Monday, May 9, 2011

Exfanding Review: Moon Knight, Issue 1

What's this? A timely review on Exfanding? About a book that shipped just last week? Yep. Look at us, all almost-relevant and everything.

I mean, sure, you're going to have to excuse the fact that both Nathaniel and I missed out on seeing Thor this weekend, and we both missed out on a multitude of Free Comic Book Day options in our area (which managed to be both hypocritical on my part, and actually not all that bad, really, as I was busy with Mother's Day plans).

So, yeah. We're bad geeks.

But for today at least, no one can get on us for not being timely geeks. And now that you've safely made it through the morass of double negatives in that last sentence, we can get on with the (almost timely) review of Moon Knight, issue one, from Marvel Comics.

Wow. It's gonna be weird to do a spoiler warning on an Exfanding review post, as, typically, the thing we're reviewing tends to have been released in one form or another many months, years, or even decades, ago.

But here we go.

Be warned that there are SPOILERS AHEAD--as in, I completely spoil the entire book and give away its ending. So if you haven't yet read it, and you want to, please do so and come back to this post afterwards.








Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev, the creative team behind this latest relaunch of Moon Knight, are responsible for some of the very best comics of the past decade-plus. Their run on Daredevil played a huge role in my comics development, if you will, and that series is still one of my favorite runs on any character.

Their current creator-owned collaboration, Scarlet, is one of the best books on the market today, and it's one that I've featured on Waiting for Wednesday as each new issue ships.

Moon Knight is a personal favorite character of mine, going back to the Marvel Essential reprints of the very first MK series by Doug Moench. He's a dark, gritty vigilante with a great costume, a supernatural back story, and a strong supporting cast.

Often simply labeled the Marvel doppelganger to Batman, Moon Knight is a great character in his own right. Recently, Marvel has tried pushing Moon Knight to the forefront of their titles list, with mixed results.

With Bendis and Maleev attached to the character and the book, though, I'm confident that there are long-term plans in place for MK, and maybe the string of recent start-ups and stops with the character will come to an end.

With everything this book has going for it, I went into issue one expecting a home run. For the most part, that's what I got, and I have high hopes for this series as it continues.

Anyone familiar with MK's past--especially his recent past--knows that he's not exactly the head. (Sorry. Braveheart was on yesterday.) And this was played up brilliantly, I think, in the 2006 Moon Knight series by Charlie Huston and David Finch.

Since the character's inception, a major part of MK's back story revolves around his use of three different secret identities--mercenary Marc Spector, billionaire Steven Grant, and cab driver Jake Lockley--to obtain information and leads and to bankroll his vigilante lifestyle.

Over the years there have been cracks in MK's psyche, stemming from this multitude of secret identities, and, as some writers have explored, his schizophrenic tendencies.

Charlie Huston used MK's fragile mental state to tell an unnerving tale of a former super hero now lost in a haze of partially remembered past events and a present filled with drug addiction and crippling physical injuries.

Bendis certainly draws some inspiration from that story line and takes things a step further.

Marc Spector, now living in LA and working as an executive producer on a television show about Moon Knight, gets a visit for current Avengers Captain America, Wolverine, and Spider-Man.

Spector is told that, since New York-based super criminals are (finally) starting to realize that maybe it's not the best idea to be located right next door to the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, super-crime has moved West.

And Captain America has personally asked Moon Knight to watch over things on his side of the country. A big deal, to be sure.

The issue progresses as Moon Knight tracks and fights Mr. Hyde, disrupting a clandestine meeting between the super-strong baddie and a couple of mobsters about trading a large deal of cash for an object obtained by Hyde. A mysterious third party--whom Moon Knight will later describe as a "kingpin"--also makes an appearance and will certainly be a catalyst for the rest of the story.

After Hyde and MK fight, Moon Knight discovers Hyde's end of the bargain--a headless Ultron robot. Clearly, someone has nefarious plans in mind.

When Moon Knight returns to his base, he's met by Cap, Wolverine, and Spidey. There, the three heroes listen to MK review the night's events and ponder over the Ultron robot, laid out on a table in front of them. Headless, of course.

This two-page conversation leads to the book's big reveal on the final page. After two straight pages of talking heads drawn in tight shots, the final page pulls back and reveals that Moon Knight is actually alone in the room.

No Cap, Spidey, or Logan.

It's a nice turn, and an interesting story development, but one that I saw coming during the two-page dialogue scene previous. Here's where Bendis draws from Huston's first issue on the character, though I feel that the surprise ending in Huston's book had much more of an immediate impact.

It was a gut punch when I read it, and something I just didn't see coming at all.

However, I think the reveal in Bendis' take will have longer legs than in Huston's, as literally everything we were shown in issue one is now in question. We have no idea what is real, and what Moon Knight thinks is real.

That opens the door for some very interesting stories, and I am certainly going to be on board to see what happens.

Maleev delivers on the art, and there are a couple of jaw-dropping splash pages in issue one. His style here is much more similar to his style on Daredevil than what he's doing on Scarlet, and that change fits the book perfectly.

This is a strong first issue. It's not the best comic Bendis has ever written, but I think the series has huge potential. I like the fact that the main character is so unstable that literally anything is possible, and the reader will have to call everything on the page into question.

There were visual clues throughout the issue that, when I went back through, certainly pointed to something being off. And the cover--just look at the image up top. In hindsight, it's a dead giveaway.

This new Moon Knight is going to keep readers on their toes, and here's hoping that it will elevate MK in the Marvel Universe and in the eyes of comic readers.

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