Tag Archives: Brian Michael Bendis

Thoughts: Moon Knight #12

One year, and well, here we are. The finish line. Seems like not that long ago I wrote this excited expression, but as I gander at the date stamp, that was February 2011 and so much has changed since then. Moon Knight, by Bendis and Maleev, has come and gone, leaving us now to only label it with one, final opinion before we let the jaws of some long box silence these issues with its might. Because that’s how this works. One day’s hot item becomes another day’s forgotten, tarnished soul.

I guess I could run through the specifics of this final issue, but in all honesty, I’d rather not. Moon Knight #12, like issue 11 before it, only soured my overall opinion of this work. The comic simply acts like any other Marvel Comics wrap up – plot lines are jarringly tied off and hints of future stories find automatic preview. I should have expected no less from this final issue, and to run through the bullet points would only feel repetitive as well as unnecessary because, all of which really needs to be is, this issue was a disappointment.

Past the muck of the conclusion, though, I can recall enjoying this series, and I feel confident Bendis and Maleev gave a fair run at one of the few comic book characters I give a damn about. There are issues of their Moon Knight run which I feel completely capture the character while simultaneously updating him, in some sense, for this 2011-12 comic book, and the storytelling in those issues exemplify why Bendis and Maleev work so well together. The team showed this character to be a capable concept that’s not quite ruined or cursed as some may like to believe, and while not perfect, produced a fine comic book around it.

Some may have read my issue-by-issue posts and asked themselves, “why bother?”, but for me, this comic book did something I’ve been waiting to see for years. It took my favorite character and pushed him forward in some sense while also wrapping his narrative in some delightful sense of craft. At the end of the day, yeah, Moon Knight by Bendis and Maleev falls short due to the usual conflicts and constraints of mainstream publishing, but overall the book seemed to work well enough within such constraints to be something worth a read every month. For me, that was worth covering.

As for future Moon Knight stories, I don’t feel as if I need them. They’ll be more, no doubt, and I’ll probably read along, but in some sense, the end of Bendis and Maleev’s run placed the period on an ongoing desire I’ve had ever since I discovered the character. I’ve wanted a Moon Knight comic in which the character went somewhere new and was produced by top talent, and now that I’ve finally received that dream book, in some sense, I feel as if there’s no where else to go but treat this series as the character’s end and re-read what I already possess.

Does that make sense? I don’t know, but after closing issue 12 I felt oddly full. I’m no longer hungry for THAT Moon Knight series because now I feel as if I’ve finally had the meal, and for the most part, I enjoyed it.

At some point in the future, check back, as Chad Nevett and I plan to discuss this series in one, final written piece, putting a close to Moon Knight by Bendis and Maleev.

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #11

I walked away from this one disappointed. No matter this issue’s place as a penultimate chapter, Bendis and Maleev feel it’s more important to make Moon Knight #11 a perfect example of what some complain about super hero comics for. The issue involves a lot of fighting with little point, and it drags out such a thing way past its due because supposedly we’ll enjoy another fight sequence in a comic book. Sure, Moon Knight, under Bendis’ pen, has kept a hand between itself and obligatory action scenes for most of it’s run, but all this newly added violence, rather than act as an appropriate crescendo to a build, stems from a character who’s role resembles a cheap cameo. As I wrote last issue, Madame Masque seemed to appear to act as bridge between this Bendis project and another, and Moon Knight #11 only confirms those previous suspicions. The inclusion of her character really hasn’t lead to anything but an off-putting aside in what was a consistent series, and man, with one issue left, what poor timing to go off on a tangent.

+ Thoughts

– Echo’s ghostly appearance toward the end makes for a nice scene, and it manages to bring a few things full circle. Granted, it’s a total rip off of Obi Wan in A New Hope, but the bit plunges right down to a key piece of Marc Spector’s character and bluntly calls attention to it.

“Then show me. Don’t just tell me.”

Sums up a lot about a guy who spends more time in his head than anywhere else, and as sad as it may be, the moment emphasizes a relatable theme for the reader. Although the message comes from within, the part Marc’s trying escape, the message isn’t diluted or misplaced. Instead, Echo’s spirit is now a new, little voice inside of him, and and it allows Marc to tell himself to kick his own ass into gear. No better help than self-help, right?

– This one, small panel of Ultron is cool.

The panel provides a menacing flair even though it’s randomly spliced into the page. Dead hollow eyes  cut into a cold, chrome object, and it feels as if this brawl is under the eyes of something larger.  But, aside from tone, the panel reminds the reader why exactly these characters are fighting, making a nice attempt by Maleev to make this entire fight sequence feel like it may have a reason.

– Thoughts

– Too bad that reason’s overshadowed because while the fighting between Moon Knight and Madame Masque revolves around a plot point present since issue one, one of the character’s involved hasn’t been around that long, and her spontaneous appearance hasn’t exactly sported a very good cause. Basing what should be a thrilling struggle on the involvement of a character with little development was a bad move, leaving the entire fight sequence uninspired rather than thrilling. Much of the issue reads like page filler, and it perfectly captures the groan and hiss angry comic readers release when they complain these books contain too many fights. “It’s apart of the genre,” usually encapsulates my typical excuse, but here I only felt the groan most people utter.  Masque may be a fine character in her own right, but here she serves little purpose other than Big Bad’s daughter, and when Big Bad appears to already be back in the game by this issue’s finale, you start to wonder … why transition to Masque at all? What was the point? To show a father/daughter relationship? To show Moon Knight’s apart of some larger, fictional world? You thought it’d be fun? I don’t know. I don’t know other than what I’ve already written – that it connects one Bendis book to another. Which is fine, but this is a poor connection which, ultimately, only drug out this series another issue.

– What’s worse is that the fight’s not even drawn that well. Maleev’s artwork isn’t awful, but something about his contribution in this issue feels off. I’ve enjoyed his work on this series thus far, but issue 11 features a Maleev prone to stiffness and awkward placements of both characters and objects.

This doesn’t work when more than half your issue involves people punching each other. If anything, the artwork only emphasizes what’s wrong with the comic because stiff and poorly composed are about all that describe it.  

Verdict

Weak issue. Not the way to lead into your finale, and right now I’m only hoping Bendis can wrap this up to some degree (although, history says he won’t). When people complain about Bendis for drawn out plots, I usually roll my eyes a bit, but this example has me in agreement- a poor representation of this series and both men’s work.

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #10

There’s a tiny bit of crying in this issue, but little of it sticks as the story quickly beats on to the falling action. Aside from Spector, Detective Hall and Snapdragon reappear, and for some reason Madame Masque is now involved.  The matter of the Ultron head also veers its head into the scenario, and … Ah, whatever. Just read the comic.

