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Midnight Mass. #8

Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2002
By: Ray Tate



"Secrets"

Writer: John Rozum
Artists: Jesus Saiz(p), Jimmy Palmiotti(i), Kevin Somers(c)
Publisher: DC

Vertigo is really turning over a new leaf. I don't know why. I don't know exactly when the powers that be became sober and realized that all they were publishing were books meant to dehumanize not explore the human condition or celebrate all the behaviors, not just the nasty type, hard-wired to humanity. We're not all about angst and selfishness. Whatever the case, I'm pleased Vertigo found a home for Midnight Mass.

John Rozum's book focuses on the Kadmons, paranormal investigators, situated in the town of Midnight Massachussets. You've seen paranormal investigators before. The first were likely Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. The next were Mystery Inc. where a certain talking dog captured the hearts of millions. Then came Kolchak, the Night Stalker. After him the flashlight was most associated with Mulder and Scully.

You may believe that since John Rozum once wrote the comic book version of The X-Files and that he is responsible for many issues of Scooby-Doo that Midnight Mass. will be a mix or clone of either. This is simply not the case.

While Mulder and Scully eventually came out and admitted they were in love, the Kadmons are married and definitely in love. Mulder and Scully were iconic. Flawless in design, each partner finished the other and was not self-obsessed but more concerned with finding the truth. The truth isn't part of the Kadmons' quest. They know what's out there, and they mean to combat it with whatever means possible. The monster-fighting came about as a side-effect of Mulder and Scully's truth-quest. They were not meant to be proactive monster-hunters. The Kadmons seek out the dark.

The Kadmons differ more than in just their role. They are flawed. They will never be icons. These flaws are not obvious or artificial. Instead, they are sublime. In one scene, Adam asks Julia to trust him. While she does, later she vents her fury if her trust in him should fail. This is a scene that would not appear in The X-Files. not if the writer were being true to the characterization. Because of this scene and others like it where the married couple are asked to do something that is normally against their nature--depend without question on somebody other than himself or herself--the Kadmons voice different personalities and easily forge their own identities.

While an attention to characterization is usually enough to secure my applause, the plot and the theme entices with an original twist. Being the aide to the Kadmons does not endanger Jenny's life. Jenny's life was endangered already. She came to the Kadmons and entered their lives to escape those dangers. She believed that she could deal with her own problems--which are not what you think--in her own way--a peaceful way I may add. While she finds she cannot, she discovers that the Kadmons are willing to risk their lives to save hers. In short, she has found heroes in whom she can trust. She did not consciously set out to find them, but find them she has. What's even more important to the story is that they are family.

Jesus Saiz strengthens this feeling with depiction of raw emotion. Julia's anger on page seven erupts because of Jenny's tears on page eight. Her look of incredulity mixed with guilt and acceptance on page nine forms because of Adam's request for her to trust him. Adam actually has the right to feel hurt by Julia's words: "Don't worry, Jenny. I'm here now." Instead, he sucks it up like a man and knows Julia's afraid she'll lose Jenny. The only way he can assuage those fears is to show her that he is a man whom she can trust. Even though she thinks she can trust him, there's no stopping that anger mixed with entreaty on the last panel on page nine. It's as if she's begging him--but not in an obvious fashion--to let him be right. Adam while not expressing his emotions as openly as Julia, and surely this is a generalization that rings true in discussing the differences between men and wome, is not a robot. I think it's actually more difficult to express what Adam is thinking, but Saiz does it: confidence, surprise, caring, love. Emotions are powerful forces, and Midnight Mass. is a powerful comic book that swells with humanity.



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