Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trade Waiting: Moon Knight Vol. 1

This hardcover is published by Marvel comics and contains Moon Knight issues 1-7. More importantly it signifies Bendis and Maleev’s first collaboration since their admirably ambitious but ultimately failed Spider Woman motion comic (What happened to those?). This, in turn, made this book one that fans of pre-Avengers Bendis held high hopes for; a return to studying one of the Marvel universes more fringe and exciting characters and bringing his Daredevil collaborator along for the ride. Doing this creates an obstacle that Bendis and Maleev were neither the first nor last creators to experience; how do they reignite the alchemy the team had on their previous project whilst staying far enough away from it to make Moon Knight not feel like a re-tread? Hit the jump to see if it’s successful.
This review is yet another guest post from Taylor Pithers - @taylorpithers


Moon Knight Vol. 1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Colours by Matthew Wilson

Moon Knight starts with a scene fans of the character have seen time and time again – Marc Spector close to death at the hands of his greatest adversary, Bushman, and seeking solace in the empty tomb where spiritual deity Khonshu may or may not have bestowed Marc with the powers of the Moon Knight. This scene is quickly done away with as you are shown this is just a television show based on Marc Spector’s life, for which he is executive producer. Echoing the idea that the scene you have just seen was a façade, the lie of Marc Spector as entertainment mogul is also done away with and he is now shown for what he truly is (or may not be.) Marc Spector is a superhero and more importantly an Avenger. Someone who is respected enough by Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man for them to fly out from New York to Marc’s new home of Los Angeles to let him know there is criminal activity going on in his back yard and they are entrusting him to deal with it. This reaffirms Marc’s belief that he deserves his spot and is willing to become Los Angeles’ protector at all costs. What he may or may not know is that the Avengers before him are in his head. Yet, in an intelligent move, whilst it is certain that Marc is mentally unwell, he never comes across as ‘head the ball’ insane and Bendis deserves credit for not taking the character down a path that has been more than well worn.

What follows is Marc’s quest to become the hero of Los Angeles, a privilege that was never afforded to him in the superpower infested New York, and although it may or may not have been an editorial mandate to move some of their properties off the east coast it is a move that deserves to be applauded. Los Angeles, one of the most heavily populated cities in the United States, has been criminally underused by Marvel and having new stories set there gives the book a fresh feel and helps draw a line between this and Daredevil; Bendis and Maleev’s most loved collaboration.

Identity is a theme explored often in Moon Knight and not just in the case of Marc Spector. The idea that people are not who or what they seem reverberates throughout the whole volume. Characters all seem to play against type or find themselves in situations they are not used to or feel comfortable in. Echo, arguably the main supporting character of the book and a personal favourite of Bendis, is first seen undercover as a stripper trying to find information on the new ‘Kingpin of Los Angeles,’ and is constantly referred to as a B level Avenger. The other main supporting cast member, Buck, is an ex-Shield agent turned Television consultant as well as the go to guy for Marc when he stumbles across an Ultron head after thwarting a criminal activity. Even the book’s antagonist is one who is more likely to be seen fighting Marvel’s heavy hitters such as Thor or the Hulk rather than playing the role of crime boss. Expectations are flipped on their head and the book is more surprising and exciting for it.

Brian Michael Bendis is, as with anyone who is at the top of the tree of their profession, a creator who is loved and lambasted in equal measure but there is no doubt he is a top writer and is in the spot he is for a reason. A lot of the criticism he has faced for his work on The Avengers are wisely sidestepped here. The story is fast paced without feeling like a quick read and whilst the book is still dialogue heavy, it seems to work well in a situation where the cast is small. It has been said that Bendis works better when telling one main character’s story and, based on comparing this to his current Avengers output, it could be true. His characterisation of Marc Spector is different to what we have seen before whilst not being too different to annoy long term Moon Knight fans. The supporting cast are rounded and multifaceted rather than ciphers to push the narrative forward. Whilst the chances are slim, there is more than enough meat on the bones of the character of Echo to give her a mini-series. The villains that are utilized could have been one note, but they work well in the setting of modern Los Angeles.

This all brings us to Alex Maleev, an artist who has and always will sing from his own hymn sheet. Maleev seems to be drawing a love letter to early Bill Sienkiewicz with a style which feels slightly looser than what you have come to expect from him. His art is grounded in reality and while that can make men (and women) in superhero costumes sometime look absurd his Moon Knight is anything but. Any chance Maleev gets to put Marc into a cool pose he does so, but never at the cost of telling the story. And his characters are beautiful, and not in the stereotypical buff guy and cheesecake girl way. His men are devilishly handsome and his women all look like European supermodels. Whether this was conscious on his part or not, it helps set the scene of a city where everyone is looking to become the next hot model or matinee idol. A special mention must be made to Maleev’s painted colours which can be summed up in one word: Stunning.

Maleev is ably assisted by the colours of Matthew Wilson who seems to have come from the criminally underrated Phonogram: The Singles Club to this and Wonder Woman and is definitely a name to watch out for in the future. His colour choices are brave and sometimes garish, but work incredibly well due to the Los Angeles setting and complement Maleev by creating a sometimes stark contrast to his assured line.

Verdict – Buy It. If you enjoyed Bendis and Maleev’s run on Daredevil, there’s a strong chance you’ll find something to enjoy here. Bendis has a great grasp on the smaller cast that is available to him and uses his experiences of Hollywood and the setting of Los Angeles to tell a compelling and ultimately intriguing story that begs you to come back and see what’s next. Maleev and Wilson give the story a look that is unlike any other at the House of Ideas and makes the product stand out from the crowd. Anyone who has jumped off the Bendis train in recent years could do worse than to pick this up and see what they’re missing.

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Deebo305 said...

I wasn't entirely sold on the idea of bendis Moon Knight but it was surprisingly good

Deebo305 said...

I wasn't entirely sold on the idea of bendis Moon Knight but it was surprisingly good

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