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Bad Moon Rising

 

Moon Knight: The Bottom

Charlie Huston, David Finch

Marvel, 2006

Rating: 3.8

 

Posted: January 20, 2007

By Kevin Forest Moreau

How do you revive a low-selling character who's never quite lived up to his potential? If you're Frank Miller, perhaps you goose your character's backstory -- maybe throw in some ninjas and a statuesque, deadly love interest. But what if your guy's backstory is already, er, complex enough? What if he worships the Egyptian god of vengeance, and courts a serious mental breakdown by splitting his time between three different alter egos? What if his resume is so spotty it includes an oil-and-water stint in the West Coast Avengers, of all groups? In short, what if he's the nocturnal wraith known as Moon Knight?

Well, if you're Charlie Huston, an up-and-coming novelist known for gritty, pulp-y works filled with mobsters and vampires, you go with what you know: brutal characterization and concrete-hard, consequence-heavy action. You strip the character of everything that matters to him -- his friends, his physicality and, most important, his mission. You break him. And then -- then you piss him off, as a sinister cabal known as the Committee does when it hospitalizes his longtime pilot and aide de camp Frenchie. You throw a deadly combatant -- like, say, the Taskmaster, with the ability to mimic the fighting styles of everyone from Captain America to Wolverine -- at your hero for good measure. And to top it all off, you make those last two the work of a freelance profiler who prides himself on what seems to be a mutant ability to instantly and accurately "read" other people -- including, apparently, people as mentally unstable as Moon Knight seems to be.

Oh, yeah, about that: You'd probably also want to delve into your character's muddled mental state while you're at it -- don't forget, not only is Moon Knight the former mercenary named Marc Spector, he's also done time as millionaire Steven Grant and cabbie Jake Lockley, all in the service of Khonshu, the aforementioned god of vengeance (and the moon) who brought him back from death to act as his instrument of retribution. Yeah, of course it sounds crazy; so you play that up. Is Spector really doing the bidding of an ancient deity? Or is he just an insane vigilante with serious delusions?

So far, so good: Now what you really need is a hot young artist to add the right amount of gritty atmosphere (with a little help from colorist Frank D'Armata). David Finch (New Avengers) is a good choice, except that every now and then, all that grit and atmosphere (not to mention confusing layouts) obscure the action, so that what is otherwise a smooth ride hits a speed bump as you slow down to try to piece together what's going on. Ah, well -- you win some, you lose some. Luckily, that's not a fatal flaw, and the resulting premiere story arc proves appropriately visceral and compelling.

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