"Midnighter" #9 is a comic that starts out fairly simple. Steve Orlando, ACO and Hugo Petrus set up a routine mission for Midnighter, and -- at first -- readers know exactly where it's going. However, with each new reveal, the issue revels in the unexpected and entertains far more than one might expect.
Orlando's script is a classic example of how to slowly build a story and take it to interesting places. At first, the issue is little more than a smash-and-grab for Midnighter, but -- as he discovers the presence of an old, familiar and dangerous face from his past -- the story takes a sudden sharp turn to the right. And then, just when you think you know where you're going, another sudden shift hits as the initial mission comes back to haunt him. At the same time, Orlando fits in some non-hero character work with Midnighter's personal life. In fact, it's a little hard to believe the story fits into this single issue.
The introduction of Afterthought is a nice touch, too; it's a character who is clearly designed to be a counterpoint to Midnighter, with abilities that cleverly work against him in order to provide a real foe for a character who is -- in theory -- near-impossible to beat. What makes Afterthought work so well is not only how instantly dangerous he is, but also that even his presence on the Squad is instantly questioned. Orlando addresses the fact that even capturing Afterthought would be exceedingly difficult in the first place, and that there's more to him than meets the eye. This is a book that builds upon itself and leaves no idea untouched. Everything happens for a reason.
ACO and Petrus continue to deliver the goods in "Midnighter" #9. ACO's pages are just fantastic, from beautiful layouts -- like the mirror image panels framing the center column on the first page -- to the way Midnighter's ability kicks into high gear on the station in a flurry of hundreds of little images. Every page is created to function perfectly on its own, and the characters on them are drawn with careful detail and real energy. Petrus' pages mesh perfectly here, too; the layouts are very similar to ACO's, and -- while his characters are just a touch smoother around the edges -- there's no notable visual shift from one artist to the other. These two artists complement one another with great skill.
"Midnighter" #9 is a great comic, and this is a perfect place as any to sample if you aren't reading this series. Orlando, ACO and Petrus create a startlingly clever and exciting comic in its pages every month, and this issue is no exception. Highly recommended.