Azn Badger's Blog

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Moon Knight’s Shot At The Big Time

Awhile back, I wrote a loving tribute to the delightfully insane D-list Marvel comics hero, Moon Knight.

As a minor member of Marvel’s “street level” crimefighting fraternity, Moon Knight spent most of his career viewed as a Batman rip-off with tonal discrepancies in his various incarnations, as well as some palpable identity issues.

It probably doesn’t help that the character of Moon Knight has often been written as possessing multiple personality disorder.

The point is, Moon Knight has never really been a major player in the Marvel universe.

 

Not like Puck. Puck's a fuckin' baller...

As a New York based crimefighter, he shares turf with Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and a host of other, more powerful and better known characters.

Sadly, team-ups involving Moon Knight having his book “invaded” by the aforementioned A-listers, have been kind of the norm in the world of Moon Knight, a plot device that, in my opinion; basically means that Marvel has never had enough confidence in the character to allow him to succeed on his own.

That being said, Moon Knight has not been without his moments, particularly within the past decade.

I know I used it before, but this was just so fuckin' awesome...

About 5-6 years ago, author Charlie Huston and artist David Finch managed to breath new life into the Moon Knight character by boosting the R-rated content of his story arcs, and playing on the character’s innumerable inner conflicts by having him struggle with his subconscious in a fashion aping the brilliance of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London.

It represented a major high-point for the character, (or low, if you’re going by the actual content of the storyline) and one that would serve as my formal jumping on point to the Moon Knight bandwagon.

Following Huston’s departure though, Moon Knight would once again fade into relative obscurity, sitting out of most of the major event comics for several years to come; and playing host to storylines that were good, but nowhere near the level of quality that Huston established with his first few stories.

Once the Moon Knight series of the early 2000’s came to a close though, with the “death” of one of Moon Knight’s multiple personalities; things picked up again for another high.

 

Towards the close of the Dark Reign era of Marvel comics, Moon Knight was thrown back onto the shelves with a brand new, more PG-13 image, and a new series entitled Vengeance of the Moon Knight.

 

Motorcycles make anyone look cool...

Said “Vengeance” referred to Moon Knight supposedly seeking to avenge his previous “death” as ordered by Norman Osborn.

Being as Norman Osborn was and always will be a top-tier supervillain, with God knows how many nemeses; the chances of Moon Knight successfully taking him out were approximately 3,720 to 1, however that didn’t stop me from reading the story and loving it.

Featuring a host of some of the better villains in Moon Knight’s rogues gallery, including a newly resurrected Bushman AKA Moonies’ arch nemesis; the story was exceptionally well written by Gregg Hurwitz, as well as brilliantly illustrated by the uber talented Jerome Opena.

 

Not the most relevant of pics, but hey; I don't need a reason to showcase an instance of scarecrow punching.

As seems to be the norm for the ‘ole white knight though, the second arc in the series could barely hold a candle to the first.

Hurwitz remained on board as writer, but Opena jumped ship; and with good reason.

The initial outburst of energy brought on by the new direction of the series faded away, replaced by tedium and, you guessed it; guest appearances from characters like Deadpool.

 

That's right, get your own comic! No wait, he's already got like 6...

While I like Deadpool as much as the next 20-something year old comic fan, (provided he’s got a good writer backing him) his appearance in other character’s books is often a good indication of them having lost their way.

While that series petered out and was cancelled, most likely for the best; Marvel would end up giving Moonie another chance in the form of a spot on the newly formed Secret Avengers team as headed by Steve Rogers AKA Captain America.

From what I’ve heard, that series has been going strong since it’s inception last year, however both Moon Knight and Nova (another hero that doesn’t get enough spotlight) have reportedly served as little more than window dressing.

While Moon Knight has served time on Avengers teams before, this marks the first official team-up I can recall the character engaging in within my lifetime.

It’s bold moves like this that remind me Marvel has yet to lose faith in their crazy white knight.

Given that Mike Deodato is illustrating Secret Avengers, you can bet I’ll be picking it up as soon as it comes out in trade form.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Moon Knight also played minor role in the street level superhero crossover, Shadowland; however I’ve heard nothing but bad about that series, so I’m just going to plead ignorance and gloss over that particularly nasty bit of history…

 

Aw... Sleepy kitty!

Now that the history lesson’s over, we can finally get to the new business of Moon Knight.

Just a few days ago, it was announced that famed comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, as well as the terrific penciller Alex Maleev; would be taking the reigns on a new Moon Knight series beginning this May.

