Archive for Moon Knight

Holiday Gift Bag: New (and Cheap!) Trade Paperbacks

We’re getting mighty close to Christmas, but there’s still time for some more gift recommendations for the comic book lover in your life.

Today, we’re going to talk about three different comics that I’ve already reviewed multiple times (click on the links at the bottom of this post if you want to see my more in-depth reviews of each issue) — but they’re now out in trade paperbacks, there’s a decent chance they’ll still be available in your local comics shop for you last-minute shoppers, and they’ll make great gifts for any comics fan who hasn’t yet gotten to enjoy the series.

First, there’s Moon Knight: From the Dead, by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.


Ellis and Shalvey’s much-too-short run on the series produced one of the best superhero comics of the past year, as Marc Spector takes on military cyborgs, snipers, killer psychotrobic mushrooms, punk rock ghosts, and more, all wearing amazing all-white costumes — standard superhero costumes, suits and ties, magical bone armor.

The art and storytelling here are simply amazing. You get six done-in-one stories, beautifully illustrated, gloriously colored, fantastically action-packed. Almost every issue Ellis and Shalvey produced could be nominated for awards — and should be — and if you know a comics fan who loves innovative storytelling and spectacular art, you can get this at your local shop for about $18.

Next, we get Southern Bastards: Here Was a Man, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.


This is a grimy, deep-fried Southern noir starring an old man named Ernest Tubb who’s returned to Craw County, Alabama for the first time in decades. He gets pulled into the dirty political machinations of the town, thanks to a bunch of redneck thugs picking on innocent people, and because of Coach Boss, the coach of the local football team, owner of the best barbecue joint in town, and the local crime boss.

Aaron and Latour are both from the South, and they end up bringing a lot of both the good and the way-too-frequent bad of the Deep South. The noir is pitch-black — more a tragedy than a traditional Southern gothic — the characterization and dialogue are grand, and there’s even a recipe included for Aaron’s mom’s fried apple pies. And it’s just $10, which is a great way to introduce this series to the crime fiction fan on your shopping list.

And finally, here’s The Wicked + the Divine: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson.


This one has a really great hook — every 90 years, a dozen young people become the avatars of actual gods. They are worshiped and revered, despised and denounced. They perform miracles, and they perform concerts. And within two years, all of them die. It’s time for a new celestial cycle, and we follow two main characters — Laura, a divine fangirl and wannabe, and Luci, which is short for Lucifer. She’s the Devil.

The art is crisp and glorious, the story is inspired and mind-blowing, and the characters are people you want to learn more and more and more about. The “gods as supernatural pop stars” is a fantastic set-up, and the mystery at the heart of the story is fascinating and terrifying. You’ve got someone on your holiday list who would absolutely love this one, and you can get it for ’em for just ten bucks.

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The Knight Triumphant


Moon Knight #6

I’m basically counting this as the last issue of this series. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey were only on board for these six issues, and there ain’t no way I’m going to read anything by Brian Wood. So this is it, as far as I’m concerned.

We start out with a short flashback to the very first issue. The NYPD is letting “Mister Knight” take care of a serial killer for them, and after Moon Knight leaves the scene, one of the cops complains about him getting special favors. One of the detectives on the scene tells the street cop to shaddap because he’s a nonentity who’ll never amount to anything. And it turns out this cop, Ryan Trent, has heard this same thing his entire life — and this time, he reacts by getting obsessed with Moon Knight and deciding he’ll become the new Black Spectre, one of Marc Spector’s old villains, so he can kill Moon Knight and take his place. He impersonates a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, practices his dart-throwing skills, kills his girlfriend, and starts rigging up IEDs so he can lure Moon Knight to his death. Can he succeed where everyone else has failed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been such a great series. It’s weird to have so much emphasis on the wannabe supervillain in the final issue, but most of it is designed to emphasize Marc Spector’s strengths by playing them against Ryan Trent’s mental and emotional weaknesses. And whenever Moon Knight finally makes it to the scene, he’s dominant, both physically and graphically. What starts out as a study of Ryan Trent’s darkness ends up playing up the Moon Knight’s strengths through fire and blaringly white cloth. It’s beautiful, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the series as much as I have.


