BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: MIDNIGHTER #1

DC Comics Writer/ Steve Orlando Artist/ Aco

In 1992, Image Comics was born. Sixteen year old me was way into comics at that point. Not much has changed on that level, but back then I was reading New Mutants (and later X-Force), The Punisher, Uncanny X-men and a tonne of Midnighter #1other Marvel titles. I knew about DC comics of course, but wasn’t really into their heroes’ largely tacky look. I felt like they were the heroes of my dad’s youth along with all the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers cowboys’ comics he reminisced about. Don’t get me wrong. These “oldies” are forever cool, but they weren’t what I knew or cared about.

The New Mutants was my favourite. This comic started in the 80’s had spun out of a hugely popular Uncanny X-Men. My cousin (and my aunt) had been living at our house and he had a huge wicker basket filled with random comics. One of those was New Mutants # 10 and it changed my life.

It followed the adventures of Cannonball, Mirage, Wolfsbane, Sunspot and Karma and I was immediately drawn to them because they were teenagers just like me. Enrolled in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, they came from various backgrounds and were all deeply flawed people, which in turn, made them feel human and relatable. Ruled by emotion and making bad decisions based on irrational thinking, The New Mutants sure knew how to get themselves into trouble, but they were always there for each other when times got tough. Worst case scenario, their school headmaster would eventually show up and bail them out, followed with a stern warning about breaking the rules. I can’t remember where Professor X or Magneto were when Doug Ramsey AKA: Cypher died; one of the best characters around, in my opinion. It was a sad moment when he died and it was some brilliant, stroke of genius writing when Louise Simonson wrote the issue where Warlock infects himself into Cypher’s dead body, essentially parading around as a zombified, half resurrected mess. All this in an attempt to cheer up his now horrified, mourning teammates.

Cypher was a boring character to most (he could decipher any language be it human, animal, alien or other); normal kid, quirky power, ultimately selfless. I Midnighter Caresliked him, but readers and artists hated him and so he was killed off. In 1989, Rob Liefeld took over as the artist on the title. Friction between he and Simonson presented her with an out, leaving Fabian Nicieza and Rob to introduce Cable as the new leader of a New Mutants. Then came along a little villain named Deadpool in issue #98 and with issue 100, New Mutants was dead and X-Force was born.

It was the now the 90’s and everything was EXTREME. X-Force certainly was that. Rob took extreme to the next level. Fabian and Rob helped create some cool characters that are still around today, but by ’92, Rob and few other artists broke away from Marvel and formed Image Comics.

The sixteen-year-old me was psyched to see awesome and extreme comics on the shelf at Miller’s Market convenience store, and I jumped right in, probably holding a Mountain Dew. Spawn, WildC.A.T.s, The Maxx, Wetworks and Stormwatch to name a few; I was into all of it. It was obvious that a lot of those early Image titles were all flash when it came to the art, but the stories were very much lacking in solid writers so I lost interest in many of the books they had to offer.

Stormwatch and the others carried on without me. That’s why a few years later, I felt like I was a little late coming back to the party when I found out Warren Ellis had taken over as the writer of Stormwatch. He banged out some midnighter-1-goat-bastardof the best stories in comics with that team. Wrapping up some loose ends from previous stories, Ellis introduced the Midnighter, Apollo, Jack Hawksmoor, Swift, the Doctor, the Engineer and Jenny Sparks as the new team. Stormwatch, having run its course, was transformed into The Authority.