While his writing style can often be immature, and his stories don’t always come together all that cleanly, few can argue that Bendis is one of the best dialogue writers in the business, with an ability to capture character’s voices that is nigh unmatched.

Maleev is not slouch either, with a sharp, moody, and wholly dynamic art style, as well as a host of credits on various Avengers comics and an extended run on Bendis’ critically acclaimed Daredevil series.

 

Yeah, I'd say Mr. Maleev knows what he's doing...

From what I’ve read, the premise that the team is working from, is one that once again plays off of Moon Knight’s multiple personality disorder.

Taking into account Moon Knight’s current status as a Secret Avengers member, Bendis plans on having the character’s personality issues manifest in the form of taking on the behavior and personalities of his teammates.

In essence, the idea is that Moon Knight’s inherent insanity and unpredictably will be turned up to 11 in this series, with him assuming the characteristics of heroes like Wolverine, Spider-Man, and presumably Captain America based on the promotional image at the beginning of this article.

While this sounds a little tongue-in-cheek for my tastes, I can’t deny that the idea of a man running around thinking he’s indestructible, or thinking that he comes from the mythical kingdom of Asgard; will probably make for a fun read.

Assigning Bendis to write a Moon Knight series will grant the character unparalleled exposure and presence among casual comic book fans, a luxury that few D-list heroes ever get to experience, regardless of the breadth of publishing history they may possess.

Given the character’s questionable track record thus far, I don’t doubt that the series could indeed flop; however with such big names attached, I’m nothing if not hopeful for it’s success.

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Luthor Review

What the fuck kinda' 'roids is Superman on in is picture?...

Let me just start this review off by making it clear that I’m not all that familiar with Brian Azzarello’s writing.

My brother has told me (on numerous occasions) that I’d probably enjoy 100 Bullets, but to date I have yet to crack open an issue.

My only firsthand experience I have in reading Azzarello’s work, was his and artist Lee Bermejo’s more recent graphic novel, Joker.

I was deeply impressed with Joker.

From a visual standpoint, Bermejo’s painting and pencils served to give the story a striking, cohesive, and altogether unique look that in many ways make it one of the handsomest comics on the stands.

More importantly though, the writing was strong throughout.

The dialogue was sharp, with all the various character’s “voices” and diction coming across in the text boxes as if they were being read aloud by the cast members themselves.

The one aspect of the storytelling that really made it all work though, was the decision to cast an associate of the Joker’s, Johnny Frost; as both the narrator and main character.

Writing from the Joker’s perspective is one of those things that requires an insanely talented writer, either that or it’s just plain impossible.

The character is simply too impulsive, crazy, and altogether unpredictable, to the point in which reading his thoughts would probably as difficult a struggle as the process of writing them.

By using Johnny Frost as our ambassador into the Joker’s world however, Azzarello effectively gave us a ground level look at the seedier denizens of Gotham city; all while avoiding any of the confusion that may have resulted from trying to get inside their heads.

For Luthor however, Azzarello; once again teamed with Bermejo, chose to cast Lex Luthor as both the narrator and central character.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, this didn’t settle with me.

Lex Luthor is not really one of my favorite characters in the DC universe.

Most of the Superman stories I’ve enjoyed over the years barely included Luthor, and for the most part I think of him as a character that is doomed to be portrayed in the same fashion over and over and over again.

The Joker lends writers a degree of flexibility that makes him an intriguing figure to explore.

Sometimes he’s batshit crazy, sometimes he’s surprisingly lucid, sometimes he kills people with fish.

He’s a playground of insanity that writers are free to play around in and add to on a whim.

Lex Luthor however, is kind of one note.

He hates Superman, he’s rich as fuck, he has an ego, and occasionally he has goofy homoerotic moments with Supes that most of us would probably prefer to forget.

Outside of a brief stint as a red-head with an Australian accent, the only real difference between Luthors that I’ve read, is that sometimes he wears power armor, and sometimes he wears a power tie.

The version we get in Azzarello’s Luthor, is of course of the power tie variety.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the contrary, I prefer power tie Luthor.

What I don’t particularly like about the Luthor featured in, uh, Luthor; is the fact that despite the whole story being presented through his thoughts, he never really develops a clear voice.

Luthor’s voice in Luthor is written using vocabulary and pacing that is meant to appeal to the reader as being provocative and “deep.”

Sadly, as I made it through the first few chapters of Luthor, I became disenchanted with Luthor’s supposedly “heady” ruminations.