Lazarus #10

Jonah Carlyle thought he could betray his family and win, and when it turned out he couldn’t win, he decided he’d be able to defect to one of the Carlyle’s enemies and win anyway. So he heads for the territory of Jakob Hock, east of the Mississippi into New York City. He expects to be greeted as aristocracy. But Hock territory makes the Carlyle family holdings look like a utopia. In Manhattan, everyone is dirt-poor, propaganda, lies, and drugs are fed to the populace to keep them docile, the police are brutal and murderous, and Jonah Carlyle’s only purpose is to be tortured to harm the rest of his family.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Jonah Carlyle has been a completely unsympathetic douche, and the Carlyle family in general are autocrats. But Hock is running a North Korea-style dictatorship, and what he does to Jonah will make you feel sorry for him, even as you think that the spoiled brat is getting just what he deserves.


Black Widow #9

Natasha invades a ship which she suspects contains information she needs, but she gets on the bad side of Crossbones — at least until the Punisher shows up to save her. He’s planted bombs all over the ship to sink it, so she has only three minutes to search it, avoid hit squads, and find some sort of information she can use.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It just wasn’t particularly interesting, sorry. Great artwork, but an almost entirely forgettable story.

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The Art of the Beat-Down


Moon Knight #5

A girl has been kidnapped and is being held on the fifth floor of a six-floor building. Moon Knight, dressed in his incredibly-spiffy white suit, walks up six flights of stairs beating the crap out of every crook he meets. That’s it. That’s the entire plot.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all the plot you need. I hate to say it’s a ballet of violence, but screw it, it’s a ballet of violence. It’s a really, really good ballet of violence. This is the next-to-the-last issue of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire’s run on this series, and I absolutely pity whoever has to follow them up. They’ve rocked on mysteries, on head-trippy stuff, on superhero stuff, and they’ve turned a straightforward fight comic into the best darn comic of the whole month. I swear, Marvel should just cancel the series and not force the followup team to suffer through the coming reviews.


Southern Bastards #3

Earl Tubb has embraced his daddy’s legacy. He’s got himself a great big ass-whupping plank of wood and a desire to visit vengeance on Craw County’s scumbags. But beating down on a few rednecks won’t solve the bone-deep problems with baked-in Alabama corruption. Earl Tubb is just one man, and if the bad guys can’t find him, they’ll hurt anyone who has a connection to him…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I don’t know where y’all live, but here, it’s a roasting hot Texas summer. It gets hot in the morning, gets hotter as the day goes on, and doesn’t start to cool down ’til well after sundown. It’s a weird feeling — it’s nighttime, it’s still uncomfortably hot and humid, and as a result, everyone is sweaty and miserable and pissed-off. This comic book feels that way, too. And in this case, that’s actually a good thing.


Lazarus #9

It’s time for the Lift Selection — the Waste of the world, poverty-stricken, jobless, and mostly unwanted, have a chance to get hired as part of the staff of the Family Carlyle. The Barrets have traveled all the way to Denver and lost a daughter, all in the hope that their remaining child and a family friend can be designated Serfs and save the family from utter destitution. But at the same time, a terrorist is stalking the hordes of people in Denver, hoping to get close enough to the Carlyle patriarch to blow him up with a bomb. Can the Barrets make it through the punishing selection process? And can Forever Carlyle manage to find the terrorist before he massacres hundreds?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a tense, well-told, compassionate three-pronged story. The art is gorgeous, the writing is pretty darn grand, and the reader is stuck with conflicting emotions — the Carlyles are representations of a horrible corporate tyranny, but they’re also the only hope the Barrets have of escaping grinding poverty — whose side do you choose?


Black Widow #8

While running an op, Natasha runs into the Winter Soldier, and they both get attacked by a horde of mercenaries. While they try to survive the paramilitary assault, Natasha’s lawyer is forced to take less-than-legal methods to recover money they haven’t been paid and must also deal with the repercussions of being the Black Widow’s public lawyer and business agent.

Verdict: As with so many issues of this series, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this issue, but it just bored me so much. Fantastic art, though — many kudos to Phil Noto.