The Authority kicks serious ass everybody. I will always hype The Authority; excellent series. Some might say that it’s sort of a clone of the justice league, going so far as having their own “Superman” and “Batman” styled characters with Apollo and Midnighter. Some would probably be right. Parallels can certainly be drawn, but I don’t think it was an accident. Warren Ellis changed Stormwatch from an organization dedicated to keeping a watchful eye on the Earth, defending it against all threats, into The Authority. This new team was the self-appointed authority on Earth. Unapologetic to all governments, The Authority slapped, with excessive prejudice, dictators, criminals, supervillains and aliens. The characters were very different and overpowered, allowing 4130955d4f9d8c084bd670026f1d14d5them to behave as they saw fit to ensure a better world for everyone. Ellis sure knows how to create fascinating characters with inventive powers. Take, Jack Hawksmoor, the “god of cities”, for example, he was abducted hundreds of times by humans from the 70th century and implanted with high technology that gave him the power to embody any city’s gestalt. I can’t remember why these future humans did this, but that’s some cool powers. The Midnighter and Apollo are completely gay and in love. I can’t remember if they we’re married or not (I think they were), but those two were a great couple. It seemed new and awesome to have gay characters in comics back then and we’re seeing it more and more these days as the word gender broadens its scope of definition.  Apollo and Midnighter we’re devastatingly violent when it came time to throw down against bad guys. Apollo could do everything Superman could do and more. Team him up with Midnighter, who “[has] already fought this fight a million different ways” and whoever they were up against would crumble. Midnighter’s costume may be Batman-like, but that’s where the similarities end.

In his new solo DC book, Midnighter is no longer with Apollo, from what I gather, and is out on a date with some dude he met on a dating web site. Said dude is amazed Midnighter is there, out of costume and without a care as to who knows who he is. They flirt, but the good times are just starting; a hit squad from the nation of Modoran teleport into the restaurant seeking three Modoran traitors. They aim emotion enhancing weapons at the patrons to incapacitate them. Everyone is hallucinating, but Midnighter is unaffected. In the moment their leader spends ranting, Midnighter has time to don his suit,
4601524-1+midn_1_1lets them know the “special computer in [his] head that lets [him] see every move [they’re] going to make” is on and says: “I won the moment you spoke out of your sphincter of a mouth.” He proceeds to beat the living hell out of them; glorious action.

While this was going on, the God Garden, a space station depository for a huge collection of powerful Earthly and alien artifacts was being plundered. Despite its numerous safeguards, a mysterious and masked intruder easily lets himself in and subdues the elderly woman known as the Gardener.

A few days later, date #2 has Midnighter and dude travelling to Moscow (and one of Midnighter’s many “inner sanctums”) and then back to Oakland using technologically advanced phasing “doors” that can teleport them to any place on the planet. They end up at buddy’s place and they fool around. The next morning, over breakfast, Midnighter explains that he and Apollo used to work for a woman called the Gardener and that all that ended because “she was a delusional maniac with an unwavering ability to rationalize collateral loss of life. [Midnighter] never liked her, but she’s family. You can’t pick family.” The dude, Jason is his name, gets a surprise (and probably against his will) GPS injected in his neck in case he were to “see something that needs [Midnighter’s] attention…”. As Jason says: “… just so you know, this is the definition of coming on strong”, Midnighter is called away to the ransacked God Garden. The Gardener, having barely survived the attack on her home, assures Midnighter’s help and cooperation when she tells him his previously erased and thought lost memories were included in with the long list of stolen merchandise. He wants them back. The story will continue in issue #2.

A lot has changed for the folks over at Stormwatch/Authority in the last decade or so. Image Comics’ Jim Lee sold his Wildstorm Studios to DC Comic and so followed all of those characters. DC launched a reboot of Stormwatch in 2011, screenshot_2015-05-06-23-02-362as a New 52 Launch title. It was, in my opinion, quite a departure and a disaster. Everyone’s powers were sort of different. If not different then what made them tick was different. Their history was changed in an attempt to fit the DCU, I guess. Then, legendary Jim Starlin took over and returned them to their original look and feel, erasing any trace of the reboot; also sort of terrible. Then it was rebooted back again. I don’t really know what’s going on at this point, but Stormwatch/Authority under the DCU banner is mediocre at best and terrible at worst.

So why pick up this title? Why chance it? Because the Midnighter is a cool character and I really want the characters from Stormwatch and The Authority to get their due. It looks like I may get what I want, at least with the Midnighter. Lots of ultra-violence in this book and it’s great fun. Positive gay characters and superheroes are a bonus. – RENE

Midnighter #3 is out this week.

(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them here.)