Moon Knight is back and better than ever, patrolling the streets, fighting crime . . . being absent for the entirety of his new, legacy issue. Huh. Something doesn’t quite feel right about that.
Written by Max Bemis
Illustrated by Jacen Burrows
Colored by Mat Lopes
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
A new day is dawning and with it comes an enemy unlike any that Marc Spector, Moon Knight, has ever faced. Moon Knight has always been a protector from the shadows, but this new enemy is looking to extinguish that shadow with blinding light and fire. Get ready for the introduction of Moon Knight’s greatest nemesis! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
I want to like this issue. I really, really do. Moon Knight is an interesting character and has access to a pantheon that isn’t explored as often as it should. Plus, he has the benefit of having just come off of a character defining arc by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood et al. But, having finished this issue, I’m left wondering, what just happened? And an even better question, how the hell is this supposed to attract and keep new readers?
If I wasn’t familiar with Moon Knight, I might have dropped this issue very quickly and, as I tend to do when making statements like this, let me complicate that statement; I liked the issue on the whole but I felt that this was the wrong place and time for it to be situated.
Let me start with the good. Jacen Burrows does a fantastic job of setting up a new tone for “Moon Knight.” While Lemire and Smallwood had this ethereal, almost mystical feel to their series, Burrows creates a world of harsh contrasts and high levels of realistic details. Every panel feels full without feeling crowded and he has a great sense of landscape. The page where Dr. Emmett is prepping for bed is just three panels but each panel establishes more of her space and gives us a very clear awareness of it. It sucks us into the world more and it’s a skill that artists could definitely use more of.
It’s also refreshing to see an artist who changes the facial expression of characters in every panel. Near the end of the issue, Dr. Emmett is facing 86 in three, identically shaped and laid out panels. He could have easily had both 86 and Dr. Emmett sit with the same expression and just change it out the dialogue as well as just change 86’s expression in the final panel.
Instead, we get a glimpse into each of their thought processes through the small, subtle changes he gives for the characters. Dr. Emmett goes from thinking, to tentatively guessing the name, to taken aback by 86’s sudden, wicked smiled while 86 keeps this smug attitude, as if he were leading a small child through a simple piece of homework, giving hot and cold hints with just his eyes & head placement. It’s good stuff and really plays to Burrows’ strengths.
What doesn’t is the more emotional and extreme expressions he has to give these characters. His mouth’s stretch beyond where they should and it breaks the proportions of the faces, which for a highly realistic style, isn’t great. A few times in the comic this is used to achieve a chilling effect, especially in Dr. Emmett’s dream sequence, but the other times it comes across as sillier than it should.
This is a book that feels very un-Marvel, which is no surprise considering most of Burrow’s work before this was working at Avatar Press, a publisher known for their highly detailed (sometimes, overly detailed) artwork and high levels of gore and violence.
Think NC-17 instead of Marvel’s usual PG or PG-13.
I’m totally on board for Marvel taking risks like this and seeing a full-on horror series for Moon Knight, especially since it’s been a while that the big two have done anything like that (at least from memory). Still, I have my reservations and most of that comes from Bemis’ writing.
It’s very narration heavy but none of the narration adds to the scenes they’re in and there is just so much of it. Many of the panels would have been better served being presented in silence or with just a few well-placed words to highlight or contrast the action of the scene. Instead, we get descriptions like “I anger-brush away wine stains, revealing my natural shade of coffee.” Which, presented here as pure prose, is a great description. It’s concise, conveys a lot of information about the character and is visually interesting.Continued below
Problem is, this is a visual medium. Instead of seeing her anger-brush, she just stands there while we’re narrated at. Granted, this is a detail I don’t need to see play out but it’s just one example of this throughout the issue. I never really get a firm grasp on why she is so obsessed with Marc Spector, especially because she was introduced in the previous series and spent most of that time being possessed by Ammut.
We never got to see her treating Marc or really interacting with him (unless my memory has crapped out on me, which is a very real possibility). Still, this is really the crux of the problem. The pacing and action of this issue does not feel like the start of a new series. We haven’t had a “Moon Knight” issue in 6 months and, as I said before, this is a brand new jumping on point. For newcomers, they will be thoroughly lost, especially since Moon Knight is conspicuously absent from the issue and that absence is not addressed.
Maybe he’s off doing Moon Knight stuff but we’re not given any indication that he’s active or even that he is still around. Why is she so obsessed with him? Is it because he hasn’t been around in a while? Is it just because of her experiences? For all the internal access we get, there is very little we get access to.
This is not where we should be at the start of a brand new series, let alone the new legacy issue. This is the kind of issue that should happen later on in a series. It can start an arc, sure, because by then we’ve established our title character and his relationship to the rest of the world and the characters. We’d wonder what kind of ties Dr. Emmett and 86 have to Marc and how they’ll intersect. We know what Marc is off doing, or can infer from the previous issues.
As is, there’s nothing to grab hold of. Just a great villain introduction but for a hero that no new reader has a grasp on and old readers have no reason to care for. I’ll repeat this again because it really bothers we. We don’t know what Moon Knight is like now! The last series ended after spending 14 issues chronicling Marc’s attempts to grapple with his personalities as well as Khonshu and this is the first issue in that new status quo. Establish the status quo or at least some semblance of a main character before throwing a new villain at us.
Still, at least this promises to be anything but generic. If Bemis and Burrows can firmly establish Marc and give us a reason for the heavy focus on Dr. Emmett in the next issue, I might be willing to forgive this misstep but right now, this new series is on tenuous ground.
Final Verdict: 5.8 – A very well drawn but over-narrated and thinly characterized issue that fails as an introductory issue. This should have been the start of at least the second arc.