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A Mushroom with a View


Moon Knight #4

Marc Spector is asked by a sleep researcher to investigate the case of a bunch of people who have all inexplicably gone mad, dreaming the same bizarre dream, when they’ve gone to sleep in the same building. Moon Knight’s investigation takes the direct approach — he decides to go to sleep inside one specific room, despite the risk that he’ll go mad — after all, he’s fairly mad already. Will his fungus-based dreams solve the mystery or doom him to greater insanity?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing at all wrong with Ellis’ storytelling here, but the real draw is the lushly, magnificently beautiful artwork of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. If you’re into beautiful art, you really have to pick this one up. If you want to see some jaw-dropping examples of the work of an outstanding colorist, pick this up. Jordie Bellaire does a brilliant job of the contrast between the spectacular technicolor of Spector’s dream to the common everyday colors of the rest of the world to the stark, screaming monochrome of Moon Knight himself. I’m serious — y’all go get it.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #5

Loki is uncomfortable with kidnapping Asgardians to have them locked up in prison — especially since those he’s been sent after, like Lorelei and Sigurd, haven’t committed any serious crimes against Asgard, and he doesn’t know why the All-Mother wants them held captive. So he decides it’s time for a heist movie so he can spring Sigurd out of prison. He enlists the aid of Lorelei, a fellow trickster, the Mighty Thor, and Verity Willis, a human who is able to see through any lie, no matter what form it takes. Will they be able to get into Asgard without being discovered? Who’s their secret inside man? And what’s this heist really about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully twisty story, full of last-second escapes and clever tricks and revealed secrets, just like you’d want from any good heist movie.


Black Widow #7

Natasha is in San Francisco, trying to track down the usual bunch of spies and nogoodniks for SHIELD. But she gets made and almost shot — and when she finally nabs the shooter, she’s ready to kill him if he wan’t tell her the info she needs. But San Francisco is now where Daredevil hangs his horns, and he’s not willing to let her commit murder in his town.

Verdict: This is one I just keep going back and forth on. It’s not that bad a story, overall, and the art is very nice — but it’s coming out at the same time as Brubaker and Epting’s “Velvet,” which does the superspy genre much, much better than this one.

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Knuckle Bones


Moon Knight #3

Moon Knight encounters a criminal menace he can’t beat down — a gang of ghosts running around New York beating people up. Marc can’t manage to lay a glove on them, but they have no difficulty kicking his ass all over the street. But the Khonshu side of him reveals that he does have a way he can strike back at the ghosts — entirely without his own knowledge, Moon Knight had been collecting magical armor designed to let him touch the spectral world. The rematch goes much differently.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding art and storytelling. I absolutely love the design of the skeletal Khonshu and the similar design of Marc’s ghost armor. The action is, of course, grand, but the resolution of the whole thing is even better. Come on, folks, it’s early in this one’s run — better jump on the bandwagon now.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #4

After a thrilling (and snarky) duel of trickery (and swords), the great Asgardian hero Sigurd has managed to steal his ancient sword Gram away from Loki. He takes it to Kaluu, a meditating magician in Tibet, so he can exchange it for the opportunity to escape from the Valkyries, who intend to torture him all through the afterlife because he’s slighted them somehow. Unfortunately, it turns out that Kaluu isn’t really Kaluu — and he intends to torment Sigurd even more terribly. Can Sigurd get out of this? Or will the seemingly dead Loki have to save his bacon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely done action and (naturally) trickery — and not just on Loki’s part. Sigurd spends most of his time lying, and Kaluu is all about the untruths. And I must say I’m also enjoying Sigurd a lot — I wouldn’t mind seeing him with his own series — he’s a wonderfully devious character, especially for someone who’s supposed to be a great hero.


The Returning #2

I missed this one for a while, but finally managed to pick it up last week. Beth Turner is on the run — her family has been murdered and everyone in town thinks she’s a changer — someone who died briefly and then becomes a homicidal maniac later. She turns to her sole remaining friend for help — but then gets attacked by the gas station attendant she’d thought had been killed. And after that, she’s rescued by the man who she thought was a changer out to kill her. But is he really on her side? Should she believe him, or is the convenient FBI agent she meets going to help her escape to a place of safety?

