Plot: It’s Christmas in New York City. But the criminal element knows no rest. Neither does Moon Knight.
Review: First, a disclaimer: I’m a HUGE Moon Knight fan, from the days of Moench/Sienkiewicz to the current run by Mike Benson. When he’s written well, he’s much more than the Batman rip-off many proclaim him to be.
Right from this issue’s get go, it’s obvious that Peter Milligan has a good handle on how the characters should be portrayed. The presence of Khonshu goading Marc along the way, a cynical Marlene and Marc Spector himself are all written really well in this tale.
In most Christmas stories we can find a common theme: hope. You know the drill: it’s the time of year when anyone can hope for the best, miracles do happen, etc., etc. But whilst it’s just as important in this story, it’s not the Capra-esque kind.
Instead Milligan chooses to present “hope” as a dangerous thing. Something to be wary of. Something that can let you, and those around you, get hurt. (Something Marc Spector is an expert at, which Khonshu relishes pointing out.)
Most of this notion is portrayed through Marlene, Spector’s on and off girlfriend of several years. We see her in her apartment preparing Christmas dinner, waiting for Marc to arrive. Milligan shows us her hopes and dreams of a regular life with Marc. This is juxtaposed nicely with Marc in his Moon Knight guise trying to apprehend a pair of criminals, Khonshu at his side. Here too Milligan has the mocking voice of the vengeance god spot on. The story is capped with both Khonshu AND Marlene telling Marc, reminding him even, that he can never have (or hope for) a normal life.
Laurence Campbell’s art fits the tone of the story and characters nicely. A standout moment comes in a dream sequence late in the book. In one grotesque panel we see the beast that Marlene knows resides within Marc Spector.
Ultimately though the story is nothing new over what’s being done over in the main book. This is understandable given the constraints of a Christmas special. But the story does show some promise. As noted before, Milligan’s take on the characters is spot on, and I’d be really interested to see what he could do with the ongoing title.
Maybe after Benson’s gig is up. How about it, Marvel?
Final Word: A solid Christmas special but one that hardly breaks new ground. Recommended for Moon Knight fans.
It’s that time of year when people act a little nicer while at the same time you might get punched at the local department store. It’s that time of year when you watch the same twenty movies you watch over and over every December. That time of year when in addition to a massive “Holiday Special,” Marvel usually releases a Holiday annual starring their edgier characters. Typically, it is the Punisher who gets the Holiday bloodbath, but this year Marvel is putting Moon Knight in the midst of Holiday “cheer” as well. Being that Moon Knight is my favorite character, I love his solo title and Christmas is a great time of year, I’ve been waiting for this issue for a while.
Personally, Peter Milligan’s work has always been a mixed bag for me. I really love some of his work such as his early work on Batman, X-Force/X-Statix, Shade: The Changing Man, Human Target and The Programme. However, I have not been the biggest fan of his modern work on Batman, X-Men, and while I liked the concept behind Infinity Inc. I think the book fell short of the mark. I do think Milligan is a great writer with a broad range, but his work has always been a mixed bag for me. With this in mind, and the fact that Moon Knight is my favorite character, I’ve gone into this issue wearing many different hats, looking very closely into Milligan’s take on Moon Knight.
I thought the opening of this issue was particularly strong and really set up a great tone and direction for this issue. The way that Milligan handles the two thugs is brilliant, and I really think there is some powerful imagery, as well as excellent organized crime undertones throughout the first few pages leading to Moon Knight’s first appearance. I also really like the way Milligan tells the story. On one hand, there is a “third person” point of view during the scenes with Khonshu and Moon Knight. This works very well to convey what’s going on inside Moon Knight’s head as he tends to the thugs while dealing with his personal demon. On the other hand, I thought one of the strongest elements of the issue was the way in which Milligan uses Marlene as a narrator.
Telling and narrating a Moon Knight story using Marlene’s voice is rather unique and offers a different perspective on how she really feels about her longtime love, Marc Spector. Moon Knight fans and readers know the history of the relationship between Marc and Marlene, and it’s always been clear that the two love each other but will never have a normal life. Milligan did an excellent job with Marlene as she explains her one Christmas wish and how she wants it to happen more than anything. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, and it really adds an extra dimension to Marlene. In the main series, readers are accustomed to seeing her as very edgy, rough – an angry woman who loves a hero that is publically ridiculed as a madman.
While concepts and certain elements of this issue were strong, it also had a few drawbacks that ultimately affect the overall quality of the story. One of the elements of this issue that did not strike the right chord with me was the dialogue and some of the narration. While Milligan’s goal was to convey the relationship shared between Marc and Marlene, much of the dialogue and even some of the narration felt forced and expositional in an effort to make sure the nature of the relationship was explained. I think he accomplished his goal, but it was a little rough around the edges on the page.
I also had a problem with the dialogue between Moon Knight and Khonshu. There were some brilliant moments, like when Moon Knight went to punch Khonshu and ended up hitting the wall, but I think that the dialogue, like certain elements of the story jumped around a little too much. My biggest problem was the lack of smooth transitions between plot points. On one hand, Khonshu is antagonizing Moon Knight about the life he’ll never have, while at the same time yelling at him to catch an escaping thug.
While there were rather smooth transitions between the scenes featuring Moon Knight and the scenes featuring Marlene and it was nice when they finally came together, individually they really felt choppy and all over the place. The dream sequences were a bit of a mess, and while the parallel between the two characters was well done, I think it was overly expositional and forced. I’m not sure if Milligan was attempting to fit as much as he could into this issue or if he himself was trying to understand the relationship between Moon Knight and Marlene. It’s a bizarre thing to think about, but Milligan nails the nature of the relationship at the end of this issue, and it definitely brings the quality of the book back to the same level as the introduction.
I’ll be honest; I am not the biggest fan of the art style that seems to be taking over many of the MAX books and in the books starring the edgier characters. However, two artists that have really stood out are Goran Parlov and Jefte Palo. With that being said, I think that this issue’s artist, Laurence Campbell, is going to be the next “Marvel Knights” superstar. I really enjoyed his work in this issue, and I think it fit perfectly in line with the current styling of the darker Marvel books. I really enjoyed his take on Moon Knight. There were some fantastic panels and images of the character that really fit the theme and tone of the story. Campbell also did a great job capturing the action, even while Milligan’s script seemed to jump around a little bit too much. My only critique comes during the dream sequences. I liked the change in color during the “happy” dream but Campbell’s depiction of Marc Spector during this sequence wasn’t spectacular, while I didn’t mind Marlene as more of a brunette for a change. Not to mention the bizarre sequence that takes place afterwards. I am, however, nitpicking as overall, I really enjoyed the artwork, and I hope to see more of Campbell’s take on the Marvel Knights.
Overall, this issue is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I’m giving this book 3 bullets for the artwork, concept and portrayal of Moon Knight and Marlene’s relationship. It’s the execution and dialogue that I believe falls short of the
mark. This issue is worth checking out if you like the artwork and are in the mood for a decent Holiday concept, but this issue does not live up to the same quality that exists in the regular monthly title or last year’s annual.