While I won’t post any spoilers here, the basic plot of Luthor involves Lex Luthor enacting a plot to eclipse the fame of, and potentially deface the heroism of the alien being known as Superman.

Using a variety of seedy connections, and equally seedy methods, Luthor establishes his own brand new defender of Metropolis, a super-woman named Hope, making a media darling of her in the process.

Long story short, Hope stands as a living metaphor for Lex Luthor’s aspirations, Superman fights Batman (briefly), and Lex Luthor whines and schemes for 90% of the book.

Luthor isn’t a bad story, nor is the writing anything less than average; my main issue with the whole thing is the fact that the center of the plot, our vehicle by which we explore the entire universe Azzarello has created for his story, is just not all that interesting to read.

Far be it from me to demand outstandingly cerebral writing and plotlines from my comic books, but I found Luthor’s voice to be more tedious than “deep.”

Tedious, and redundant, most likely due to the story’s original publication as a series of issues as opposed to a graphic novel format.

It’s funny though, most of the dialogue and storytelling outside of the stuff coming directly from Luthor’s brain and mouth is pretty solid.

In particular, Azzarello’s playboy-to-the-extreme version of Bruce Wayne is fun to read, and wholly believable given the way he is presented to us.

Much like Batman in Azzarello’s more recent Joker graphic novel, Superman and Clark Kent have almost no physical presence in the story.

In both stories, the characters are spoken of, hinted at, but rarely seen; giving them a sense omniscience and menace uncommon to both characters.

While the story is told from Luthor’s perspective, and it indeed makes sense to do so, I found myself smirking at the sight of Lee Bermejo’s flame-eyed and uber-pissed Superman.

Go ahead and call it blasphemy, but I’m one of those guys that still thinks of Christopher Reeve whenever he pictures Superman.

Seeing Superman portrayed as a total beast of superhero is both a striking visual, and a unique perspective on the character, but personally; I just couldn’t take it as seriously as I did in the case of Batman in Joker.

You look up badass in the dictionary, and I’m sure you’ll find an image of Lee Bermejo’s rendering of Batman from Joker.

Speaking of Lee Bermejo, his art is just as fantastic, if not moreso than was the case in Joker.

Bearing a borderline photorealistic style, Bermejo’s greatest panels are the ones that are painted.

In the case of both books, Bermejo painted a large number of the panels, however the ratio seems to be somewhat higher in Luthor, most likely a result of it’s gradual release schedule as opposed to the “all-at-once” format of Joker.

While I favor the creativity in the design, and the darker color palette of Joker, Bermejo’s renderings of the towering skyscrapers of Metropolis, and it’s delightfully fashionable citizens are still some of the best comic art around.

Additional kudos to colorist Dave Stewart, as some of the weather phenomena and night scenes really stand out thanks to his work.

While his angles and panel layouts may not be the most intricate or unique, Bermejo’s character art is his strength, and Azzarello wisely keeps his story grounded so as to allow his artist to shine.

Anyway, I really don’t know where I’m going with this review anymore.

Like I said, Luthor is a pretty enjoyable story, particularly if you happen to like Lex Luthor as a character; (I don’t…) but bear in mind there are some pretty heavy-handed (and redundant) metaphors, as well as some instances of “big words for the sake of big words” that you’ll have to get past to find said enjoyment.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ll try before you buy unlike I did!

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Guest Review Over At Collected Editions!

The Collected Editions logo in all it's glory.

Wowee, lucky me!

Last month, the webmaster of a blog I frequent, Collected Editions; put out a request for guest comic book reviews for the month of November.

Being as I have been reading Collected Editions for quite some time, I jumped at the opportunity to contribute in some way.

At the time I had just finished reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Dark Avengers Vol. 1, Assemble; so with it fresh in my mind, I set out to write a review on it.

It took some doing, but I think I managed to write an article that measures up to the standard of quality that one would expect from a Collected Editions post.

While I’m on the topic, I’d like to thank the webmaster of Collected Editions for requiring me to edit and revise my writing.

Since I started this blog, I’ve been forced to self-edit my work; meaning I’ve pretty much stopped editing altogether.

You hear that Lucas!? STOP. EDITING.

It felt good to get a jab from someone telling me:

“Nice job, but you’re better than this.  Try harder.”

Thanks again.

Anyway, I’m guessing it would be in bad taste to re-post my guest review here, so instead I’ll just throw you guys a link:

LINK

Thanks for reading, and thank you again Collected Editions for hosting my work!

 

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