ďThe Bottom Chapter One: The Fun StuffĒ
Writer: Charlie Huston
Artist: David Finch (p), Danny Miki (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Editorís Note: The first issue of Moon Knight will appear in stores, this Wednesday, April 5.
Kevin T. Brown:
SPOILER WARNING: These reviews comment on some crucial character developments that get revealed in the latter pages of this first issue.
Kevin T. Brown
Moon Knight is probably one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters. I remember with great fondness Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz's Moon Knight title which arguably can be considered one of the best creative runs of any character. Even after that series ended, I followed the character through a few incarnations. Over the years, however, I lost track of the character, and I have no idea what changes have occurred in those years. So I was understandably both curious and nervous in reading this first issue. I shouldnít have been nervousÖ
Succinctly put, this is a damn good book!
This is my first exposure to Charlie Huston. I have no idea what heís written in the past or whatever else heís writing currently. But based on this first issue, Iím fairly impressed. My slight complaint being the lack of anything other than an internal dialogue by Marc Spectre and the style in which itís written. I could tell by the way this story was being told that itís ďdesignedĒ to make a better trade paperback. I am just not a fan of decompressed story-telling which is the main reason why this issue didnít get another half bullet from me. So that somewhat minor complaint aside, this is still an engaging story. While I wish there was more substance than the running internal dialogue, it still kept me turning the page. Huston pulled me into the story and has me wanting more.
As I said in the beginning, I have no idea as to what has happened to Marc Spectre/Moon Knight the past few years. So I have no idea if the Marc Spectre weíre reading here was the Marc Spectre we last saw in whatever Marvel comic a year ago. And I really donít care. This is easily a title you can pick up and hit the ground running with little concern of what happened in the past, even though events of the past do apparently play a major part of where this series goes. Huston is able to show the reader what has occurred, what happened to certain key characters, how Spectre got to this point in his life. A new reader will have no problems in reading this issue.
As for the artwork, David Finch & Danny Miki, along with colorist Frank DíArmata, are producing a gem here. Itís not always easy to depict scene upon scene of dark and brooding characters as it can get a tad depressing. Every page here works incredibly well though. That more than anything is what will draw in the audience. Finch already has a built in audience based on his Avengers work, but I think this book will put him over the top. To use a very clichťd line: Every page is a feast for the eyes.
As you can tell, I didnít reveal details of the story. And I did so on purpose. I am not going to ruin anything about this issue. This is an issue that needs to be read to be enjoyed and not have key points spoiled. You can tell that everyone involved has put their all into this book. They also have me doing something that I havenít done in a very long time: Buying a brand new Marvel comic AND recommending it highly!
Not bad. Didnít see that twist coming.
Moon Knight used to beat the crap out of normal criminals other heroes missed. He was brutal, violent, and cruel. And he loved it. But thatís all in the past. Heís lost everything he loved-everything that mattered. Now he begs the Egyptian god Khonshu for another chance at that life.
This is as good a place to start as any. Moon Knightís been out of the picture for a long time. A complete revamp is in order. This issue explains his long absence from the Marvel U while raising more questions. At the same time, itís a great starting point for new readers and the beginning of another chapter in the characterís life. We donít get his real name or his origin. Just a quick look at where he is now, what he had and what he wants. Thatís enough to start a story.
Charlie Houston writes very little in this issue. Houston doesnít provide many details on Moon Knight. Hopefully, those will be forthcoming as he reinvents the character. The story is told mostly through the art of David Finch. Itís hard, gritty, heavy, and dark; perfect for the mood. Finchís work is the star of this show. How much you like the comic will depend on how much you like his style. I am happy to report the repetition of panels seen in Finchís Avengers is used in the service of the story, not as an artistic shortcut or space filler.
So the series gets off to a good start. There could have been more to it. Itís basically a long fight scene and Moon Knight crawling around his home. But in these days of multi-part stories, weíll have to accept this as the norm. Itís a good starting point. Hopefully the second issue can carry the ball.
Oh god. ďThe Bottom: Chapter One: The Fun Stuff.Ē Itís all so hilariously misguided, isn't it? Sadly, this comicís tendency toward accidental humour is about the most interesting thing about it, as Marvel justify a new Moon Knight title by producing something that has almost no distinctive features whatsoever. Why buy Batman comics when you can buy a comic thatís just like them, only with added cliches about alcoholism? And yes, I know Moon Knightís a well-established Batman rip-off and that moreover this is hardly a new observation, but I would have thought the creative thing to do, what with Marvel allegedly being a creative company and all, would be to develop significant differences and pack them full of story potential, rather than just give ďBruce WayneĒ broken legs and a drinking problem. I must admit that the religious aspect of the character has some potential, but this issue is more concerned with showing how much like Batman Moon Knight used to be, and how much like a generic down-on-his-luck ex-cop/private eye/etc he is now, so we only get the barest shred of the theological stuff. Thereís a possibility that this is all some sort of double-bluff, especially considering Moon Knight was up and about in Marvel Team-Up last year, but thatís more down to benefit of the doubt than any actual evidence within the comic. Besides, this is still unimaginative and hackneyed, and being deliberately so for obscure plot reasons doesnít actually make it any more acceptable, believe it or not.
