(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with Marvel Cosmic and its many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
I can remember as clear as anything Shang-Chi’s battle with this baddie in Marvel Special Edition way back in the early 1970s, but I had completely forgotten the ebony-garbed M’Nai had cosmic roots until one of you readers suggested I investigate his story. (I should have known since this book was an early work of none other than Jim Starlin!)
Midnight Sun began life as M’Nai, a child in a small African village which Fu Manchu was using as his headquarters. When Sir Denis Nayland Smith attacked the village, M’Nai’s entire family was killed and M’Nai suffered permanent facial scars. Noticing that M’Nai did not cry despite his injury, Fu Manchu decided to raise the child in China as his own, alongside his son, Shang-Chi. Taking the identity of “Midnight,” M’Nai wore a mask at all times to hide his facial scars. Although he and Shang-Chi sometimes came to blows, they grew up as friends, a relationship which would end when Shang-Chi rebelled against his father and left.
Midnight continued to work as Fu Manchu's agent until he was ordered to assassinate Shang-Chi. Although he and Shang-Chi fought, neither truly wanted to kill the other. While fighting Midnight at the top of a winch, Shang-Chi dodged a powerful kick. The kick was so forceful that Midnight lost his balance and fell to his apparent death.
In reality, Midnight was plucked from the time-stream by Kang the Conqueror moments before his death. Kang used Midnight as a soldier in his Legion of the Unliving, sending him to fight the Avengers. He was knocked unconscious by Mantis. After the end of the battle, Immortus returned him to his own time, where his death was allowed to take its course. Midnight's cape caught on the winch as he fell, breaking his neck.
Midnight's body was obtained by the Kree and kept in cold storage for years. When the Kree realized that they needed an agent who could defeat the Silver Surfer in combat, a Kree scientist named Kar-Sagg reanimated Midnight's brain and placed it in a cloned body which had been enhanced with superhuman powers to make him a match for the Silver Surfer. It is at this point that he was renamed “Midnight Sun.”
This new body had superhuman strength, stamina, durability, agility and reflexes. Most notably, silver discs were grafted to the palms of M’Nai’s hands and the soles of his feet, which provide propellant force that allows him to travel through space. He often used these discs to bash his enemies using his martial arts skills. His body was also modified to allow him to survive outer-space conditions, and he appears to have no need for food or rest. He is also mute. Although the exact extent of his superhuman strength, speed and toughness are unknown, he was capable of causing pain to the Silver Surfer and surviving the Surfer's repeated attacks without serious injury. His superhuman attributes were made more formidable by the fact that he retains all of his martial arts skills and affinity for darkness, even after later suffering amnesia.
With these powers, the new entity Midnight Sun fought the Surfer alongside the Kree. With the help of a light-deadening dust, he used his talent for stealth to hit the Surfer with several sneak attacks. However, the Surfer eventually detected him and used his board to trap Midnight Sun, until an assault from a Kree vessel forced him to flee. The two fought one-on-one when the Kree sent Midnight Sun to protect Hala from the Surfer, but the Surfer defeated him again. Because the Kree's alterations had left him unable to speak or use his fingers, the Silver Surfer was never aware of Midnight Sun's name or background and could not communicate with him.
Believing that Midnight Sun's memories of his former life as a warrior with a code of honor were holding him back, Kar-Sagg tried to erase them. Midnight Sun awoke during the procedure and fought off an entire squad of Kree soldiers to make his escape. However, the procedure had been mostly successful, and Midnight Sun was left with the aforementioned amnesia.
Requiring no sustenance, Midnight Sun meditated on Earth’s Moon, trying to remember his past. When he detected the Silver Surfer passing by, he confronted him, holding a vague memory that the Surfer was someone from his past who might provide him with clues. Mute and unable to communicate with the Surfer, Midnight Sun attacked him in order to force him to stay, and the Surfer defeated him again. When the Surfer removed Midnight Sun's mask in order to treat his injuries, he was surprised to discover a horribly mangled face. Enraged, Midnight Sun renewed their fight until the Inhumans intervened, offering to take him back to Atillan, their city on the moon, in order to treat his wounds and find some means to communicate with him. Midnight Sun and the Silver Surfer parted as friends.
Midnight Sun later returned to fight Shang-Chi once again, but eventually they also parted as friends; Shang-Chi even called them “brothers.”
This early creation of Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart deserves to shine again among the stars. Perhaps now is the time for a rising – not setting -- Midnight Sun.