+ Thoughts

– The first two pages of this issue are pretty strong, even though the first page is just a repeat of last issue’s finale. The inclusion of it here works though since, one, it’s a pretty cool page and, two, it reestablishes the stakes and places page two in context. As for page two, eight horizontal panels work well to convey a sense of carnage and mean spirit. The reds in place by Matt Hollingsworth bring out the pain, and Maleev’s choice of stacking the panels in such a way, with use of two vertically streaked, solid red shots, creates a clear idea of speed, moving the reader through the reading experience in a fast, bold, brutal fashion. In one page, Maleev translates the core of the fight we barely even see, and we understand it completely. Plus, this execution simply declares Echo as dead without any dramatic last word or final breath. She’s fucking dead, and Marc’s pissed. That’s all we need.

– The scene with Marlene at first concerned me. While reading, I was caught off guard, and I thought Bendis was all of the sudden bringing back past baggage. But really, it’s another dream/headtrip thing, and it’s in place to remind the reader of where Marc Spector’s been before and, not unlike Spider-man, the dude possesses some guilt. The scene works, feels appropriate and places the circumstance of Echo’s death into even more context. It also presents some indication of mourning from Marc’s character without getting too sappy or unnecessary. Also, the shot of Marc’s face in the last panel on page five presents a wonder example of Maleev’s talent for facial expressions and human likeness. Someone make that a Twitter avatar.

– “Wolverine” telling Marc to suck it up and quit moaning was cool. “Quit bitchin, bub!”

+/- Thoughts (neutral ground)

– The overhead shot of Echo’s body on the autopsy table is a shot that often reoccurs in Bendis’ work, conveniently placed lamps and all. In an early issue of New Avengers, it’s done with Spider-woman. Later in Secret Invasion, it’s Elektra’s skrullified corpse. I have to assume the writer indicates the artist to draw this particular shot in this situation, as this same shot has occurred with three different artists (that I know of). It’s no surprise that a comic book artist would have familiar, go-to shots, but I find the practice by a writer interesting. Could say a few things about Bendis’ scripting style.

– Detective Hall and Snapdragon … I guess I’m happy to see them again? I don’t know. No opinion.

– Thoughts

– Madame Masque really comes off like a poor excuse to connect this dying series to Bendis’ larger catalog of work, and ultimately her appearance can only mean just that. It just seems a little late in the game to introduce a new villain to the story, and the reason for it is simply weak. Count Nefaria is hurt. OK, but isn’t that more interesting? Having this crumbling villain, who has lived most of his villainous career as a figure of power, go up against what is essentially a normal man? That scenario contains much more conflict and emotion than this substitute, tie-in shit we’re about to witness. Also, the whole thing voids the build-up of Nefaria as West Coast kingpin, making me wonder: why not Madame Masque from the start? Why wait until issue ten, of a twelve issue tale, to introduce her? Because, Bendis and Marvel need a story next summer. Plant those seeds now.

Verdict

This issue doesn’t loose much steam. While a death has occurred, Bendis and Maleev keep the story on task and weave the plot together so it marches the complete narrative to its planned destination. Madame Masque though, man. WTF?

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #9

Two months later, and I’ve finally decided to jot down my thoughts on Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Moon Knight once again. Between laziness and realizing the meticulous behavior of doing issue-by-issue commentary, as well as trying not to repeat myself with every new issue, these MK posts took a backseat, but since it’s been announced the series will end with issue 12, I figure I should at least finish the task I took on. I can’t promise these last few posts will be as heavy as the first 8, but I’ll make them as interesting as I can, and once it’s all over, I’ll write a nice overview essay of the series. That’ll last longer anyway. For now though, some quick thoughts for the sake of putting them out there.

So this issue contains a lot of fighting and internal struggle, making it a pretty fitting climax for a story about an uncertain super hero with a multiple personality complex. Count Nefaria, the owner of a monocle and power boner, who’s fought Thor, the Avengers and some X-dudes, comes back from his last appearance to belittle and beat Marc Spector, and he chooses to do so by killing Spector’s girl and driving him up an emotional wall. After 20 pages of combat and dialogue between Spector and the voices in his head, the issue ends with Spector loosing his crayons and adopting his Wolverine persona in a whole new way, leaving the reader on a cliffhanger of rage and bloody fists. Sorry. I hate summaries.

So, Random Thoughts style, here’s the rundown.

+ Thoughts

– I definitely consider this to be one of the better issues of the series. Maybe the best, but I’m not sure as I haven’t read the others in quite some time.  But it’s up there. Why? While it may sound cheap, the book gave me what I really wanted to see, which was a visually enticing fight involving Moon Knight, in costume, drawn by Alex Maleev. Say what you will, but I enjoyed the payoff because, unlike almost every other super hero comic, Bendis and Maleev’s Moon Knight hasn’t involved much fighting or super hero action. The series has kept those elements to a minimum, building the tension between the reader and what’s on the page. This was a necessary fight, and while the battle involved a villain, the real fight took place in Spector’s head which, at the heart of this book, has been the scene of conflict all along.

– This comic incorporates the downward spiral of the story into the pacing and plot. If you notice, the issue begins with Marc on the roof of a building, and it ends with him in an alley. The entire fight moves from top to bottom, reflecting the events within the issue as Marc enjoys some classic hero versus villain fisticuffs until he’s in the street, watching his lady friend die. The consideration on this level speaks of the craft put into the issue, and it reminds that not all Big 2 books are thrown together chunks of shit. Thought went into this, and it’s an especially wonderful touch as the descent provides Maleev’s artwork with an extra bit of movement. A lot of his shots in this issue are horizontal or slanted to accommodate the high-to-low battle, and from this Maleev works the fight into a fluid, lively piece. And, of course, the descent in setting reflects the peril of our lead.

– I found the cuts between Buck/Marc scenes and Marc/Cap/Spidey/Wolverine scenes affective for their ability to present some background and explain the origin of Marc’s new weapons, yet I also feel these scenes simply act as quality transitions in order to introduce each personality Marc’s carrying around in his head before we witness the internal dialogues of the issue. These back-and-forths come off as bold and stylish.

– Thoughts

– This is sort of cheap, but I honestly was a bit bummed about Echo’s apparent death. I liked her. She made a lot of sense in this series, and it seemed there was much more to the character than previously hinted. But, for the story at hand, her death is the most logical way to progress the narrative and place Marc Spector where Bendis wants him. So, on a matter of storytelling, this move works. And anyway, I’m sure she’ll be back in some other Bendis project somewhere down the line. That’s the way this shit works. But, for now, I’ll honestly kind of miss her. Pathetic, I know.

