Picking up right where the critically-acclaimed “Midnighter” series left off, Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco’s “Midnighter and Apollo” #1 has the reunited duo fighting crime together, even as there’s trouble in paradise. Here, not only is the past of our heroes rearing up to cause trouble, but an artifact from the DC Universe’s history makes a surprise appearance some 20 years later.
The Eye of the Storm
Midnighter and Apollo were originally created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, appearing in the Wildstorm imprint’s “StormWatch” Vol. 2 #4-6 as a duo of heroes on the run from StormWatch’s evil former leader Henry Bendix. Ellis and Hitch’s story as well as creations quickly resonated with readers — the pair based loosely off of Batman and Superman — and when the creators spun off the new series “The Authority” from the remains of “StormWatch,” it was no surprise that Midnighter and Apollo were two of the title’s main characters.
The basic ideas behind the character were winners. Apollo is a solar-powered hero with all of Superman’s traditional powers (flight, invulnerability, strength, speed, and heat vision), while Midnighter has the ability to anticipate all of his opponent’s moves, as well as enhanced strength, reflexes and healing. Throughout the original run of “The Authority,” the two characters were front and center as the team’s powerhouses as well as being in an ongoing committed relationship. That original series concluded with the two marrying and even adopting the child-aged reincarnation of a teammate, Jenny Quantum. And while the duo appeared in numerous “The Authority” comics over the next handful of years, aside from occasionally splitting Apollo and Midnighter up (but eventually reuniting them), the duo remained mostly unchanged. The only big shift for the two was the eventual revelation that Henry Bendix had been directly responsible for the duo receiving their powers, manipulating them for years.
The New 52, Now With Added Wildstorm
When DC Comics rebooted the entire publishing line in 2011, the Wildstorm imprint’s characters (in their own universe up until then) were folded into part of the main DC Universe. Along those lines, “Stormwatch” #1 featured the eponymous team not only trying to recruit Apollo and Midnighter to their side, but also featuring the first meeting the duo within this new continuity. Over the first eighteen issues the duo grew closer together, until they finally shared a kiss to conclude Peter Milligan’s time as the author of the title. And sure, for all of the remaining issues of the series save the final one, Jim Starlin had the timeline rewritten to replace the team with one more in line with the original Wildstorm lineup (including Apollo and Midnighter being a long-term couple instead of a brand-new one), but it was a firm reminder that the duo were once more more than just fighting crime together.
It was around that time that Apollo went more or less into comics limbo for a year or two, with the Midnighter first being featured in issues of “Grayson” (with a fun ongoing verbal sparring and flirting between Midnighter and Dick Grayson), and then in his own solo series where it’s revealed that Midnighter and Apollo have broken up. Over the course of a year’s worth of issues, Midnighter unapologetically dates other men, goes through a series of truly bizarre and fun adventures, and even tangles with the Justice League villain Prometheus as the two each use their own form of predictive super abilities against one another. By the end of the year, though, writer Steve Orlando had reunited Midnighter and Apollo, which leads us into this month’s “Midnighter and Apollo” #1.
The Deadliest Weapon
“Midnighter and Apollo” #1 gives us a couple who’s mostly working well together, although it’s quickly clear that Apollo is still less than thrilled about Midnighter’s eagerness to throw death into the mix whenever the going gets tough. It’s also a trait that’s clearly about to be put to the test, with the return of Henry Bendix who’s determined to destroy the pair once and for all. With Bendix having the control over the “door” teleportation system that Midnighter uses to jaunt around the world, he’s able to lure Midnighter into a trap even as a demonic attack is launched against Apollo.
In doing so, Orlando and Blanco bring a raft of mystical faces from DC Comics’ past, ranging from old foes like Felix Faust the “Justice League of America” adversary to more recent creations including Ali-Ka Zoom from Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers.” Most notable, though, is the return of an artifact that hasn’t been seen in decades: the Ace of Winchesters. The weapon in question is a rifle that has the power to kill demons, and as a result is always seen eagerly pursued by said creatures to try and take it off the proverbial playing field. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon originally debuted the rifle in an issue of “Hellblazer,” before Ennis and John McCrae brought it over into a memorable “Hitman” storyline with a demon hiring Catwoman to try and steal it before anyone else could claim it.
With Orlando mixing and matching characters and plot elements from current continuity, as well as the pre-“Flashpoint” DC Universe and Wildstorm Universes, “Midnighter and Apollo” #1 is full of little Easter eggs just lurking for readers to find — not the least of which is the apparent introduction of Neron, one of the main lords of Hell in the DC Universe. Attached to a strong story, there’s one thing that’s certain: we’ve got five more crazy issues ahead of us, where clearly anything can happen. And how, if any way at all, this ties into Warren Ellis’s revival of the Wildstorm imprint is still anyone’s guess, for that matter. For the moment, wait, see, and enjoy.