Best Shots Review: MIDNIGHTER & APOLLO #1 'A Strong Debut' (9/10)

"Midnighter and Apollo #1" preview
Credit: Fernando Blanco (DC Comics)
Credit: ACO (DC Comics)

Midnighter and Apollo #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Fernando Blanco and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Steve Orlando has brought Midnighter back once more, with feelings - lots more feelings. After a short absence following the end of his solo run this May, Midnighter returns as one half of the World’s Finest Couple (maybe) with his partner-in-crimefighting Apollo (definitely) for the first issue of a six-issue miniseries. If this issue is any indication, Orlando’s latest outing in this corner of the DC universe promises to be a memorable one.

Credit: Fernando Blanco (DC Comics)

Midnighter and Apollo #1 immediately follows the events of the Midnighter finale as the pair navigate a rekindling romance against the backdrop of Henry Bendix’s continued efforts to sow chaos through stolen God Garden technology. While Midnighter and Apollo derail effort after effort from low-level Garden-powered thugs, Bendix’s presence looms large in his absence over their relationship in their discussions of Midnighter’s methods and M’s continued solo efforts to track Bendix night after night when he slips out while Apollo sleeps. Midnighter’s quest for revenge continues to creep through their lives like a strangling vine as Bendix carefully goads him into trap that puts both their lives at risk and evokes a grim tale Apollo’s Greek namesake might find keenly familiar.

This week’s premiere issue is an excellent start to what promises to be an emotional and action-packed miniseries. New readers will definitely find themselves spoiled for Midnighter if they’re coming in blind, but nothing about this issue feels unwelcoming to anyone trying out these characters for the first time. Midnighter and Apollo #1 manages to feel familiar and fresh all at once: Orlando and artist Fernando Blanco revisit much of the aesthetic decisions that made its predecessor so visually impressive, emphasizing Midnighter’s analytical combat style with eye-catching cut out panels that draw the eye to the precision of Midnighter’s movements and the care Blanco brings to illustrating them.

Credit: Fernando Blanco (DC Comics)

Though Midnigher’s violent tendencies return here in full force, Blanco’s style almost seems softer and more expressive, an interesting change that either by coincidence or design perfectly captures the more open and emotionally vulnerable Midnighter we’re introduced to in the wake of his experiences in Orlando’s Midnighter run. A close shot of Midnighter as he chats with Apollo after a casual dinner captures a touching warmth and fondness that wasn’t as consistently evident before, adding layers of feeling over Orlando’s strong script that make the book’s cliffhanger particularly wrenching.

Credit: Fernando Blanco (DC Comics)

The emotional beats are as much a part of what makes Midnighter and Apollo #1 such a strong issue as the heart-pounding action sequences. Steve Orlando understands who Midnighter and Apollo are as characters, certainly, and while personally as a longtime fan it’s a delight to see them together again it’s also refreshing that Orlando takes care to remind us Midnighter has his own friends and his own motivations, and is as determined not to lose those things just to make things work with Apollo, as he is determined to make things work with Apollo in a way that doesn’t leave them both wounded again.

Orlando’s fondness for these characters and for the DC universe as a whole is palpable throughout – as is the depth of his knowledge, most notably in an almost comically Brady Bunch-esque gallery of underutilized rogues as Henry Bendix searches for allies in his quest to ruin Midnighter once and for all. (Many thanks to the Midnighter and Apollo team for the excellent makeover one villain in particular gets.) These moments are fun for DC fans with that breadth of knowledge, but Orlando never goes out of his way to litter the book with references so frequent or esoteric that casual readers won’t still enjoy the book or miss any critical moments.

Midnighter and Apollo #1 is a strong debut issue for the miniseries, building on the world Orlando created in his groundbreaking Mindighter solo run but teasing a perhaps more supernaturally-imbued tale than we saw in Midnighter’s first battle against the military industrial complex run amok. Fernando Blanco and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. keep the book visually consistent but offer up a slightly softer edge, emphasizing that Midnighter and Apollo #1 is a continuation and not a reboot; this is another welcome step in the journey that felt like it almost ended too soon in May.

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