Monday, September 15, 2008

Moon Knight #22

Ever since the conclusion of the Civil War, Marc Spector has been struggling to come to terms with his place in the new superhero paradigm. His violent nature and frequent public brawls made Spector less than an ideal candidate for registration, but he was surprisingly accepted into the program anyway after passing a psychiatric evaluation. However, it wasn't long before the Knight was butting heads with Iron Man over his return to brutal methods. When Iron Man revoked his registration card, Spector merely went on the lam, continuing his violent crusade on the wrong side of the law. But now that he's raised the ire of Stark's immediate superiors, the Moon Knight is faced with his most difficult challenge yet: the assault of the Thunderbolts.

Mike Benson's storytelling immediately benefits from the inclusion of the government-sponsored ‘Bolts. In Norman Osbourne's team of reassigned villains, Benson finds a ready-made spoiler for his confused, unstable lead character. While it's been difficult to take the Knight's troubles seriously of late, with Stark wearing his kid gloves and most of his enemies unwilling to go to the same rough-and-tumble lengths that Spector is, the government's hit squad of reformed bad guys have no such qualms or limitations. These are the guys that big brother calls in when he's had enough of you, and if they're let off their leash there's no telling how ugly things could get.

Fortunately, Benson doesn't rush into any sort of final showdown. In carefully setting that stage beforehand, allowing Stark and the Thunderbolts to race each other for the chance to take down the Knight, he's captured my interest and imagination. Of course, he still trips over many of the same basics that have plagued him since day one, but at least there's finally more to this than endless sterile conversation between uninteresting characters, occasionally interrupted by a random ass whuppin' or two.

Mark Texeira remains Moon Knight's regular artist, working over the layouts of Javier Saltares, and continues to stomp all over his legacy. In the mid to late '90s, Tex was one of the finest artists in Marvel's stable: largely delivering cover artwork, his infrequent ventures into full-blown interior work were beautiful. One would imagine that his traditionally rough, violent style would make an excellent counterpart for the carnage that's followed Marc Spector for the last few years, but it's not. Strangely, Tex has abandoned that style in favor of a much more dull, lazy take for the duration of his run on this book. His artwork feels incomplete and boring, not to mention tough to follow – backgrounds are left untouched and characters that aren't speaking stare at nearby walls like robots. When Texeira introduces his readers to Venom in one of this issue's first pages, it's almost laughable. Not really the effect I think he was going for.

I've loathed Moon Knight for the last year and a half, and while it still contains many of the faults that led me to hate it initially, the new faces and surprising storyline twists have reinvigorated my interest for the time being. Extremely poor artwork and cumbersome dialog continue to hold the series back from realizing its potential, but at least the storyline is finally going somewhere. Worth flipping through at best... it's still miles from a recommendation, but we're finally heading in the right direction.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

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