Verdict

Good fucking issue. It certainly positioned the story in a new way. I’m ready for more, and I guess, the coming conclusion.

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Those Issues of Ultimate Spider-man I Didn’t Read | Part 1

I know it’s technically Ultimate Comics Ultimate Man Spider-comics Spider-man now, but to me the Brian Michael Bendis series is simply Ultimate Spider-man. Three words. One hyphen. That’s it.

Some time between 2008 and 2009, Marvel Comics decided to publish a comic book mini series entitled Ultimatum. It’s purpose? Totally wash away Marvel’s special line of comics known as the “Ultimate Line” and leave the debris in a position to rebuild after – a little retcon fueled disaster event to get all the fans up in arms. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by David Finch, Ultimatum took Marvel’s line of “limited continuity,” “free from Marvel mainline crud” comics and injected it with its own dose of Marvel hysteria and event comic chaos. Ultimate Comics, a subdivision of Marvel Comics traditional 6-1-6 line, suddenly found itself uprooted in limbo after nearly ten years of consistent focus and “left alone” mindset.

It was right at this time I dropped Ultimate Spider-man. And when I say dropped Ultimate Spider-man, I don’t mean “I bought it for 3 issues and then tossed it off my pull list.” No. I dropped Ultimate Spider-man. Like a “after buying it for 60-some issues and then going on a fanboy rampage” kind of drop.

To cut it short, the entire reason for dropping the title was an extremely dumb one. Basically, David Lafuente did not equal Mark Bagley (clearly because he is much better), and without the visual voice of Mark Bagley Ultimate Spider-man was no longer Ultimate Spider-man. Granted, I did buy the Stuart Immonen stuff, and I tolerated it (I clearly had poor judgement in the early days),  but when Lafuente showed up, it pushed such a drastic change that the title I came to count on left me hanging. I dropped that shit cold. Cried about it on the internet. Did the fanboy thing. Hard.

Looking back, the whole thing was not my most respectable moment. The excuses I had for “hating” the Lafuente work are things I would easily laugh at anyone else for saying today. But, at the time, my interest in Ultimate Spider-man suffered a fatal blow, and from then on I would do my best to avoid the book. Just up until recently.

I’ve gone back, and after a little back issue hunting (remember that shit?), I’ve managed to read the entirety of Ultimate Spider-man Phase 2 a.k.a. what I’ll term the “Lafuente Era” as well as “Death of Spider-man,” which is everything I missed during  my great purge. And what’s funny is, “Death of Spider-man” aside, this is probably the best portion of Ultimate Spider-man overall, and I skipped it. I’d even consider it a little crown jewel in Bendis’ entire career at Marvel because the “Lafuente Era” of Ultimate Spider-man did it right. Between a combination of aesthetics and pure storytelling, Bendis and Lafuente captured the essence of the teenage super hero story, fulfilling the entire concept of Ultimate Spider-man, at a higher level of craft, some 140 issues from its beginning.

But something had to be sacrificed in order to achieve that short stretch of issues. A notion of consistency. Maybe the above bits of my personal back story were simply that – personal bits – but I feel the interruption or shift I felt as a long time reader actually reflects an overall shift in this long running comic book series. Look back at it. Ultimate Spider-man, for something like 8 years, marched on at a steady pace, with consistent aesthetics, telling the same, focused story. 8 years.Ultimate Spider-man may be one of the last comics of its kind to accomplish such a run, and between the book’s own determined focus and my infantile attachment to it, the crashing wave of Ultimatum, and the shake up that followed, put the whole operation in rough waters.

So this, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of how Brian Michael Bendis did his best to steer his saga of “power and responsibility” clear of murky waters and keep it afloat. Of how a relaunch, a renumbering, a death and a rebirth – all in the course of two years – tried their hardest to derail Bendis’ solid 8 year train. For my next few blog pieces, I’m going to take a look at the period of Ultimate Spider-man I didn’t read. The “Lafuente Era,” but also the PR stunt known as “Death of Spider-man,” and I’ll even dive into the more recent version of the title featuring the character Miles Morales. The purpose? To discuss each as an individual work, but to also try and connect the three shifts – “Lafeunte,” “Death,” “Miles” – and see how they each represent their own version of Ultimate Spider-man as well as represent a period of identity crisis for a title that was once so sure of itself.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Up first, the “Lafuente Era.”

None of these issues are perfect, and neither when paired together do they create a perfect work, but I’d mark the first 6 issues of Lafuente Spider-man closer to perfect Ultimate Spider-man than anything else.

Big, hyperbolic statement. Maybe I should back down, but it’s true.

What this initial arc accomplishes so well is providing the perspective of Peter Parker, or more or less, really putting the reader behind the eyes of a teenage super hero, placing him or her into that world. Which makes sense. The title of the arc is “The New World According to Peter Parker.” And while it’s clearly a mark of Bendis’ pen that brings about this focus, David Lafuente obviously makes the huge impact because it’s his contribution that inspires the youthful attitude as well as energetic bounce.

Looking at his artwork, the energy comes across as hard to deny. Speed lines up in your face. Expressive style. The vibrant colors dubbed on by Justin Ponsor. The elements are there for explosive comic book art, but the component that really catches the attention and sells the performance is the roundness and curve of Lafuente’s line work. It’s the element that captures that sense of motion you experience while reading a Lafuente drawn comic book. The curves seem to suggest a youthful vitality and plumpness, and it’s such a contrast from the muscle tight, skinny aesthetic Mark Bagley provided. There’s life there. A freshness, versus the 1990s-heyday look Bagley performs.

But motion derives itself from another element important to this comic. Lafuente uses a nice array of vertical panel structures throughout his entire stay on Ultimate Spider-man, which I found to be an interesting choice in page design as well as storytelling. First, the focus on vertical direction relates itself well to the Spider-man character, the subject of the piece. The character travels and fights in an acrobatic, vertically dependent fashion. The panel structure Lafuente insights sort of places the subject in an ideal environment, allowing the actual illustration to rest in a frame that works with it rather than simply houses it. Second, this is Lafuente’s way of dealing with the “Bendis Problem” I think most artists face when drawing one of his scripts – talking heads. Where long, horizontal panels tend to slow down a story in order to suggest a widescreen affect, vertical panels seem to quicken the pace by providing this quick cut movement to the page. This speeds up the scenes drenched in dialogue while making it visually exciting. But it also effects the actual dialogue. As a reader, you’re reading these sequences in a cut-to-cut fashion, so you’re reading faster. Which works. Teens tend to talk fast, and it’s already a tone Bendis writes in when writing Ultimate Spider-man so Lafuente’s contribution to the storytelling matches up very well, emphasizing what Bendis does.

