Created by: Shida (@Shida_Comics)
Publisher: Lezhin (@LezhinComics_US)
WHAT IS IT?
A former gangster finds himself employed at a strip club after accidentally becoming indebted to the owner in this sultry, yet comedic, mature boys’ love webtoon*.
Think Yakuza 0 meets Magic Mike.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Jung-hae is an obsessively hard worker, strait-laced and proper as can be. No matter how hard he works, though, he just can’t seem to pull his family out of their mounting piles of debt. When his unemployed brother Jung-won suspiciously pays the rent on time, Jung-hae decides to tail him to figure out where he’s disappearing to late each night.
Little does he realize that his little brother has gotten into some "shady business" in the form of an adult revue called Club Before Sunrise. And, to his great surprise, his brother is raking in the big bucks as one of their top performers! It’s only when Jung-hae’s switch is flipped by seeing the color red that he begins attacking the performers under the impression that they’ve abducted and brainwashed his sibling. Shocked by the insanity of it all, Jung-hae accidentally causes heavy destruction, resulting in a massive loss of revenue for the club. That’s when the star performer Cha Yoo-gon proposes that Jung-hae pay them back by hitting the stage and letting loose for the crowd to devour.
This series is delightful. It’s charming, genuinely funny, and has a wonderful balance of sensual moments and lighthearted slice-of-life elements. Shida’s characters are given strong, noticeable personalities that ground them in realism, and the look at the lives of those who not only work but indulge in the business is both eye-opening and fresh.
The artwork in this series is stunning. It has a classic black and white manga style to it, reminiscent of old-school titles from the 80s and 90s, with deep blacks and sharp lines that accent the more rounded, almost shoujo* inspired features of the characters' faces and designs. The distinct lack of intense shading and greyscale feels retro and draws the eyes to the heavily detailed cast and settings.
One of the defining and most eye-catching pieces of Midnight Men is how Shida utilizes strong single-color saturation for pivotal moments that enhance the mood of the scenes. It’s total eye-candy from the character designs to the settings, every panel is a masterclass of illustration and it stands out against the simplistic black and white styling of the series.
Midnight Men refuses to delve into the common misconception when it comes to the deeds done behind those closed doors, and allows the characters to present themselves as human, with needs and desires and a genuine joy for what they do, that pulls away from the strictly sexual focus many people hone in on with this type of story. It’s refreshing to see a more positive look on this industry - especially for the working men - that also highlights and praises female sexuality in the process.
Jung-hae is a unique protagonist for a BL series. He’s fairly typical looking, with an uptight personality, and is far from the common “sexy man” we’re used to seeing. His Jekyll and Hyde personality flip when he sees red makes him a dangerous individual, and his journey to discovering the man he wants to be compared to the man he’s forced to be is an enjoyable one that’s given plenty of time and care.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: STRONG (frequent) sexual themes and situations, nudity, use of alcohol and tobacco, some brief scenes of violence and blood, a strong focus on gangster elements. This series is absolutely made for a mature audience.
The series does begin to shift toward a relationship between Yoo-gon and Jung-hae as the primary focus toward the latter half of season one, but it can be initially seen as a bit manipulative due to Yoo-gon’s sultry and confident demeanor mixed with his relentless persistence. It does somewhat fall into that “refusing to listen to ‘no’ until you love me” trope that many BL titles fall into, but it doesn’t take long for Jung-hae to realize he actually does have feelings for Yoo-gon so it’s not as drawn out or intense as other similar titles.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
A charmingly original series, Midnight Men showcases the down and dirty deeds of those in the adult entertainment industry, as well as the carefree and simplistic lives they lead during the day. Balancing a humorous tone with raw sensuality and the difficulties that come from loving someone in their line of work, Jung-hae and his fellow performers will capture your heart the moment you first meet them. Surprisingly touching at times and realistic in its portrayals, this series balances a retro black and white art style that harkens back to the early days of manga, while still capturing the lifestyles and aesthetics of our modern world.
Midnight Men has an expertly balanced story that showcases a noir gangster theming with a realistic and raw look at the adult entertainment industry and the romance that can blossom in the midst of passion. It’s a unique slice-of-life webtoon that’s both sensual and sweet that anyone looking for some after dark fun will enjoy.
HOW DO I READ IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All shida characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright shida or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
*webtoon is used here in regard to the scrolling style digital comics originating from South Korea, not to be confused with WEBTOON, the publisher/platform.
*shoujo is a classic genre of manga typically focused on romance-based stories and historically aimed at young girls and women.