David Finch and Danny Miki turn in art thatís a notch or two above the quality of their Not Avengers stuff, but itís still a parade of lumpy and misshapen figures shambling listlessly through some truly uninspired storytelling. Yes, there are lots of detail and squiggly bits, which must take the artists ages to do, but itís just covering up the flaws, and if Finch spent at least some of that Squiggly Time working on his charactersí anatomy and posing, expanding his library of character faces (is that Jessica Jones? Black Cat? Spider-Woman?), and attempting to capture the illusion of movement, his work would be much improved, and I wouldnít have to keep moaning about it. It would be a win-win situation.
Thereís potential here, but the overwhelming feeling I get from this comic is that the creators either donít see that potential, or donít care to explore it, content instead to just play up the least distinct and most obvious aspects of the character. When youíre launching a new title featuring a C-list character, youíve got to do more than merely depend on similarities to other, more popular, characters, and the residual affection earned by a better series published years ago. House of Ideas, my bottom.
The most-requested obscure hero returns, and Moon Knight is a tough guy who loves what he does. Swooping in to tackle the jobs the Avengers and Fantastic Four wonít touch, the hero of the night fights crime in Spanish Harlem, delighting in his righteous fury... until itís all taken away. After a mighty fall, can Moon Knight crawl from the wreckage of his own failures to be a hero again?
Got to admit, this first issue wasnít at all what I expected, and itís all the better for it. Rather than beginning with the protagonist crippled by self-doubt and agonizing over past misdeeds, the series opens in a spirit of visceral adventure. Moon Knight is built up as a hero who cannot be anything else, who is intrinsically and undeniably himself, with his own style and his own convictions. Then, a brilliant transition to a has-been's suffering. There is a bit of a vogue for deconstructing third-tier heroes in order to reintroduce them, punishing, say, Adam Strange, for not being cool enough to hold the spotlight, making these characters earn the right to a readerís attention. Here, that trend is certainly at play, but it is given context by what comes before, and is thus much more compelling.
David Finchís art is wonderfully detailed, exhibiting many of the virtues and none of the flaws of early Image books. This impression is aided by colorist Frank DíArmata, who gives a lush, glossy feel to the glow to the action.
The brilliance of this issueís setup is that the story can go anywhere from here: the reader knows Moon Knight will don the cowl again, but how he gets there, and what challenges await, are a complete mystery. Moon Knight #1 is a solid introduction to the character, and more importantly, leaves a reader begging to learn what happens next.
Moon Knight is one of those heroes who occasionally seems to show up or be referenced in other comics, but who Iíve never followed in his own right. He resembles a cheap Batman/Daredevil knock-off, and as a result, Iíve never had any interest in him as Iíve always preferred to read the real deal. However, this opening issue suggests that I might have written the character off unfairly in the past, because Charlie Huston has managed to do with this issue exactly what a first issue should: to present the character, show us why heís interesting, make clear what makes him different to other heroes, and give us a reason to keep reading next month.
David Finchís art doesnít hurt, of course, as whilst his work on the Avengers has been changeable for me Ė great action sequences and in-costume antics, but let down by some interchangeable facial work and some slightly distorted visuals of the heroes in their civvies Ė heís really given the chance to play to his strengths here. His opening shots of Moon Knight are suitably gritty and dark, but carry something of the Silver Age charm of the character too - crescent-shaped flying machine, gaudy white costume and all. Huston wisely opts to describe the characterís place in the Marvel Universe at the same time as Finchís exciting action plays out in the background, ensuring that the reader never gets bored whilst heís exploring Moon Knightís place among Marvelís great pantheon of heroes. Danny Mikiís dark inks and Frank DíArmataís moody colouring also help to set the tone perfectly, and whilst itís not a million miles away from the kind of street-level superheroics weíre used to in (say) Daredevil, Hustonís writing does much to set the characters apart.
Huston invests Moon Knight with a righteous, religious aspect here which really helps to round the character out and give him the extra dimension that he needs if heís to succeed in a sea of similarly-themed vigilante comics. His inner monologue shows up important character facets without resorting to overt exposition, with the result that the hero really seems to have a ďvoice,Ē even at this early stage. The issueís close begins to build towards a far more complex story than the opening pages suggest, and Finch is daringly given a few full pages to tell the story completely visually. To his credit, he pulls it off, crafting something of a mystery which appears to be in keeping with the characterís dark tone, and offering up a storyline which looks like itís going to deal with Marc Spectorís attempt to redeem himself.
Itís a very promising start for a comic which I had absolutely no interest in before, but this first issue has ensured that Iíll be back for more in future.
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