So while curved lines and vertical panels suggest youthful energy, I would also suggest the actual style Lafuente draws in adds to the youthful perspective. I’m not at all an expert in manga, but Lafuente’s style is certainly manga influenced. Manga stylings have been creeping their way into American animation for years, and in this day and age it’s sort of won out with the younger audience. Anime, manga … it’s what the kids are into, and I know from experience, most high school kids that like to draw … they draw in an anime-inspired style. This suggests to me that a lot of younger people sort of automatically dub a manga influence to maybe the things they imagine – as in cartoons, drawings. So the visual design sort represents that teenage perspective in terms of illustration and what else, but more importantly, it simply represents an aesthetic that’s popular at the moment, popular especially with a younger demographic.

Bendis certainly does not freeload on Lafuente’s talent, though. While the writer plays up the usual plot elements of supporting cast and riff-heavy dialogue, it’s Bendis’ attention to teenage specific conflicts that really cements the desired perspective. I think issue 1 lays everything out so smoothly, especially the first page in which we see a single close up of Peter Parker’s face as he reviews the details of his life.

“My name is Peter Parker. I am Spider-man.”
“I was bit by a one-of-a-kind spider and now I have one-of-a-kind spider-powers.”
“I’ve saved the world. Or at least helped save it.”
“I almost died doing it. A couple of times. For real. But I didn’t.”
“I’ve fought bad guys of every shape and size. True bad guys. World-class villains. Bad bad guys.”
“I’ve met super heroes, icons. Captain America. Yep.”
“You’re talking to a sixteen-year-old who can swing across the city on a web line he actually invented.”
“A guy who can life a city bus over his head. A guy who has fought the Hulk and walked away from it.”
“We’re talkin’ vampires, mutants, Doctor Doom, Sandman, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus …”
“I have already seen and done more than most people will ever get to do in their whole lives.”
“And now I have one question, and I want you to think about this very carefully.”
“I want you to look my in the eye and I want you to tell me:”

“Do you want fries with that?”

Turn the page, and you discover Peter works at some shitty fast food joint.

I love this opener for its flow and build up, but even more for the attitude it suggests – and it’s something I can completely relate to. That feeling, that when you’re a teenager, you know everything, have done it all, yet you’re still subjected to adults looking down on you. Now, while Peter certainly has done it all, the scene still captures that vibe of “desired verification” from an adult audience by simply its setting. Peter’s out of the costume here. He’s on the job, looking like any plain slub who can work a cash register. No one sees how special he is, or how special he sees himself. He’s just on the job, doing what anyone could, in an environment where adults run the show. And that’s shown when an elderly woman confronts Peter’s manager, another adult, and falsely accuses him of being a smart ass. While falsely accused, the manger automatically assumes the old woman is in the right and degrades Peter without hearing anything Peter has to say.Because he’s a “kid.”

The writing here even backs a classic “Peter Parkerism” – you know, “Puny Parker. He’s nothing special.” It’s a sort of cast off line Stan Lee would write for Flash Thompson all the time, but it sort of comes along and lives in this scene, summing up a very real thought felt by many people in their teenage years.  That sensation of not being  understood and the desire for respect from those older than you.

But that’s one, specific example. Really, it’s a case of the first 6 issues as a whole. To sum it up, when read together, “The New World According to Peter Parker” just reads like a very solid pop super hero comic in which the youth perspective is at the forefront. Whether it’s simply being placed in a house full of 16-somethings as Aunt May continues to take in and house many of Peter’s friends or the high school relationship drama, the first six issues of Bendis and Lafuente’s run are all about a youthful aesthetic and voice. And it’s done. Well.

The antagonist of the first arc, Mysterio, even supports what the creators are after as the character is really one of the few adults shown in the story. His villainy, then, comes as no surprise. He’s that adult looking to crash the party and subject his creed on the kids. This thought eventually reaches its climax as Mysterio learns of Peter’s super hero secret and attacks him at his very school, suggesting no place is safe.

A fair criticism of the Mysterio plot line may be it’s seeming lack of motivation, but I felt the character’s unexplained presence actually supports the theory I’m implying. Mysterio, as the original Steve Ditko sprawl of fog and green latex, worked under a faceless guise, and such a tradition is carried over to this new vision of the character where facelessness works in favor of an unexplained origin or purpose. What we know is that the character’s a bad guy who wants Spider-man, or “Spider-boy” as he once refers to him as, dead, and that makes him scary. It’s not the reason for his villainy or his background. It’s the simple surface of the character’s guise which suggests a sensation of the unknown that makes him frightening, and it’s the idea of a faceless threat which suggests something untouchable. A greater projection of an idea – which is certainly something Mysterio usually concocts with his “super power.” What better way to represent the “evil” adults than a single, identity-free super villain who just happens to be one of the few adults in the story? Why not represent that in a character who’s more like a force than just a individual man? Of course he doesn’t need a motivation. He’s just an old man trying to ruin the youth’s fun.

So that’s really, kind of the first 6 issues. If I were to sum it up in one word, I’d go with immersion.

The latter half of the Bendis/Lafuente run is, however, not necessarily as solid. Instead, the plotting sort of suffers from a usual Bendis fault in which too many plot beats are stacked on top of one another. They’re not bad comics. The aesthetics still ride high and please the senses. The problem lies more in the structure of the plot, and because Bendis is determined to make so much happen, certain plot lines suffer and are lost in the mix. Name example, the Kitty Pryde stuff.

I like how Bendis brings Kitty into this incarnation of Ultimate Spider-man, and how he uses her to handle the entire ‘Mutants in the Ultimate Marvel Universe” thing. Her story really ends up representing another tried and true conflict felt in teenage wasteland, only her’s is a drastic extension of the thought I was on earlier with Peter Parker and the shitty fast food job: being misunderstood. Bendis’ writing of her and her situation call on the typical X-men story – mutants hated by the public – but he pivots the usual plot detail into a position where it resonates with the teen mantra of “the world doesn’t get me.” It’s a nice touch and well represented by Kitty’s new identity of  ‘The Shroud,’ where she literally is dressed head-to-toe in a cloak, hidden from the world.

When Bendis decides to really open up the Kitty can of worms though, he does it, brings the drama, but quickly sidetracks and moves onto something else. Which, I guess, in itself would be fine, but he does so in the midst of one story arc, after selling the reader on the Kitty plot line. “Tainted Love” starts out taking two issues to focus on the Kitty thing and by issue three dovetails into this out-of-no-where Chameleon plot. The comic gains this tangential sensation around this point, and the move sort of cheapens some of the importance placed on Kitty’s story. You know, by making it only a “plot mechanism” to plant the seeds for the Chameleon story. Which, eventually, proves to be a lesser, done-to-death story. Although, like the Mysterio stuff, Chameleon is another villain who’s identity is a question, continuing the theme from the first arc, yet only upping the ante when he robs Peter of his identity.

