"Not of Flesh and Blood"
Pencils: Steve Rude
Scripter/Inker: Gary Martin
Publisher: Dark Horse
Steve Rude is best known for Nexus a character inspired by Space Ghost before being reduced into becoming a cartoon talk show host. Apart from Nexus, Mr. Rude has illustrated World's Finest which became so definitive a team-up between Batman and Superman that some of the scenes were incorporated in the animated series' "World's Finest." His latest excursion The Moth is mostly fun but messy. While a good read, it will not make anybody forget about Nexus.
The Moth simply has too much story. Much of the Moth's groundwork could have been laid by folklore and modern myth. In Victorian London many folk reported seeing the bizarre Spring-Heeled Jack whose description would later be alluded to in recorded episodes of mass hysteria ranging from the Matoon Gasser and the Mothman of West Virginia. These legends combined with Rude's jaw-dropping artwork already give the Moth a kind of resonance. We need only the barest-bones of an origin because culturally this character has been flitting about in the fringes of the mind.
The Moth does not have an easily summarized origin. Complexity is not necessarily a bad thing, but the excessive additions weigh down the character. The Moth is one half of Siamese Twins, and he gains a slightly boosted level of strength from his diminutive and mentally challenged brother Tad. This makes little sense. If he gained more mass, he should be taller or wider than average. Rude draws the Moth as a proportionate costumed adventurer. He is neither a giant nor a Jovian.
The Moth and Tad were abandoned by their mother and found by a policeman. The courts for some reason do not allow that policeman to adopt the twins. Perhaps the judge was a Bush appointee, and the cop was gay. There is more to the origin than just those two examples.
Ironically, Gary Martin and Mr. Rude gloss over some important answers to several questions on the reader's mind. Why a Moth? What's the significance of moths to our hero? Where did the Moth get the expertise to create a set of sophisticated gaseous powered glider wings and defensive weaponry?
The story barely hangs together. The second short is much more precise and easier to digest. The first story opens with the Moth doing some bounty hunting. This aspect is consistent with Moth's motives which always center on helping the circus that took him in. Given the competition of spectacles like Cirque de Soleil the money problems of the circus are plausible. The Moth's bounty hunting nets him a big catch, and in a way the episode would have worked as a self-contained short-story. Later in the story, Mr. Martin and Mr. Rude do make an inventive use of the remaining bikers, but this little twist may have worked better in another issue of the book rather than within the same story. The closeness of the events just stretch the credulity.
The main plot point in "Not of Flesh and Blood" is at best tangential to the Moth's activities. The disaster did not need to occur, and it does seem contrived. Mr. Martin and Mr. Rude do manage to very gingerly coalesce this unrelated event into the circus environment which in turn forces the Moth into action, but at that point the story's ready to snap back.
What does not work in any way, shape or form is the right curve of religion being used to combat the problem. Religion plays no part in the Moth's origin. It plays no part in his motives or current life. What is it doing in this story?
The second story is short, sweet and to the point. A variation on Akira Kurasawa's Yojimbo which many have seen as Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, "The Moth" allegedly works for two gangs when in reality he works for himself. It is through this story that you can see how much better the Moth's adventures work without the mutli-tiered origin or the inclusion of extraneous plot elements like praying.
If Steve Rude was not handling the artwork on The Moth I would consider this a mediocre kitchen-sink story while the second tale would simply be a remake. Mr. Rude's artwork with its simple lines and breezy action keeps The Moth aloft.
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