A Problem for Mr. Gray

What happens when you unwittingly embark on a journey to find your true purpose – and do you need a soul to do it? These are only two of the many thought-provoking questions that come up in J. Michael Straczynski’s “Midnight Nation” – a 12-issue volume series published by Top Cow comics during the early ‘00s.

In this trade, Lieutenant David Grey has a problem. While investigating a crime, he is attacked by the “Walkers” – green, demon-like creatures who steal his soul at the command of their leader, “The Other Guy.” To retrieve it, he has to walk from Los Angeles to New York – yes, walk. On this journey, he is guided by Laurel, an angel-type creature in the form of a woman who has been in an ongoing battle with The Other Guy for decades. Then there is Lazarus, who is still waiting for Jesus. The Walkers fear him, and he is protected by an entity with a sword that is continuously on fire.

Along the way, we find out who these characters are, and why Laurel is in this eternal struggle. There’s also a tiny window of opportunity left for Grey not to turn into one of the Walkers. It’s a fascinating take on the “everyman journey.”

On their walk, Grey and Laurel encounter several “invisible ones” – people who have never met their full potential, to the point where they are no longer seen. Essentially, they have disappeared. As you listen to their stories, you are met with a heavy-handed account of why people need to stay connected. But just when you think the storyline is getting obvious, a twist comes about. As The Other Guy says in the climax of the series, “I certainly didn’t see that coming.”

You can have your pick of religious allegory in “Midnight Nation.” From the struggle to discover what it means to have a soul, to living with past regrets, to finally finding out what it means to sacrifice what you thought was important are many themes that come up in this trade paperback. There’s also a one-shot that makes you wish this comic hadn’t run for only 12 issues. It furthers the themes set in the two-year series, but it’s not as dogmatic.

The artwork of Gary Frank et al. emphasizes the ideas presented in Straczynski’s text. His use of shadow and light are like a well done music score. There are also several posters in the back that are snapshots to the dramatic journey that Grey and Laurel are on.

Now that his run on “Thor” is over and he has moved to DC Comics, it’s a good idea to see Straczynski’s past work. Good writing is always a joy to reread.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 595 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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