Wednesday Reviews – Week of March 5

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Moon Knight #1

  • Written by Warren Ellis
  • Art by Declan Shalvey
  • Published by Marvel

photo8Warren Ellis has a real flare for relaunches, which he first proved in spades back in 1996 when he took over Stormwatch, which would become the ground-breaking The Authority and most recently in 2007 when he recreated the Thunderbolts, one of the strongest pillars of Marvel’s 10  year (or so) odyssey into the darkness of their superheroes. With the success he has had in the past, it’s enough to want to jump on board to any relaunch Warren Ellis is a part of, which is why I took a chance on Moon Knight, a character in which I have a weak-but-passing knowledge and an even weaker fondness for. Mark Spector, the schizophrenic hero in white, has never been an easy character to enjoy, but with the stripping of all non-essential elements by Ellis and co., I now find myself excited to jump into his world.

Though I have this admiration of Ellis, it was really Declan Shalvey’s art that got me to buy the book. A gritty mix of Daredevil‘s Chris Samnee and DC’s Francis Manapul, Shalvey’s art is a perfect fit for the odd-ball procedural tone Ellis is going for. What really drew me into the work was how much Moon Knight stands out when he is in costume, almost as if he has been cut out and pasted into the panels. This flourish makes the art pop, but also furthers the idea that Moon Knight is an outsider, not really fitting into any world he occupies, whether it’s the land of capes or a standard police crime scene.

Any writer who wants to tackle superheroes needs to read Warren Ellis. While some of his idea maybe out there, his execution is textbook. Without letting the reader feel it, Ellis neatly recaps Moon Knight’s origin and recent activities through a short writer/editor conversation. Before the title page, readers have all the facts they need to enjoy the book. It’ll be interesting to see if Ellis continues the dynamic set-up between “Mr.” Knight and the police, who treat the hero as a willing citizen as opposed to a dangerous vigilante. The relationship has a lot of potential and wisely drops the typical hero/cop tension that is synonymous with Batman, a comparison Moon Knight already must contend with as a character. It allows Ellis to dig deeper into the character instead of wasting effort on ideas seen millions of times in millions of comics (millions might be a bit high).

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A strong opening issue with a small but important change to Moon Knight’s character and origin that is reminiscent of Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing, completely redefining the character without retconning the past out of existence. The book would get 4 Colors, but it’s just missing that It Factor that makes a reader say “Wow” at the end of the book. That’s not a terrible thing. Stormwatch started the same way and it led to one of the most important books of the late 90s/early 2000s.

All images copyright of Marvel.

3&half-out-of-Four-Colors

 

 

Moon Knight #1 – 3.5 OUT OF 4 COLORS

Starlight #1

  • Written by Mark Millar
  • Art by Goran Parlov
  • Published by Image

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I’ve said on this blog that Mark Millar is one of my favorite writers. I still stand by that, but as Millar as been courted by Hollywood (he now serves as the Marvel liaison for Fox, who owns the X-Men and Fantastic Four film franchises), his wonder touch has diminished a little bit. Nemesis ended in an unsatisfying supertwist, Superior never really came together, and for the first half of the currently on-going Kick-Ass 3, the characters had their heads so far up their asses that it wasn’t much of an enjoyment to read (though a testament to Millar’s character work).

That’s what makes Starlight shine a little brighter, at least for me. Mixing Buck Rogers with Pixar’s The Incredibles and filtering it through The Dark Knight Returns, this book is off to a great start.

photo1If something as fantastical as those 1930s/40s space adventures like Flash Gordon happened in the real world, would most people believe it? Probably not, which is the hard lesson that Duke McQueen learned. Finding himself mysteriously stranded on an alien world controlled by an evil tyrant, Duke becomes a hero and saves the entire planet, gaining a new home. But as they celebrate his victory, Duke reveals that he must return to Earth. As he puts it, “I got a girl back home…It wouldn’t be paradise without my Joanne.”

But now, 40 years later, Joanne has died from a battle with cancer and Duke finds himself alone. One issue in and the reader can tell that this is a man built from huge chunks of integrity, every bit the charm and charisma of a sci-fi adventurer, a real stand-up guy. Duke doesn’t regret his choice. Joanne was more than enough reason to return. The problem Duke finds himself with now is that, with the death of his wife, his reason is gone. Duke doesn’t so much mourn his wife as much as he becomes weighed down by the plainness of his life.

The tone of the book is pitch perfect. Millar has really taken care with this story. A little too often with his creator-owned projects, Millar has sacrificed the heart of his stories for cleverness (Superior and Nemesis come to mind), but here, the story is all heart. On paper, old man Duke goes through all the normal (read: cliche) steps of a stoic widower, but within the comic, it really comes together and makes you feel for Duke. He accomplished so much and was rewarded with ridicule since returning to Earth; the past 40 years haven’t been kind to our hero. And that’s the trick Millar really utilizes. A lesser writer would play up the hardships of Earth, make it an utterly unbearable place and portray Duke’s love to Joanne as duty instead of devotion. The key to the story working so well is that Duke McQueen will never be a victim, nor make himself one to endure life. Life is for living.

The art is wonderful. Mark Millar is very public with his man-crush on artist Goran Parlov and the pages delivery on that front. The work is great and flashbacks mixed in with the mundane country living of Duke-on-Earth offer the promise of some beautiful work down the line for Duke-in-Space. Parlov’s style for the book seems almost like a cross between Fiona Staples (artist of the other buzzy space adventure Saga) and the legendary Tim Sale. The colors are lush, making the reader want to jump in and soak up the beauty. Though the design work is very retro, the art has a modern flair to it.

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So like Moon Knight,  another solid, but not perfect first issue (this one a little more imperfect). Unlike Ellis though, Millar is taking his time getting to the meat of the story and that makes the issue feel underwhelming. He also has a lot more to introduce (like an entire alien planet), so it’ll be a slower ascent for this book. But every hero’s adventure must begin a little boring. If it wasn’t, then why would they go on the adventure in the first place?

All images copyright Image/MillarWorld

3 out of Four Colors copy

 

 

Starlight #1 – 3 OUT OF 4 COLORS