The real gold moment of “Tainted Love” comes with J. Jonah Jameson, though, who’s ever-passionate hatred of Spider-man comes to a head as he uncovers who Peter Parker really is. This scene illustrates the adult perspective and the teenage perspective colliding, or better yet, becoming one as both Peter and Jameson are in the same predicament. They’ve both had their identities hijacked by Chameleon, and they are both now tied up and held captive. There’s no separation. Neither one is better than the other. They’re just both drugged hostages seeing the world from the same, poorly lit room.

I wouldn’t say this run of Ultimate Spider-man comes to any conclusions by its finish. I didn’t receive any great speech or answer to any of life’s great questions. It’s not that kind of comic. Instead, these 15 issues crafted by the likes of Bendis, Lafuente and Ponsor, are more about setting a certain tone and letting a reader live in that. Immersion, or like I said at some point in this post, capturing the essence of the teenager. Which is what the core of Spider-man – all the way back to Ditko – is. And it’s what Ultimate Spider-man has always been about. The teenager.

Out of the three shifts, I’d call the “Lafuente Era” the ideal version of Ultimate Spider-man. While Bendis and Bagley captured the concept early on in their run, the work the team produced eventually piled up into a heaping mass that sort of negated what Ultimate Comics was about: continuity free tales. Granted, this run may continue that continuity plagued narrative, but in some ways the Bendis/Lafuente run feels like a reboot of Ultimate Spider-man. Any new reader could pick up Ultimate Spider-man here and get a complete – or semi-complete – picture. The voice is here. The core of the Spider-man concept is here. And the aesthetics are superb.

If I were to guess, when Bendis saw the chance to start over, you know,  post-Ultimatum, I think he took it – like really took it. Because this version of Ultimate Spider-man may be similar, but it’s also entirely different.

I feel David Lafuente made the difference. What he brought to the table changed this book, giving it this new, magical charm. His style, his line work – those things embody the spirit of Ultimate Spider-man. New, fresh, exciting, energized. That’s what Ultimate Comics was meant to be.

The “Lafuente Era” feels like the start of an entirely new title rather than some continuation of an 8 year plot, and I feel Bendis and Co. would have kept it going if not for the loud interruption known as “Death of Spider-man,” which, ultimately, left the end of this run somewhat unfinished and keeps it from existing as a complete, closed story.

That interruption is what I’ll write about next.

Next time: I go over “Death of Spider-man” in a much shorter blog post.

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #7

This is  a post of simple observations and thoughts. Objectivity may not apply.

quotes

“He has no idea what and who he is up against. What power he is taunting. Tell our friend Count Nefaria will see him now.”

– Count Nefaria

I dig this quote for its complete over confidence and classic super villain tone. The emphasize on one’s power as well as the use of the third person  makes this quote the arrogant asshole that it is. If anything, it bounces off the following quote quite nicely.

“God, I’m hard on myself.”

– Moon Knight (Marc Spector)

The scene leading up to this final deal sealer of a line exemplifies the lack of confidence Marc Spector has in himself. Marc’s personalized version of Wolverine delivers a few lines of tough encouragement to hopefully push Marc’s ass into action. It’s a nice showing of how Marc’s own mind or subconscious or whatever worries about the man’s ability to do the job. How much does that say?

issue specifics

The reveal of Count Nefaria obviously stands out as this issue’s main development. Too bad I know nothing about this guy, so I’m sure some of the assumed impact is lost on me. According to my buddy Joey Aulisio though, he’s a vital X-men bady. I’ll take his word for it.

Even without the context, I do find Nefaria an interesting reveal, and after some thought I feel his involvement works. Here’s why.

Count Nefaria exuberates confidence and a higher level of actual super powers. The quote above suggests such as does the mention in the comic of how the character has battled Thor and the Hulk. Some may say such a super power doesn’t belong in a street level character’s comic. Well, they’re wrong, especially in the case of this street level comic.

What point have I kept bringing up throughout every post I’ve done on this series? Marc Spector sucks as his job and lacks the ability to meet the standard of a super hero.

What’s more interesting that to pit a wannabee hero against a real deal, experienced super criminal?

I couldn’t think of a better test for the character. If anything, this L.A. Kingpin should only offer our protagonist a more personal conflict. The mission no longer means freeing and protecting L.A. It means overcoming a load of self-doubt along with that other stuff.

Nice going, Bendis and Maleev.

The self-aware Marc Spector I discussed last issue carries over into this one. Both the opening scene with Buck as well as the scene involving the above quote echo the development.

No further thoughts, really. It’s just nice to see I wasn’t off in my analysis. Although, it looks like Maya may have some confronting to do when you consider the ending of this issue.

Maleev turns in some excellent pages this issue, and Matt Hollingsworth, even though not the comic’s regular colorist, does a class act job filling in the white spaces. I love the sequence in which Snapdragon  communicates with the still hidden Count Nefaria. Just her in a dark room for 8 panels, but the red sears laid down by Hollingsworth amp up the tension.

I actually really dig the splash page of Moon Knight hammering Nefaria. I like the placement of Moon Knight on the page and how he falls on top of the Count. Plus, the cape wrapping around the bottom right corner of the page is a nice touch.

Speaking of the fight, I dig that Marc kind of has his moment as he dampens Nefaria’s powers, but then progresses to fuck up everything and allow the character to escape. It’s what the character would do.

Buck’s reason for crossing Marc comes off as a lackluster reveal. I was looking for something complex and tangled, but really the reason was very predictable. But, hey, it’s logical. I can’t discredit Bendis too much for that.

series thoughts

People probably complained and set fire to cars because this first arc lasted 7 issues, but I say the pacing felt right. I’m sure someone also considers these 7 issues complete setup, and yes, they are, but in reality these first 7 issues provide us the right amount of time to sink into this narrative. 7 issues weren’t necessary, but I like Bendis’ choice to dabble around. The pacing put me into the character’s head as well as suggested Bendis’ focus. I needed that, especially when this series is all about Marc Spector’s psyche.

Come back here, to this blog, for issue #8.

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #6

This is  a post of simple observations and thoughts. Objectivity may not apply.

the quote

“What you need to do is allow yourself time to acclimate back to who you really are.”

-Marc Spector

I enjoy the fact Marc says this to Maya. It’s somewhat ironic, but the line also suggests the self-awareness Spector possesses. He knows he can get lost in the head trip that is his life.

