I’ve written before about how we shouldn’t look to superheroes to save us in the world of THE WILD STORM. No doubt there are plenty of people in the series who have superpowers, but so far, they’ve all had fairly selfish motivations for using them. At least, that seemed to be the case until recently, where we’ve seen Jenny Sparks, Shen Li-Min, Jack Hawksmoor and Angela Spica all come together in an attempt to take on Skywatch and IO. But it was last week’s THE WILD STORM #20 that flipped the switch on things entirely as we got our first look at Apollo and Midnighter in action.
As I’ve made clear from the start, I’m not familiar with the WildStorm universe prior to Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s current series. Most of these characters are entirely new to me, other than what I can learn through Google.
However, I know Apollo and Midnighter. As the two WildStorm characters used most frequently within the DC Universe, as well as two of DC’s most prominent gay superheroes, it’s only a matter of time before a DC reader discovers them. But while I’ve enjoyed Midnighter’s banter with Dick Grayson in GRAYSON, and his MIDNIGHTER AND APOLLO miniseries by Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco, I’m not sure either character works particularly well within the DCU proper.
That’s largely due to what the characters clearly are—Superman and Batman analogues. As a commentary on or perhaps modernization of superhero tropes—which is what the WildStorm universe and books like THE AUTHORITY originally were—Midnighter and Apollo work well. Batman and Superman wield powerful weapons and highly destructive powers without ever seeming to kill someone, while also maintaining a relationship that at times has seemed to have homoerotic undertones. Well, with Midnighter and Apollo, we have a Batman and Superman who kill and are in a full-on romantic relationship with each other.
But take Apollo and Midnighter out of their original setting and place them in a world with Superman and Batman—well, it’s hard to see how the original Man of Steel and Dark Knight would view them as anything but villains. In the DCU, where the drama frequently stems from its heroes’ constant struggle to stay on the right side of the moral line when it comes to killing, there’s not a lot of room for heroes who have crossed that line right out of the gate.
Of course, I realize that antiheroes like Red Hood and Deathstroke are an important part of the DCU, but with them, there’s still a moral struggle. With them, it’s always a question of whether they’ll do better. Whether this time, they’ll avoid killing. My point is that I’m not sure I want to see Midnighter and Apollo walk down that moral path at all. They kill for the greater good, and in their universe, that’s just fine.
All of which is to say that while I’m familiar with these two characters, I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated them until now. As has become increasingly clear in The Wild Storm, the threat the world is facing is massive and multi-faceted. Warring alien invaders! Massive covert agencies with limitless assets and influence! Corrupted, breathlessly destructive metahumans! It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re on a path of complete destruction unless something that truly, unequivocally has the human race’s interests in mind intervenes, and with how far things have come, that something will need to be pretty formidable.
It’s not yet clear how selfless Jenny, Shen, Jack and Angie truly are. Angie got involved in all of this by essentially stealing tech, Shen clearly has some greater responsibilities that she hasn’t yet disclosed to everyone, Jenny has lived through some of the worst of humanity and Jack has been tortured and may just be motivated by revenge. However, Apollo and Midnighter seem to be something different. Yes, they were experimented on and view Skywatch as a threat, but their conversation in issue #19 reveals that taking down Skywatch isn’t their only interest. You get all of these characters together, and that’s a pretty formidable team.
It’s pretty clear where things are going with The Wild Storm, even to a WildStorm neophyte like me. I know we’re building to the Authority, and I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. In a reinvented WildStorm universe, it was probably inevitable. But we went something like 18 issues—out of a 24-issue series—before we saw the first seeds of this being sown. Honestly, the young girl’s comment at the very end of issue #20 kind of says it all: “What the %$#@ just happened?”
In a series that has been such a wonderful slow burn, this change to the superhero dynamic has come quickly. Let’s just hope it’s not too late to save us.
Tim Beedle writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com. Look for him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.