The comics version of the Midnight Sons debuted in a 1990s crossover, but although they fought Lilith and characters like Blade and Doctor Strange were involved, it doesn’t resemble Firaxis’s Marvel’s Midnight Suns that much. The comic-book cross-branding promotion version of events has a completely different Ghost Rider, who is named Danny Ketch and a bit of a tool, a version of Caretaker who is an old man, and also Morbius the Living Vampire is there.
It’s all extremely 1990s, with Johnny Blaze wearing a trench coat and sunglasses at night while toting a shotgun that shoots hellfire. Honestly, it’s not that great.
Marvel brought the Midnight Sons back over the years, most recently in a new series that switches the name to Midnight Suns and has a lineup a bit closer to the videogame, although it doesn’t follow the game’s story. But if you’re enjoying the characters in videogame form, the best way to find out more about them is by reading some stories about whoever you’re having fun hanging out with.
Spending time with superheroes between missions in Midnight Suns is like the downtime in BioWare RPGs where you do the rounds talking to everyone, only here their backstories are all drawn from years of comics lore. While the characters have been tweaked from their print incarnations, Midnight Suns pulls the same trick as the Arkham games by implying that years of adventures have gone before with references to events from the comics. Reading some of them will make Midnight Suns even more enjoyable—and maybe help you figure out which gifts and hangouts each hero will like. I’ve left out characters you don’t recruit until later in the game, so don’t worry about spoilers if you’ve only just started playing.
Recommendation: Runaways Vol. 1, $13.90 (opens in new tab)
Nico was introduced in Runaways, a 2005 series that’s worth reading from the start (opens in new tab). Like a lot of Marvel comics it’s about teens discovering they have powers and struggling through a metaphorical exaggeration of growing up, but Runaways dealt with that familiar idea in a unique way. For starters, its teen heroes found out they were special on the same day they discovered their parents were secretly supervillains.
Nico and pals rebel against their evil folks in a more dramatic fashion than getting a haircut the olds don’t like, but they also do a lot of relatable teenage things, like kissing somebody they shouldn’t, or trying to convince their friends to call them by a cool nickname they just thought up. Which is why Nico is just called Nico these days instead of her superhero alter ego, which was “Sister Grimm” for like a week.
There was also a Hulu show based on Runaways (opens in new tab) that ran for three seasons, in which Nico was played by Lyrica Okano, who also voices her in Midnight Suns.
Recommendation: Doctor Strange – The Oath, $28.15 (opens in new tab)
Before he was Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange was a real doctor and five-issue miniseries The Oath (opens in new tab) never forgets that. (The title’s a reference to the Hippocratic Oath rather than Strange’s constant declaiming about the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth or whatever.) It teams him up with Night Nurse, the official medic of New York’s cape-wearing community—sorry, cloak-wearing community—for a story about Big Pharma and the intersection of magical and medical ethics that Writer Brian K. Vaughan, who also wrote Saga, Paper Girls, and Y: The Last Man, fills with an unreasonable number of twists and surprises.
Recommendation: Just watch the first movie (opens in new tab)
It’s tough to recommend a good Blade comic. For starters, the definitive interpretation of the character comes from the Wesley Snipes movies rather than the comics. There, Blade started out as a minor character in Tomb of Dracula, and has often been part of teams—even in the first Midnight Sons crossover he joined as one-third of a squad of occult heroes called the Nightstalkers—with only brief stints as a solo character.
Of those team-ups, one of the most memorable was the time he became part of MI13 and helped defend Britain from an invasion of vampires who came from the moon.
Well, really. It’s in Captain Britain and MI13: Vampire State (opens in new tab).
Recommendation: Ghost Rider – The Last Stand, $44.99 (opens in new tab)
Robbie Reyes was introduced as Ghost Rider, the superhero who most resembles a tattoo you’d probably regret, in All-New Ghost Rider (opens in new tab). To get to the bottom of why there have been a bunch of different skull-faced spirits of vengeance over the years though, read the pre-Robbie storyline that runs from Hell Bent & Heaven Bound (opens in new tab)through The Last Stand (opens in new tab)and then Trials and Tribulations (opens in new tab).
That saga begins with the best-known Ghost Rider, motorbike stuntman Johnny Blaze, having finally defeated every demon who counts and decided the angels are next. He rampages across the South in a tribute to the Vertigo series Preacher before meeting up with Caretaker (introducing Sara as the modern version of the character), and learning there have been other four-headed spirits of vengeance around the world and throughout time.
A whole troop of them is briefly introduced and they’re all wonderful, like the biplane-piloting Ghost Rider of World War I and a Russian spirit of vengeance who wears a burning fur hat and rides a bear. There’s a whole legion of fiery badasses and they all look cool as hell. Maybe I should get a tattoo of the one who looks like a skeleton riding a shark after all?
Recommendation: New Mutants Vol. 1, $13.75 (opens in new tab)
Like Blade, Magik has spent a lot of time as a member of teams rather than a solo hero. Introduced as the younger sister of Colossus in the X-Men, she’s been part of several different line-ups of the New Mutants as well. Sometimes the New Mutants are an even younger and more chaotic version of the X-Men and sometimes they’re a squad of mentors for the next generation of mutants. For a fun arc of the youthful and chaotic variety, try the time the New Mutants went to space (opens in new tab)hitching a ride with the pirates called the Starjammers.
Recommendation: Captain Marvel – Earth’s Mightiest Hero, $13.76 (opens in new tab)
The contemporary interpretation of Captain Marvel, with a redesigned costume and a renewed focus on her backstory as an Air Force pilot, debuted in Earth’s Mightiest Hero (opens in new tab). That relaunch inspired the movie version of Carol Danvers, but you’ll find her adventures here are much more comic-booky: she travels back in time to fight alongside Banshee Squad in World War II, takes on a giant robot from the bottom of the ocean, and punches a dinosaur.
Also, she never misses an opportunity to remind Captain America that, since she rose to the rank of colonel before retiring from service, she technically outranks him. It’s good stuff.
Recommendation: The Invincible Iron Man – Extremis (opens in new tab)
Iron Man is one member of the team whose videogame portrayal feels like it’s taken from the movies as well as the comics, although the Robert Downey Jr. version of Tony Stark does have his roots in the comics as well. Extremis (opens in new tab) is the first time he was written as the regretful arms dealer the movies would portray him as, and is where Tony crafts a suit like his first MCU one (both were designed by comics artist Adi Granov).
No matter whether he’s on page or screen, Iron Man is constantly making new suits of armor. It’s like he’s playing the game with the Change Outfits Daily option turned on. After Extremis, jump a few years on to Believe (opens in new tab)which finds him wearing yet another new suit and already thinking about the one after it, but still dealing with the fallout from his past.
Bob, Agent of Hydra
Recommendation: Cable & Deadpool Vol. 7: Separation Anxiety, $21.94 (opens in new tab)
Oh, you thought Hydra Bob was just a throwaway gag? Nope, he’s a comic book character with a long and distinguished history (opens in new tab) going all the way back to his first appearance, which is collected in Cable & Deadpool: Separation Anxiety (opens in new tab). OK, maybe “distinguished” is the wrong word to use.