But, of course, the line relates to the larger idea this issue of Moon Knight is after. Being you.

issue specifics

A moment in this comic actually forced me to go, “oh, shit.” The spread across the tops of pages 15 and 16. The personalities meet. Three in full uniform. One in his birthday suit. “Moon Knight” is all that’s spoken.

I’m speaking of course of the Avengers scene placed at the comic’s conclusion.

I’ve discussed over and over how Moon Knight offers multiple examples of the character’s identity crisis. Well, this issue, we witness the partial accumulation of the crisis and dive into an unspoken intervention. Is this the actual, full on stare down of the conflict? Considering this is issue 6 of an ongoing comic book series, I kind of doubt it, but the book clearly contains a moment of realization and slight stand off which points toward an idea of a resolution. Am I making any sense?

 So the Avengers show up at Marc’s crib (kids still say crib, right?), and like the talented pros they are, Maleev and Bendis execute a solid transition to move us into the scene. And I type Maleev’s name first because, well, the dude drew it. Bendis probably indicated of such a transition in his script, but Maleev provides the full front execution.

We flip the page and peer over Marc’s bare shoulder toward the figures of Captain America, Spider-man and Wolverine. It’s a moment where we’re at first unsure whether these icons are within Marc’s mind, casually visiting once again as they seem to do, but as the scene progresses its apparent this Cap, Spidey and Wolverine are the true flesh and bone.  

Then Marc precedes to flip his shit while the icons stare blankly and have no clue. They’re just there. It’s comical in a way.  

Marc’s right to flip out, though. The move really makes a lot of sense. He’s viewing the truth of the matter. Cap, Spidey and Wolverine exist beyond him. He is not them. What’s even better is the state in which Marc lives this scene. The dude’s pretty much without clothes. Now, before you make any assumptions of my personal life, hear me out. This comic has a weird baptism theme going on. Earlier in the book, we spend a scene with Spector in the shower, and Maleev clearly emphasizes the blood and grime of Marc’s previous adventure washing down the drain. The scene is about cleansing the character, and through a progression to build up the moment of truth, he precedes to step out of the shower, deliver the above quote to Maya and then freak as the Avengers appear.

The nude aspect works similarly to Miller’s technique in Born Again. The hero lies within the man. The costume only works as dressing around the hero. And in Marc’s scenario, the costume clouds his judgment, but stripped down, against a visual representation of himself, the character experiences a moment of clarity.

The reveal/semi-reveal/not-reveal of the L.A. Kingpin did not work for me. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to recognize him or not. The scene just plays oddly. Usually, when the big bad lays hidden for a later surprise, the comic tends to keep him in the shadows. But here, in issue 6, I’m seeing this guy’s full figure, and I am witnessing him take people out. The character becomes active this issue simply via his actions in the scene, but Bendis and Maleev never make it clear as to what I am supposed to gather from this showing.

Buck ratting out Marc … I’m still considering this one. I feel the narrative hasn’t yet given me enough to judge what exactly is going on here. We’re only seeing the character in small increments, but I feel the action mostly comes from a genuine place. The dinner/date scene from issue 5 probably relates to Buck’s motivations for making the call to S.H.I.E.L.D. That shit raised suspicions.

I’m typed out. Issue #7 = round the corner.

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Thoughts: Moon Knight #5

This is  a post of simple observations and thoughts. Objectivity may not apply.

the quote

This line sums up the issue:

“The lack of control for a guy like me. The randomness of it all. I needed to be the master of my universe.”

– Detective Hall

And it’s delivered by a supporting cast member whom we’ll likely consider just another cop in a super hero comic. Detective Hall hates super powered “crap” as he puts it. The phenomenon disrupts his day and makes his job as cop just a tad bit harder. Though he seems to simply be complaining, Hall does speak a fair amount of truth with his statement. At least, truth for Marc Spector’s character.

series thoughts

I’ve focused mainly on Marc Spector’s psyche in my discussion of the Bendis run, and I don’t really see my focus changing anytime soon.  Like most Moon Knight comics, the book appears to be shaping into another long form study of the character, but I’m giving Bendis some credit because I actually feel he’s taking this misbegotten property into new territory. That’s what really hit me this issue. Moon Knight, besides the here-and-there use of the Avengers cast, is riffing on a fairly new set of components.Whether it’s the setting, supporting cast, or protagonists themselves, this Marvel comic contains an actual bit of world building. And you can feel it. How? Through the simple fact the focus is on a pair of characters you rarely ever read about.

Whether this series runs 50 or 11 issues (which is quite possible when you consider the sales chart), I believe at its end it’ll be safe to say Bendis and Maleev made a legitimate contribution to Moon Knight. So far the series has done a solid job of echoing the character’s known core, but both artists have taken the steps to actually expand upon the concept. We need to remember that Doug Moench’s baby still has plenty of room to grow. Besides Charlie Huston’s first 6 issues, the character hasn’t been developed much at all since the original 80s series. Spector’s just been stuck in a vacuum … left untouched because the character’s been easily labeled Marvel’s Batman. Bendis and Maleev, though  … these dudes see the possibilities, and like the Marvel Universe’s west coast, they see this character as an underdeveloped frontier.

issue specifics

When Hall says super heroes only create confusion and inhibit control, the character really comments on Marc Spector’s condition. I noted in my first post about the series that Bendis took the character’s usual roster of 3 faces and multiplied it by 2 – making Spector the owner of 6 personalities. Up unto this point though, we’ve only known Spector as a TV producer type. We know he wears a costume, but we haven’t seen it; the costume has had little involvement. But now we get to actually see .

Issue 5 dedicates half of its pages to examples of failed super heroics. First, Spector completely goes against local law enforcement and starts a small riot. Second, he abandons his woman of interest as well as partner in order to get to safety. Third, Spector takes several punches to the face when the typical trope would involve a passionate make out session. Three solid instances in which we are exposed to Marc failing as Moon Knight. Three pure instances of induced confusion.

And that’s what it all goes back to, really. Confusion  –  a one word diagnosis of Marc Spector.

“The lack of control for a guy like me.” “I needed to be the master of my own universe.”

That’s Marc Spector’s conflict and motivation broken down into two lines. Super heroes remove the order from his life, but he can only achieve superiority and individuality with them. Let the internal conflict fly. And, think, Bendis hasn’t even dropped Spector’s own personal god Khonshu into the equation yet. When that happens … all bets are off.

I love how Maleev draws Moon Knight’s face under the cowl.  The white eye slits amidst all the black comes off as very abstract. The face itself even seems to move a bit due to a suggested Rorschach quality.I mean, it makes sense. The book is all about shifting identities.

