over the place. It’s a first issue, though, so there’s room to grow.

We get a three panel of Gavin working on his music theory paper, shot from behind so we can see the bullet hole where it exited his shoulder from the earlier fight. Looks like a cut and paste job, which is all well and good — I don’t object to an artist saving himself some effort, and the bullet hole does not look to have closed up in those three panels, so no display of Midnight Tiger’s incredible healing abilities, apparently. Neither does Gavin bother to so much as swab off the injury with peroxide cotton ball — so I hope he has incredible infection resistance abilities.

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What bothers me is the lack of continuity. The immediate next scene is Gavin entering the extremely sparse kitchen (one canister full of pasta and four empty ones?) to see what went KRASH. There we find his superhero-physiqued but apparently ordinary dad grumbling that he hadn’t meant to wake his son.

The lies begin: Gavin says he was awake due to bad dreams rather than simply saying “up late finishing some homework”. Dad asks if his son wants to talk about it. “Nah, I’m thug” replies our superhero slash music theory student. Do kids really speak slang like that to their parents? Maybe I’ve gotten old, but no black child I know would ever say something like that to their parents for fear of a stern talking to at the minimum.

But as Gavin says this very “hood” thing to his father — the sort of thing that would’ve got me a smack if I’d said it to mine —  he turns away, presenting his back: which STILL HAS A BULLET HOLE THAT HAS NOT HEALED in it from a page back — no healing powers, remember? Dad doesn’t comment. Dad doesn’t even look like he noticed. All he says is that his son should remember that he’s here for him, and they can talk later. No batted eyeball.

midnighttiger6AND THAT’S THE END?!

It is.

While I do have my obvious problems with the writing, the art is not bad. Midnight Tiger is wearing a typical thematic outfit: black with orange highlights to go with the name. And little cat ears to offset the glowing eyes in his full face mask. I’m not sure what’s going on with the split-toe boots, though. I’m guessing they’re meant to look like martial artist ninja-boots, but they look more like hooves, which is way off theme for someone with a tiger themed costume and powerset.

The women in the book are few and far between. We see the pink-haired girl on the first page noting that the man walking past her is on fire. We see the drunk girl, actively hiccuping, and asking who’s cooking barbecue, and noting with dismay that no one is, as Infernus enters. We see a few women in the crowd when the police chief gives his press conference. And there’s a heroine in tights on Gavin’s wall as he enters through his window to come do his homework.

In a book that’s supposed to be representative, Midnight Tiger has, so far, showed five people of color to the rest of the background citizenry being all white: The Tiger himself, his father, the police chief, and the two thugs he stopped from creating another “MY PARENTS ARE DEEEEAAAAADDD” angsty superhero in black.

It’s not actively bad, but I can’t say it’s actually good yet, either. We’ll see if it lasts the five issue test run.

Action Lab needs more like Princeless and less like Zombie Tramp, so here’s hoping Midnight Tiger falls toward the Princeless end of the scale.

2/5

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About Author

Jamie Kingston is a Native New Yorker, enduring a transplant to Atlanta. She’s a lifelong comic fan, having started at age 13 and never looked back, developing a decades-spanning collection and the need to call out the creators when she expects better of them. Her devotion extends to television, films, and books as well as the rare cosplay. She sates her need to create in a number of ways including being an active editor on the TV Tropes website, creating art and fan art, and working on her randomly updating autobiographical web comic, Orchid Coloured Glasses. As a woman of color, she considers it important to focus on diversity issues in the media. She received the Harpy Agenda micro-grant in November of 2015 for exceptional comics journalism by a writer of color.

1 Comment

  1. Nice review I generally agree with the above statements, I have met the creator and I was really excited since I don’t see too many African american comic creators at conventions. Not saying they aren’t there just not at the ones in my area. I was disappointed with the first issue. I thought the character had promise and was interesting sadly I never picked up another issue. Keep up the great review work!!