Verdict: Ehh, dunno. It’s kinda all over the place — and the paranoia is high enough at this point that I don’t know who we should be trusting — or if we should be trusting anyone at all. That may be by design, but for now, it feels a bit directionless.

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Shoot the Moon


Moon Knight #2

A sniper is killing a bunch of people in a skyscraper, and Moon Knight moves in to take him down. It’s a tremendous knock-down, drag-out battle over the skies and inside the offices of New York. Can Marc Spector stop the assassin? Will he ever find out what triggered his murderous rampage?

Verdict: Thumbs up. You need to go get this comic. I ain’t even joking. The first eight pages are some of the most perfectly created graphic storytelling I’ve seen in months. It’s stunning, shocking, brilliant work, and you need to go get this now, ’cause it’s gonna win awards later this year.


Pretty Deadly #5

Basically, it’s a big ol’ gunfight and sword battle and a trip to the underworld — just in time for a truly epic gunfight with Death himself. And who ever wins a gunfight with Death? Can even Deathface Ginny pull that off?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An appropriately epic ending for this deeply surreal Western.

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When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro


Moon Knight #1

A new start for the Moon Knight, with Warren Ellis at the helm. After a few fairly lengthy recountings of his origin — mercenary Marc Spector killed in Egypt, resurrected by the god Khonshu, and driven insane by Dissociative Identity Disorder — we get into the meat of the story. The Moon Knight is back in New York City, riding in a fancy robot limousine and wearing a custom white suit. He works now as a consultant for the police, who call him “Mr. Knight” — because if they refer to him as Moon Knight, they acknowledge that he’s a crazed vigilante and would have to take him to jail.

The cops are investigating a number of slasher murders in which someone hunts down particularly fit individuals, ambushes them, stabs them to death, and steals parts of their bodies. Spector lists off his deductions about the killer, then travels into the sewers alone to bring him to justice. But what chance does a lone nutbag have against the powerful slasher? And just how crazy is Moon Knight anyway? The answer may surprise you…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The dialogue is, for the most part, wonderful. Characterization is very interesting. Not a lot of action, but what we get is wonderfully effective. The reimagining of Moon Knight’s background and mental state is excellent. I’ve never been able to get into Moon Knight much — his insanity seemed to be something that everyone took for granted, with little real storytelling impact. What we get in the end is much stranger than we were probably expecting, and a great deal more interesting than any run-of-the-mill insanity. And it’s particularly interesting that this is one of the few Warren Ellis books I’ve read where the unstoppably badass protagonist is not a craggy, cranky Brit — that alone makes it more interesting to me…


Veil #1

And here’s another debut — a new comic written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Toni Fejzula. Our lead character is a woman who suddenly awakens, nude, in the subway, attended by rats and with little real memory of her past. In fact, she seems to be working hard on relearning language and tends to speak in rhyme. Her appearance out of the subway causes a considerable stir — a bunch of hoodlums decide they want to do some typically unspeakable things to the naked crazy girl. She encounters a protector, Dante, who takes her to his apartment to get her some clothes. But the hoodlums don’t give up that easy and come looking for payback. Unfortunately for them, Veil has some very unexpected abilities.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A weird, wonderful read, with trippy, sing-song dialogue and remarkable stylized painted illustrations. This one was the talk of the local comic shop — the owners loved the stuffings out of it, sold out much faster than expected, and had already ordered more copies. Expect this one to fly, people.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #2

Argh, I totally missed out on the first issue — it disappeared fast, and no new copies came in over the last month, so I’m picking up the backstory from the title page blurb. Loki wants his Asgardian crimes expunged from his record, so he’s undertaking missions from the All-Mother — for every mission he completes, she erases some of his misdoings.

Loki’s new mission is to find the goddess Lorelei. We learn how he was assigned this quest — the All-Mother appeared to him in a bowl of punch — and we follow him as he tracks Lorelei while she robs a casino. So where is Lorelei hiding, and who is the mysterious redhead Loki’s spending time with at a speed-dating session in New York?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a very funny, very clever comic — just like we’d expect for the God of Trickery — with lots of wonderful dialogue and a very smart heist scene starring Lorelei and her cohorts.

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