5 May 2011

Cover To Cover: MOON KNIGHT #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev and Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And so Marvel give the Moon Knight merry-go-round one more big spin to see how many people might jump on for the ride and hopefully hold on, keeping it spinning and keeping it fun for longer than any of its predecessors. As I hinted in this week's Incoming... I walked out of Paradox this afternoon with a copy in my bag and a fair amount of trepidation in my heart. A few creative teams have given MK debuts their very best and have actually delivered high calibre efforts only to see their success crumble quickly away as the readership declined (or never reach acceptable heights in the first instance) and that keen creative edge be moved on to other projects. Chief Marvel 'Architect' Brian Michael Bendis and his long time collaborator with pencil and ink, Alex Maleev, have now thrown their hats well and truly into the ring with a new Moon Knight #1 which Bendis has previously promised would reinvent this character.

At first glance it's definitely a case of relocate rather than reinvent as our hero - now back under his Marc Spector moniker with only the briefest of nods here to Jake Lockley - has surrounded himself in the sprawl of Los Angeles and the trappings of Hollywood. Bendis has had Spector sell his own story and origin to television networks which finances his high-flying lifestyle amongst the playboys and supermodels of the California Jetset while also funding his high-flying and technology-reliant brand of crime-fighting. Admittedly it's not quite apparent whether Moon Knight's secret identity is common public knowledge at this stage - with the past multiple identities and secretive missions and movements there's easy access to history rewrites and various story undoings regardless - but Bendis has certainly swung Spector's luggage a little closer to a certain DC set, plainly monogrammed 'B.W.' I've never been too worried about the comparisons between the two publishers' darker, avataristic crime-fighters, and I certainly think the new Hollywood connection will make Spector's interactions more interesting, but when there's already one hotshot playboy out there with Tony Stark do we really need another?

The story starts with a few fine pages of scene-setting moments and a nod to the back catalogue before things come straight up to date as the Avengers come knocking on Marc's door. They quickly inform Spector that the presence of Moon Knight is desperately needed in Los Angeles due to the gradual migration of villains and supervillains to the West Coast following their consistent defeat under the watching noses of a couple of hundred New York and East Coast-based heroes. On the face of it this makes immediate sense but the more you muse on it the more it doesn't quite sit right considering the continued change to the Marvel Universe in the past 5 years.

There's no mention of the X-Men, one of the biggest pools of super-powered heroes who now live exclusively off the West Coast and who are looking to increase their profile, and since when in this new, bigger world of comic and character cross-pollination has only one - ONE! - hero been given a whole city to look after? It may seem like I'm nit-picking here, not least because what then transpires within the pages does work very well, but when this is in the hands of a Marvel Architect it seems a little on the lazy side to conveniently ignore or forget factors that would definitely have an influence on such a story and should be considered or acknowledged.

Early niggles and plot points aside, it's when Moon Knight is out on the hunt that this debut really does reach its high gear. The banter between two lower gang couriers on the trappings and distribution of power amongst their type is well realised and helps to dispel the usual cliche of hired guns not having much brain matter to share around. Then, when that brain matter needs to be shared around literally, Bendis throws in a suitable first adversary for Moon Knight to tackle and to give newer readers an idea of the power and skill level that our hero can operate at and it's certainly a good thing to set that stall out at this early juncture. When it comes to the action Maleev delivers a consistent performance with a little more fluidity to fight sequences than previously seen and an evective scratchier, hurried pencil and hefty inking style that had me drawing comparisons to Lenil Yu and Eric Canete at certain points. With a muted and effective use of colour from Wilson - the blues, reds and whites make for a great palette during the in-the-shadow-heroics sections - the art team deliver what, to me, appears to be a very '80s feeling comic and it definitely suits the character and backdrop well.

The trippy ending from Bendis sows plenty of intriguing mystery, hopefully to be revealed and explained in upcoming (and not too far away) issues, and added alongside the recognisable yet 'Maguffin-like' nature of the cargo that Spector finds in his possession there is certainly a bag-load of promise floating amongst these pages. That said I do have concerns about what Bendis may or may not choose to overlook when dealing with this character moving forward, especially when the previous Jake Lockley path ventured down by Greg Hurwitz promised such great emotional development and a fresh approach. This story seems to hinge on a close connection to the greater Marvel Universe from the outset, which will of course roll on unabated outside of these pages, so I'll also be wanting as great a sense of continuity as can be had since this is the gambit Bendis has gone for. Finally, the workload on both writer and artist has to come into focus at some point as it has been known to affect the quality of the finished article in the past and I do not want to see repetition of that again. Not much to overcome then but the team has laid out a reasonable and entertaining first step nonetheless. 7/10


cartoonboy09 said...

I really didn't get what the beginning was till the end. I was all like, "Is this the future, the past?" Then I got to then end and all of the Moon Knight (which isn't much)came back. I forgot the problems with his mind. Now I see where the new "power sets" previously stated by Bendis will come into place. If I'm wrong or right, I hope it's a great read. Also, how is Bendis wring all these books and having them out on time?

Matt Clark said...

Writing doesn't take as much time as illustrating. If a books delayed it's usually down to the artist. If it's down to the writer, they're just being lazy.

Stewart R said...

Yeah I wasn't sure what was going on with Moon Knight's psyche for a while there cartoonboy09 but like you say it becomes clear. I'm a bit gutted that there's no mini Konshu from Vengeance of the Moon Knight chirping in his ear every five minutes about killing the bad guys! Still, there's always next issue.