The entire issue shows off a lot of Maleev’s skill as a storyteller. The art here completely removes any notion of his work being stiff. Rather, it’s fluid. The fights move. Pages offer various panel distinctions. I even simply like how Maleev illustrates the character getting around town, whether its via his glider cape or surfing on car tops. Paired with colorist Matthew Wilson, Maleev creates a vibrant, visually striking Moon Knight comic not seen since Sienkiewicz.

I do like that Maya punches Marc in the face. It proves the character’s missteps, but also gives their relationship an interesting dynamic. Once was enough, though. I faced an issue with just how many times she hits him. Not that I find it offensive. And, man, Maleev illustrates the sequence in brutal fashion. I just found it pointless. One, single fist to the face conveyed the point. Repetition only hit the point over the audience’s head. A misstep.

For a guy who created a super hero/crime comic, the interrogation scene was a nice return to form for Bendis, and the scene shows he still has it in him to create a poorly lite, tense back and forth. Maleev draws the talking heads in exciting fashion, and I like how the addition of a simple brick wall really cements the atmosphere.

….

That’s all I have. Issue #5 … in the books.

 

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The TW Review – Moon Knight #4 – And Marc Spector goes on a date …

So I’m an issue behind? Big deal. Real life caught up with me, and the internet hit the way side. Oh well. I’m back (at least for this post), and I want to communicate my thoughts and feelings on this issue of the Brian Bendis/Alex Maleev Moon Knight series.

Marc Spector goes on a date with Maya Lopez this issue. They experience the conventional first date awkwardness. Spector attempts to sound like smooth talking Philip Marlowe. There’s some real talk after the failed smooth talk. Spector and Lopez engage in post-date action (interpret action however you wish).

The end.

This issue read fairly fast. I’m not stating such to mark the comic with a negative criticism. I, in fact, sometimes enjoy Bendis’ quick, “decompressed” issues that so many people seem to criticize. Granted, those light issues are the only narrative installment for an entire month, but I can live with quick bursts every so often. Not every single issue needs the seemingly demanded 200 word balloons or heavy plot. Every instance of a narrative, if we are to understand narrative as a living, breathing organism, is not long and padded. At some point the story, like life, slows down and meanders without dialogue or revelations and just skips along, leaving moments how they are.

I’m probably depicting this comic as some sort of avant garde, subtle display when it’s not. Remember, it’s a Bendis Marvel Comic. It’s a good comic, but in no ways artistically dramatic.

I’m just romanticizing quick, light comic book issues because that’s what I do, and even though it’s light, Moon Knight #4 still pulls off an interesting, complete thought.

Reading this issue, I recall the DVD extras of the Daredevil film. I think back to watching the “Men Without Fear” documentary, you know, the one where every worthwhile Daredevil creator – minus Steve Gerber – is interviewed, and I remember how Frank Miller commented on super hero sex and his portrayal of such through Matt Murdock and Elektra.

Miller used the classic Daredevil love story to express costume intimacy via the comic book fights we are all accustomed to. Hell’s Kitchen stood in for DD and Elektra’s bed room, and kicks and bounds marked each and every sexual move. Miller put super hero sex on the page but disguised it in a way that was culturally acceptable (not like this shit that happened last week). This same idea leaks its way into Moon Knight #4 via the end of the issue. Alex Maleev takes the circumstance of the book, the main sequence being the date between Spector and Lopez, and turns a climactic fight sequence into a post-date hook up, playing off of the cliche super hero team-up. His display of the battle feels like an intimate moment between Maya and Marc. It’s the first team-up, and both characters are partners in this rage against evil.

This single fight feels like an extension of what is to come. Marc Spector and Maya Lopez. Two nobodies on the west coast, alone, facing a great threat to the Marvel U.

But the depiction of super hero relationships is  not as smooth and sexy as Miller’s because Bendis keeps in mind Marc Spector’s flaw of character – he’s not the real deal.

Like any classic Brian Michael Bendis comic book scene, Spector and Maya Lopez have a conversation. Around this conversation, Bendis deploys something you’d easily see in a high school set teen movie: gossip. Avengers and Marc Spector’s head-friendlies appear, and Bendis has them act as a social panel to characterize our love birds as nobodies. It’s the super hero version of a 90s teen movie where the cool kids discuss the awkward “romances” of the dorks. I love it.

Because Marc Spector is the dork of the super hero community. As I’ve discussed before, Spector plays hero; he’s not actually a hero. Bendis uses that flaw to bring the character down to a amusing level by making him the loser of the Marvel U, and he now has a nice “girlfriend” in tow.

Then there’s the scene itself.

Like any situation, you cannot entirely trust hearsay in order to judge a person. We may understand Maya and Marc as nobodies before the scene, but Bendis sort of brings us back to believing in these characters via the date. It’s a very humanizing scene that starts off awkward yet evolves to cute. Spector flirts with his lady friend in a style I find familiar, and then carries on into a simulated, smooth talking act as he tries to find answers to the case he’s working. Once the mystery man thing fails, Spector stops himself and the real characters come out.

I love the dialogue Bendis plants here.

Marc: ” Let’s just cut the sass down and have a real conversation.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice, if two people who do what we do had a real conversation?”

Only two word balloons but they sum up so much of Bendis’ Marvel career.

But it’s also just a nice scene for the simple fact that it gets right what a date between two people should be. One half act, or presentation to attract, another half heart-to-heart. Bendis boils down the halves of an entire date to two pages. Decompression what?

What I’m trying to say is … I love how this issue cures Marc Spector of his loneliness. Granted, dude’s fictional. I shouldn’t give a single shit whether he’s lonely or not. But there’s something nice about the way Bendis has paired the character with somebody on his level. Marlene, Spector’s previous leading lady, was fine and interesting in her own right, but Maya makes a lot of sense to me. She’s underdeveloped, similar to Moon Knight, and she’s typecast. People know her as the deaf Avenger. Same with Marc Spector. He’s “crazy Moon Knight.” The character’s been subject to his own identity flaw in recent years – both in fictional awareness and in online comics culture.

I like that Spector now has an equal, and the series’ cast has a new, solid, unexpected addition. Bendis and Maleev have crafted a solid issue here. It sells the thought that even the losers can find companionship.

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The TW Review – Marc Spector: producer, maniac, pimp

Yeah, let’s do this again.

For those who read the previous “TW Review” post, I teased of two reviews. Not happening. I had too much to say about the subject below, and honestly I can come back to the other book at another time. Carry on.

Moon Knight #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Artists: Alex Maleev, Matt Wilson, Cory Petit

Marc Spector wanders between many faces. That’s the character. He exemplifies the “super hero” who lacks the skill of decision making as well as the shell trying to morph its inner contents. Moon Knight gives home to any reader struggling with the concept of identity. Any poor sap unsure of what direction he or she wants to go in can relate to the Macabre Moon Knight, especially those less than satisfied with who they actually are.

