Midnighter Vol. 1: Out, Steve Orlando cements himself as worthy of standing with Tom King and Tim Seeley as the newest crop of top tier writers at DC Comics. Orlando takes on the unenviable task of crafting an entire series around a vigilante who's by definition almost unbeatable, and does so by offering that as much as Midnighter shines on the battlefield, he's equally befuddled by matters of the heart. Orlando's story is deep and emotionally complex, and brings with it some genuine surprises to boot. Constantine's Aco's trademark vignette paneling brings to life Midnighter's "visualize all possibilities" powers, and his pages are as good-looking as this book is smart.
[Review contains spoilers]
Orlando demonstrates to the reader early on that despite (or because of) Midnighter's crime-fighting prowess, his personal interactions aren't so easy. In short order he manages to scare off new flame Jason after marking him with a "super GPS"; in flashback we see his inability to be honest with Stormwatch's Apollo lead to their breakup; and Midnighter can only initiate a team-up with Dick Grayson by kidnapping him. Out's ending twist comes off even more tragic on second-read, as Matt, the one guy who actually seems to appreciate Midnighter for who he is, turns out to be the book's mystery villain.
In this, Orlando manages to make relatable and give personality to a character at this point stretched well beyond his original role as a Batman analogue. But wisely Orlando never lets Midnighter's romantic troubles devolve into melodrama, and the angst, at least on the surface level, is minimal. Orlando brings a strangely normalized tone to the book in between bombastic, violent fight scenes, surrounding Midnighter with a group of friends who take his superheroics in stride. In large part one of the most adroit aspects of Orlando's book is how he writes everyday people simply talking to one another.
Out's chapters involve Midnighter hunting rogue tech stolen from the "God Garden" that also gave him his powers; the strongest among these is the Grayson team-up in the fourth chapter (which continues into the fifth). Orlando's Grayson follows seamlessly from King and Seeley's, and it's particularly admirable how well Orlando uses the God Garden storyline that the other writers set up. At the same time, Orlando effectively torpedoes any Midnighter origin we've so far seen in the New 52, which is his prerogative (and I prefer "my origin was a lie" to a cosmic reboot) but I still found it slightly jarring. In this particular chapter, Orlando parallels well Midnighter's penchant for and even enjoyment of violence with a club where people can pay to kill innocents; clearly Midnighter's motives are more heroic, but his uncharacteristic moment of distraction shows that the villain's taunts along these lines get to him.
Regarding this book's mystery villain, Prometheus (late of Grant Morrison's JLA and etc.), good for Orlando for using him in frightening fashion and for recognizing how great a foil Prometheus's ability to remember and subsume others' talents is for Midnighter. After creating a splash initially, many of Prometheus's subsequent appearances didn't measure up, perhaps a sign of a character stretched farther than he was originally intended (another thing in common with Midnighter), but Orlando uses Prometheus really well, and that Matt was Prometheus truly is shocking and tragic. I also appreciated that Orlando hews close to Prometheus's original origins, very nearly overlaying them exactly against a New 52/DC You canvas.
At the same time, not unlike the reveal of another "classic" villain over in Superman/Wonder Woman, the shock here relies largely on the audience's recognition of Prometheus from having read him in the pre-Flashpoint continuity. The surprise is a little bit story-based but mostly comes from the reader's familiarity with a continuity that purportedly one wasn't supposed to need to enjoy the New 52. Obviously I'm a knowledgeable fan so this lands just like it's supposed to, but the fact of New 52/DC You titles doing this kind of stuff (in a variety of seriesw) negates its own ground-rules (even as, with Rebirth, that's all been by and large jettisoned anyway).
Steve Orlando's Midnighter Vol. 1: Out is slick and entertaining and thoughtful. Kind of like the DC You Constantine: The Hellblazer, it is to some extent as much about Midnighter's life off the battlefield as it is on, but in an improvement over those books, Orlando's fight sequences also shine (ably helped by Aco) and the book has a startling, scary villain at its center. Midnighter's good on its own, but most notably it bespeaks more good things to come from Orlando.