Midnight Nation is a religious-themed twelve-issue American comic book limited series, created by J. Michael Straczynski (he of Babylon 5 fame) and published from 2000 to 2002 by Top Cow Productions under their now defunct Joe's Comics imprint. It is about a man who is killed, in a sense, and is on a journey to save his soul.
Detective David Grey is a dedicated, workaholic member of the LAPD. He's often successful too, in part because of the fact that he has practically nothing else in his life besides police work, in part because he's one of the few members of the force that actually cares about what's going on, even if the victim he is investigating is black, a drug dealer, or whatever. On his latest case he gets some mysterious hints that the case is more than it appears to be, and that the victim, Toby, was killed by some mystery faction that spooks even the veteran street criminals.
Within hours the informant has been brutally murdered, leaving only his initial hints to go on. From those hints David manages to track down Arlan Jaeker, a career criminal, and takes a police unit to arrest him. He finds Jaeker surrounded by the demonic, bloodthirsty entities known as the Walkers, who literally tear the police unit with David apart. David manages to shoot Jaeker, but is helpless against the Walkers themselves. Then the leader of the Walkers does something to David, and he begins to pass out...
... then wakes up in a strange limbo world, where he can see people as ghostly figures, but they cannot see him and pass right through him. At first, the only person he finds that can see him is a tall, strange woman who calls herself Laurel, who says she will be his guide, either until the Walkers find him and kill him, or until he turns into one of them, in which case Laurel will kill him. David soon finds that the only things he can interact with successfully are things which have been lost, abandoned, broken, or thrown away, and similarly the only people who can talk to or see him are the same way.
Eventually, Laurel tells David that his soul was taken by the leader of the Walkers, and at most David has less than a year before the loss of it turns him into one of the Walkers. So with Laurel leading the way, David sets out on a cross-America trip to New York to reclaim his soul while slowly learning more about the Walkers (and fighting them at every step), lost things and people, and the nature of the Balance Between Good and Evil in this universe. Not everything is as simple as it seems, however, and reclaiming his soul will be more complicated than simply walking to New York and taking it back.
This miniseries contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Satan.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Walkers, who are also Chaotic Evil period. Justified, as Satan intentionally turned them into that in order to bring down creation. Those that don't remain Chaotic Evil get torn apart by the rest.
- Bald, Black Leader Guy: Arthur, leader of some of the Lost People, and one of the few Lost People we meet who did not wind up that way through his own actions, apathy, or unwillingness to change. He's also one of the first to come back to the world, regaining his hope at the sight of Laurel's ensoulment flaring like a beacon across the world and just dropping back into reality as a result.
- Big Applesauce: Apparently the place where guys that steal souls hang out. Although David's first guess was that it would be Washington D.C, which Laurel responded was too obvious.
- Break Them by Talking: Satan spends most of issue 9 doing this to David, almost as if he's giving it to God but with only David there to hear. Then he punctuates it with Mind Rape rather than letting the point stand...
- Came Back Wrong: Lazarus. Yes, the Lazarus, and there is at least some implication that this helped to either create or expand the limbo David finds himself in.
- The Corruption: What is happening to David. The longer he goes without his soul, the more the Walker markings expand on his body.
- Cursed with Awesome: David in the Distant Finale. He's soulless, but it mostly just means he can't properly die and move on, meaning he's functionally immortal and can interact with both worlds. He chooses to use this "cursed" state to help people on both sides of the divide, bringing lost people back to the world.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Most of the Lost People seem to have either this, or some version of Break the Cutie or Broken Bird. Of course, there's also a strong implication that for nearly all of them that tell their story, (aside from Arthur) that they could have made different choices and changed their lives but didn't.
- Deadpan Snarker: David and Laurel take turns snarking at each other.David: Nobody likes a smartass
Laurel: Then you must lead a terribly lonely life.
- Determinator: David's schtick.
- Didn't See That Coming: Satan is not the best judge of character.
- Drunk on the Dark Side: David, briefly, after Satan's Mind Rape.
- Eye Scream: The only part of the murdered informant that can't be found are his eyes.
- Flying Dutchman: Lazarus finds himself wandering without a purpose after being resurrected by Jesus, who told him to await his return... just before heading off to the Last Supper. Two thousand years later, Lazarus is still waiting.
- Future Me Scares Me: David is disgusted by the choice his future-self made to survive. Turns out things are a bit misleading.
- Gang Initiation Fight: One of the Lost People describes having gone through the realistic version of this trope.
- Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Most of the good guys have blue eyes. Bad guys get very evil eyes, for example instead of having whites, the Walkers have a gold background and black eyes, while Satan has Black Eyes of Evil.
- Heroic Sacrifice: David. But not the way you expect.
- Humans Are Bastards: At one point David tries to blame the Walkers for everything that is wrong with human life. Laurel calmly replies that no, all they do is speed the process up.
- Hurricane of Puns: David is horrified to realize that the murdered informant's body parts have been scattered all over his house in order to create this. For example, an arm stuck on a chair, (armchair) a head stuck in the refrigerator (head cold) etc.
- I Am A Humanitarian: The Walkers. Children are the most nutritious for them.
- Jerk Ass God: Satan accuses God of being this, for having deliberately created a flawed universe while allowing no one to question it. He also implies that God's is fallible and limited. Also, he believes God sends Laurel to escort the people who have lost their souls in order to torment him, as he and Laurel were once lovers.
- Mark of the Beast: Although more like The Corruption, but the marks on David's body could also be considered this.
- Meaningful Name: The one who will tip the balance between good and evil is named Grey. What could that signify?
- For that matter, David, while certainly a common name, could be meant to evoke the Biblical King David.
- The Walkers. They're all people who have gone on the "long walk" with angels like Laurel to New York City in search of their stolen souls.
- Mercy Kill: Laurel offers this to David.
- Mind Rape: For one second, Satan allows David to feel all the misery on the world. It temporarily drives David insane and nearly turns him into a Walker.
- Our Angels Are Different: And named Laurel. The one protecting Lazarus is rather traditional, from what we see. (A white robe, and a hand gripping a flaming sword).
- Our Souls Are Different: Losing them gets you Trapped in Another World. Getting it back makes you paradoxically, The Soulless.
- Place Worse Than Death: New York City, apparently. At least due to the influence of Satan and the Walkers. At some points it looks suspiciously like Fire and Brimstone Hell.
- It is, according to Laurel, actually the only place in the world where the "sides" are flipped - all the normal people refuse to see it for what it is, so they force themselves into the shadow-world to see New York as they want to see it. Meanwhile, all the lost people are in the real New York, because they can't help but see it as it actually is - a literal Hell on Earth because Satan's influence is so strong there.
- Rage Against the Heavens: What Satan is doing because of the injustice of creation, and the needlessness of suffering.
- Running Gag: Someone will say "Jesus!" in response to something and Lazarus will look around and ask "Where?"
- Sadistic Choice: David's choice comes down to reclaiming his soul (but becoming part of the Walkers in doing so) or giving it up, letting Laurel have it so she can live a mortal life, (but David will, they think, remain in limbo forever). Ultimately, the story isn't about the choice between good and evil, but between whether to sacrifice yourself for someone else's sake or sacrificing another for your benefit.
- Satan is Good: Sort of. Here, he's pretty much the first Well-Intentioned Extremist crossed with Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, seeking to undo creation in order to end needless human suffering, and because God has refused to allow any criticism of it. Still, Satan has pretty much Jumped Off The Slippery Slope because his methods go far, far beyond "well-intentioned" by this point.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very, very cynical overall, but mostly to give some extra punch to the more hopeful ending. Satan fairly drips with cynicism while preaching his own twistedly hopeful message of hopelessness.
- The Soulless: Walkers. Averted, because it turns out the Walkers all took their souls back when offered. It's because they chose themselves over giving the soul up for someone else that they became Walkers, because what they let go of was their humanity and so became Satan's willing servants. It turns out losing your soul just makes you potentially immortal and able to interact with both worlds at once.
- Super-Sargasso Sea: The "Place In-Between." Notably, not just lost objects end up here, but lost people. An odd element is that the normal world can occasionally be seen from the PIB, and people there can see things that aren't lost or discarded, they just can't interact with them.We've got a saying for it. "Another one fell through the cracks this afternoon." The lost. The turned-away. The hopeless. The homeless. The dispossessed, the ignored, the scared, the twisted, the cast-aside. They roll into this place with all the other junk nobody wants anymore.
- Walking the Earth
- Was Once a Man: The Walkers. Every one of them was once someone whose soul Satan took.
- We Used to Be Friends: Satan and Laurel. Though in this case, it's the villain saying as much to try to convince Laurel to give up the pain and suffering, and join him in rebellion.
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Satan may mislead, but he never tells a lie, and keeps his word.