Written by Tom Taylor
Artwork by Mikiko Ponczeck
24 pages, Full Colour
Review by Ben Kooyman
Andy. Codename M.I.D.A.S. Everything he touches turns to BOOM. Which is why he’s not allowed to touch anything. This is his story…
Andy, nicknamed M.I.D.A.S., is a bomb disposal expert trapped in a bio-hazard suit. After a blast infused him with uranium, he was transformed into a “giant, walking, uranium enriched, explosive man”. If he takes off the suit, he and those around him will die. Consequently, he now lives a lonely life shunned and isolated from the rest of society, while still employed to tend to bomb threats. Life takes a positive turn when he befriends his new female doctor, but eventually this only accentuates and reinforces his feelings of isolation.
M.I.D.A.S. #1, scripted by Tom Taylor with art by Mikiko Ponczeck, is the best opening issue to a new comic book series I’ve read in some time. It sets up the foundations for an ongoing story – an antagonist looking to court M.I.D.A.S.’s attention – as well as appealing character dynamics and relationships that will likely be elaborated over subsequent issues: Andy’s amusing working relationship with his dead-serious superior officer Turk, a combination of Commissioner Gordon and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, and his impossible romance with Dr Mooney. But it also works as a complete, self-contained story, thanks to the symmetry of its opening and closing, making it satisfying in a way that very few issue ones are. Hats off to Taylor for also establishing the internal logistics of the story – what Andy can and can’t do in his biohazard suit – in a way that’s efficient, organic, and circumvents any Mallrats-style speculation on Andy’s body fluids and appendages.
The aforementioned opening is terrific and cinematic: the first frame depicts a television airing an episode of Friends, which then pulls back over subsequent frames to reveal a lounge room as seen from the point of view of Andy from within his biohazard suit, as indicated by the framing of his helmet in the corners of the image. The next page cuts to a full-profile image of Andy in his suit in this lounge room. The opening milks comedy, pathos, and thematic weight from this disjunction between the innocuous domestic surrounds and the character inhabiting a biohazard suit, as does Andy’s choice of programming, a show about “friends” while Andy himself is deeply disconnected from the rest of the world.
This is a big part of M.I.D.A.S.’s appeal: its synthesis of art, text, and subtext in a way that’s foregrounded and rich but never feels laboured. It’s also a great character study in the truest sense, in that the story and action serve the characterisation, and for the intertextually inclined there are shades of numerous literary and comic book archetypes in Andy’s DNA: he is a tall, imposing monstrosity of science shunned by polite society ala Frankenstein’s Monster; a monster birthed by radiation ala Godzilla; a ticking radioactive time bomb in the shape of a boy ala Akira; a figure for whom rage and romantic woes spell danger to himself and others ala the Hulk; and a superhero of the perky, youthful, wise-cracking kind as well as the tortured, brooding, Batman-esque kind. Taylor balances these traits so they complement rather than cancel out each other, and you genuinely feel for Andy’s frustration as he ruminates on his romantic woes, the dangers inherent in having these feelings, and the necessity of his exile. Ponczeck’s art and imagery is instrumental in hitting these emotional notes, switching from cute and endearing when depicting Andy’s growing attachment to Dr Mooney, to nightmarish as he imagines the apocalyptic consequences of his thwarted affections, to haunted as he retreats at story’s end.
Obviously time will tell where M.I.D.A.S. goes next and whether it lives up to the potential of its opening, but #1 is layered, thoughtful, and impeccably polished storytelling. I loved it.
For more on M.I.D.A.S., check out Gestalt Comics.