Which, really, should strike a chord with us all.

Brian Michael Bendis snapped the reigns on the agent of jet and silver three months ago, taking over a character whose seen more than a fair share of failed creative attempts. Which has been a shame. Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz crafted some wonderful comics with this character, and ever since Marvel has only published sludge for Moon Knight to star in. I’d argue the presence of some favorable bits in Charlie Huston’s run 0f 2006, but really Marvel, and the numerous creators involved, have only degraded Moon Knight’s status from subject of prestigious work to pulp joke.

The Bendis/Maleev direction appears willing to return Moon Knight to some sort of pedestal. The new found title sits ready to reclaim the glory of last decade’s Daredevil run. A book concerned with drama, street level focus, and character study. The Bendis/Maleev comic seems ready to further develop Marc Spector rather than play him as a poor man’s Batman.

It’s odd that I am only now discussing or reviewing this book. Besides Greg Bergas, I’m probably the most vocal Moon Knight guy online. I’m unsure what that says about me, that you know, Moon Knight is my peak of vocality , but so be it. Months before the release of Bendis/Maleev Moon Knight you, doubtfully, couldn’t shut me up. The news came as a blitzkrieg. The potential of Marvel Comics shined bright and friendly once again. My old stacks of MK comics found new attention. Hell, I even made big plans for this blog in the department of content.

I was all over this book and ready to read. Then it came out.

So why the clam up? The first issue gave me nothing new. Every bit of plot and concept that Marvel PR tossed to the media made it into the first issue yet nothing else. I knew going in that Marc Spector now possessed three new identities, and this concept turned out to be the big “reveal” of the series premiere. The cliffhanger shot or the pace setting issue Bendis holds such a reputation for failed terribly in my eyes.

To be fair, Bendis provided warning in the book’s prior months of marketing. I forget the exact quote, but he spoke out saying most comics give their all in the first issue, and after that they sort of trail off and no one ever talks about them again. A point which stands as totally correct. This era of comics revolves around first issue buzz. No one shows concern for issue #7 or discusses series on issue-to-issue protocol. A mission to bring back to style the issue-to-issue narrative felt like a bold one – another reason why I was so stoked for this new comic.

Still, a certain vibe was attained with the actual reading. Seeing the not-so-new, new first issue in print quelled my excitement. I understood the writer’s need not to blow the load out of the gate, but I would have liked some sort of tease or battle cry rather than a lame “yeah, you know.” It’s always nice to stand up and clap when you’re the audience, but instead Moon Knight #1 conveyed a feeling of “well, I guess we have to get this into the actual comic so it matters, huh?”.

I enjoyed #1 fair enough, but it never made me shout with glee. In my storm of reading though, I’ve caught up on the new Bendis/Maleev project. I now emote glee.

So, yeah, that’s all context for the next two paragraphs or so of review. Oh well. Issue #3!

Bendis showcases how well he can write the character in this issue. Like most Bendis comics, the plot doesn’t stretch far but that’s OK. Instead, Bendis uses extended moments to document Spector’s interactions while also setting up a supporting cast. This comic is a good example of the term we know as “decompression.” Not that it’s really decompressed, necessarily. Plot movement falls short, but the comic never wastes any time – which seems to be the main idea of “decompression.” No, instead Bendis uses decompressed story telling the way Ellis and Hitch intended it. Extended moments shine light on intimate details and highlight character ticks we will want to know. The comic gives us a close look at the newly reformed Marc Spector a.k.a. Moon Knight.

Wolverine, Spider-man, and Captain America certainly work within Spector’s newly forged system of multiple personalities, but remember, Spector’s working the west coast and strutting his stuff as a TV producer. The man has a day job, and Bendis uses the day job as a backdrop to further explore Spector’s psyche.  Issue #3 opens with a scene cast straight from Tarantino’s True Romance with Spector whizzing his way up the Californian coastline in a convertible.  On the way, Maleev makes point to detail the character’s wardrobe, and Bendis creates a scene of flirtation between Spector and one Maya Lopez (whom Spector spent the night with). The comic rolls along until Spector arrives on the set of his big, new television show. Words are shared with his assistant, and we are even privy in Spector’s work day as he actually shows concern for producing a well-crafted production. Then things turn dark. Bendis writes a flashback to show Spector’s hiring of an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Purpose? Sidekick or partner of some kind. To fully trust a partner though, Spector pushes this agent through an unnatural test. Spector tortures the man while dressed as the less than kind Bullseye. Why? To see if this potential partner spills any beans on his possible employer. The scene ends, and the ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. speaks, “man, how crazy are you?”.

The issue revolves completely around the concept of identity, or more specifically the different kinds of roles we play in our everyday lives. While that is familiarly a Brubaker theme, Bendis knows how to make it his own with his portrayal of character. Spector works as a Hollywood hotshot, but that includes many things. In this case, television producer equals working man, pimp (as in ladies man not the traditional definition), and maniac. Spector becomes Bendis’s filter for Hollywood stereotype. He represents the ideas of corporate art we all dream of. The rock star playboy comes out with Maya. The power hungry, coked-up suit plays when the lights are turned down. In the middle, a working man presents passion for his project.

Boom, boom, and boom. The issue rolls out each identity, each person, very well by way of smooth pacing. Each segment just flows right into the next.

It’s a solid way to keep to the character’s core while also providing some sense of relevancy to our world. In the day and age of super hero movies, it makes a lot of sense for a super hero to comment on Hollywood. There’s also that matter of Bendis currently developing his own television series. I’d like to think Spector’s time as a TV producer provides some sort of personal expression of Bendis’s new found experiences.  Art reflecting life seems appropriate in this situation, especially if Bendis currently suffers his own identity crisis. I’m afraid only he knows that.

Of course, the separation of roles works just as well for the fictional character as it does the real world. Oddly enough, the three roles presented in this issue match up with Spector’s original trio of masks. The pimp, the playboy totally belongs to Spector’s Steven Grant persona – the millionaire, Bruce Wayne-type who wore the hot blonde on his arm. The working man goes to taxi driver Jake Lockley, and the maniac is right up the alley of Marc Spector the loose cannon mercenary.

What Bendis has done is taken Spector’s original three personae and multiplied it by two. There are three heroes, and there are three Marc Spectors. Just like us who work within one name yet act like different people within different situations, Spector now experiences the same. While he may appear slightly more stable, Spector is in all honesty more fucked up than ever. Doubt me? The dude holds 6 personalities to his name.

And this is the guy with the head of Ultron, working the case of the West Coast Kingpin. Bendis has me by the nuts.

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