Posted by Don MacPherson on May 4th, 2011
Moon Knight #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Maleev (regular edition)/Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, Humberto Ramos & Mark Texeria (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Brian Michael Bendis is clearly the most important writer working with Marvel Comics today because he’s at the helm of its most popular franchise at the moment, the Avengers, and its popularity is due mainly to his efforts. Given that fact, some may forget that Bendis built his reputation as one of the industry’s top super-hero writers on solo titles such as Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil. Aside from his creator-owned books, Bendis’ best writing has always been found in these more focused, character-driven books, so I was pleased when it was announced that he’d be taking on a new solo book with his longtime Daredevil collaborator (and partner on the superb Scarlet) Alex Maleev. Those looking for the kind of strength this creative team brought to DD and more recently to Scarlet will be a little disappointed, but the main reason is that what this title is really about isn’t touched upon until the final page of this inaugural issue.
Marc Spector has moved to Los Angeles as he’s embarked on an unusual career path as the creator and producer of a new syndicated adventure TV series based on his own life as a mercenary. A night of celebrating the debut of the show is interrupted, though, when some of his fellow Avengers contact him to let him know that he should keep an eye out for superhuman criminal activity on the west coast. Rumor has it several villains have decided to set up shop far away from New York’s concentration of super-heroes, and sure enough, Spector, as Moon Knight, discovers the rumors are true as he witnesses a criminal enterprise going explosively awry along the L.A. shoreline in the middle of the night.
Maleev’s artwork for this new project isn’t quite like what we’ve seen from him in the recent past on DD and Scarlet. There’s a slightly more traditional approach to comic art here; while it’s still gritty in appearance (which is fitting for the overall tone of the story), it’s not as textured as what we’ve seen from him before. I have no doubt it’s quite purposeful. It seems as though he’s trying to evoke memories of artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who really first came to prominence in comics on the original Moon Knight series in the early 1980s. While I miss the more familiar aspects of Maleev’s style, the good news is that he does manage to capture that same dark intensity that Sienkiewicz brought to the title character decades ago. I was a little disappointed in his take on Mr. Hyde, who turns up at the end of the issue. He really wasn’t recognizable at all and didn’t look as monstrous and bulky as the character usually does.
At first, there’s an element in the comic that makes it seem as though the creators have faltered when it comes to continuity. Bendis’ establishes the title character’s relatively new connection to the Avengers with the appearance of three members of the team. One of them seems depicted incorrectly, which is what seemed like a major mistake. I found it quite distracting, only to discover that it was purposeful and promised much more interesting issues to come. Of course, Maleev’s artwork for the regular edition cover spoils that twist, at least indirectly. Still, there are other missteps with Marvel continuity, especially when it comes to Mr. Hyde’s role in the comic, just a couple of weeks after the release of the most recent issue of Thunderbolts, in which he’s depicted as being behind bars. There’s also a reference to another longtime Marvel villain that pops up at the end of the issue that was also referred to in last week’s Avengers #12.1. While the two references don’t contradict one another, it’s distracting to see the same writer go to the same well from one week to the next. The shared universe of the Marvel world is one of the selling points of such corporate super-hero comics, so it’s always a little disappointing when it’s mishandled. But to be clear, it’s not nearly as mishandled as earlier scenes would seem to suggest.
One of the things that drew readers to Bendis as a writer was his dialogue. The beats in his script were often entertaining, and while they really didn’t simulate real speech, he created the impression that he did. There’s an Aaron Sorkin-esque quality to his dialogue that’s often appealing. Here, he attempts more of the same, but he misses those beats. The exchange between the two criminal flunkies in the middle of the book doesn’t ring true at all. The comedy of these two crooks at conversational loggerheads isn’t effective, and the whole scene fees like so much padding. The beats and pauses in the dialogue among the super-hero characters seem awkward as well, but given the reveal on the final page, that may be intended.
Bendis sets this series up as a crime book with trappings of the super-hero genre, and it’s a wise move. Bendis first grabbed people’s attention with his independent crime comics. Furthermore, there’s the promise of the exploration of Marc Spector’s fractured psyche, and if there’s one thing Bendis does well, it’s exploring damaged characters (just see Alias for proof). Yes, there’s a lot of promise in this first issue — especially on the final page — but as far as this first chapter is concerned, that promise is (as yet) unfulfilled. This was a bit of a lackluster start, but there’s enough in it to get me to look at the second issue. 6/10
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