On the next Free Comic Book Day, Dark Horse's second offering is also a first, as their superhero line begins to become a cohesive universe.
On May 3, 2014 when you’re at your favorite comic store sampling the variety of free comic books available, Dark Horse will have a special one-shot called Project Black Sky which will feature the company’s first crossover of their new superhero line. The book, in Free Comic Book Day’s Silver level, is a 22 page story featuring the time-tossed World War 2 superhero Captain Midnight against the telepathic superspy Brain Boy, which writer Fred Van Lente calls the “opening salvo” of bringing all the Dark Horse heroes together in a Newsarama exclusive announcement.
“It’s really exciting because we’re starting to see various elements of the Dark Horse superhero universe come together,” says Van Lente, who also writes Brain Boy. “In the Project Black Sky one-shot for Free Comic Book Day 2014, Brain Boy and Captain Midnight team up in a classic mismatched buddy situation, which readers might remember I have experience with. Matt Price (aka Brain Boy) is an obnoxious punk kid with a wide variety of incredible telepathic abilities. Captain Midnight is a time-tossed World War 2 super inventor, pilot, kung fu expert and super pulp dude. They’re called together by the mysterious Mr. Jones to stop a biological experiment known as Ape-X, who has escaped from a shady organization called Black Sky that’s been running through various Dark Horse superhero books.”
Ape-X, who can be seen in the art accompanying this article, was last seen in Dark Horse’s Comics Greatest World series almost two decades ago. When asked for more about this return, both Van Lente and Dark Horse hesitated to tell too much more until the issue itself comes out.
In Brain Boy #1, it was established that Brain Boy works for the company Captain Midnight founded in the 1940s, Albright Industries, but readers of Captain Midnight know that the WW2 hero is far from in charge in the modern day.
“So Captain Midnight knows Brain Boy works for the company that got away from him, so they do not really trust each other,” Van Lente reveals. “Brain Boy doesn’t trust Captain Midnight because he’s old, and Captain Midnight sees Matt as a guy who works for a company that was stolen from him.”
What brings the two heroes together is their shared affiliation with the military – Brain Boy is a government contractor working for the U.S. Secret Service, and Captain Midnight has a connection to the FBI in Mr. Jones.
Joining Van Lente on this Free Comic Book Day one-shot is former Top Cow artist Michael Broussard, who was one of Newsarama’s 10 Creators to Watch for 2012 but has spent the past year working as a video game concept artist for Konami. This marks a big return for Broussard, and something Dark Horse Associate Editor Jim Gibbons promises isn’t the last – for the artist or the crossover between Dark Horse heroes.
“A lot more info about Project Black Sky will become obvious in early 2014,” says Gibbons. “Captain Midnight #6 and #7 are a great place to start for readers interesting in delving into the conspiracy and the Free Comic Book Day story is the beginning of some big stuff. It's a must-read for folks enjoying books like Brain Boy, Captain Midnight, X, and Ghost, as it features clues to larger goings on, as well as an excellent and intriguing introductory tale for readers who might be interested in jumping on to these books.”
Readers of the current Captain Midnight series will already be familiar with the name “Project Black Sky,” as it’s been talked about in previous issues of the series. The titular hero’s FBI handler Agent Jones has been investigating something called Project Black Sky, and he’ll learn further clues beginning in this week’s Captain Midnight #6.
"We’ve been dropping hints since Captain Midnight #3, that Captain Midnight knew about Project Black Sky but didn’t want to reveal too much until he himself knew more," says series writer Joshua Williamson. “Agent Jones has been investigating Black Sky ever since it was the last words of an assassinated Navy commander, and discovered that Captain Midnight had been keeping Black Sky a secret. Project Black Sky was an organization that was put into place by FDR during World War II to investigate some mysterious crashes that had happened in the United States. Black Sky went to super genius Jim Albright and asked him to research some of the technology that they found. Albright used that tech to create his Captain Midnight suit and a few other bits of hardware that he developed to make the world a better place. After he disappeared that technology was then corrupted and abused by Black Sky and Albright Industries. In the time that Midnight was gone, Black Sky has become a sort of rogue black ops research agency that is messing with our world’s technology and its future.”
Williamson confirms that Brain Boy has a “small walk-on role” in Captain Midnight #6, where he “meets with Agent Jones… well, more like kidnaps Agent Jones.” While Brain Boy shows up in Captain Midnight, the writer says they will not actually meet until Project Black Sky on Free Comic Book Day 2014.
“Project Black Sky is more than just an event,” Gibbons promises,” it's a pervading mystery within these books that people are going to see more and more of throughout 2014. Captain Midnight #6 and #7 delve into this mystery, introducing it, and the Free Comic Book Day issue, entitled Project Black Sky, will continue to pull the threads of this giant puzzle.”
When asked by Newsarama which specific titles and heroes make up Dark Horse’s interconnected universe in addition to Captain Midnight and Brain Boy, the editor listed off Ghost, X, the Occultist, Skyman and the new hero Blackout as all part of the same world. In 2014, the editor promises, readers will begin to see how that will affect them. Project Black Sky writer Fred Van Lente stresses that the issue isn’t just a throw-away one-shot, but is a major part of the Dark Horse universe and a special book to bring new readers on board.
“This is the third Free Comic Book Day book I’ve done, and at the signings I get excited to see people coming into stories who wouldn’t necessarily pick up comics before,” Van Lente says.” So for me, this one-shot isn’t just about selling Brain Boy and Captain Midnight but selling the comic event of all events. This is an Avengers-level story with stuff blowing up, exciting action bits and exciting characters. I want this to be a 100 million dollar movie in 22 pages, so we’re letting out all the stops.”