The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 51: Marvel Comics – The Punisher

The Punisher. He shoots bad guys until they are dead. The end.

The Punisher is the worst character in comic book history. That is, if your definition of “character” is a multi-layered personality with contradictory motivations and actions. The Punisher has no layers, as he has no substance. He’s vengeance. He’s retribution. He’s anger. And he’s one of the most effective plot devices in comic history. But he’s not a character.

The Punisher’s story is essentially a play on the Batman mythos: A retired U.S. Marine watches his family get gunned down as collateral damage by the mob, not long after he gets back from Vietnam. He then spends the rest of his life hunting down and executing criminals, with extreme vigour. There’s none of the nuance of the Batman character however, and while I find that it’s pretty easy to find entertaining Punisher stories, it’s not easy to find great ones.

The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank, Army Of One, Business As Usual, Streets Of Laredo, Full Auto, Confederacy Of Dunces

This was the first of two series that Garth Ennis wrote about Marvel’s premier vigilante, and while I prefer his second series, this is the one that got the ball rolling, and also got the most attention. This was written in the late 90s and was described as a return to the character’s roots, though I’m having a hard time remembering any Punisher comics from the 70’s or 80’s that featured a hapless detective with a predilection for incest and transsexuals. This series isn’t so much Ennis’ take on the Punisher as it is Ennis’ take on Ennis. This is pure, unadulterated Ennis, in all of its over the top, grossly violent glory. As such, it’s a polarizing series, and not one that’s for everyone. Though I enjoy the well-planned violence, and am definitely a sucker for Ennis’ knack for bittersweet character moments, I have one major problem with this book. And it’s the same problem I have with pretty much every Garth Ennis book I own: Humour. Or better yet, the absence of such. The man isn’t funny. Which is fine. He’s a fine action storyteller, and is one of the best character writers in comics today, so it’s not like the man doesn’t have talent. The problem is that he thinks he’s Sam Fucking Kinison, and liberally peppers his action stories with unfunny, gross out, shock jock jokes best suited for a grade 9 boys gym class.

It’s a small negative, but one that comes up so often in Ennis’ work that it needs to be mentioned. And while it’s prevalence in THIS series stops it from achieving greatness, Ennis was objective enough about his own work to tone down the humour in the series that followed this one.

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The Punisher MAX – In The Beginning, Kitchen Irish, Mother Russia, Up Is Down Black Is White, The Slavers, Barracuda, Man Of Stone, Born

Now we’re talking. This was Ennis’ “adult” take on the Punisher, and to my mind it’s the best Punisher series of all time. Ennis recognizes that the Punisher is a concept that works much better in our “real” world than he does in a world full of costumed do-gooders, and strips the character down to its basics. There are no superheroes or aliens in this Punisher’s world: Only revenge.

Like Will Eisner’s work on the Spirit, Ennis realizes that his lead character isn’t actually that interesting himself, and uses him not so much as a lead character so much as a plot device. This series isn’t really about the Punisher; it’s about people’s reaction to the Punisher. And so you get some of the best written small and large war or crime comics written in the last decade. It took me YEARS to give this a shot, simply because I wasn’t interested in reading more silly, over-the-top potty jokes about a character I don’t care about. I’m happy to report that this series is about as different from its predeccor as is possible, and it’s a series that really showcases Ennis’ skill as one of the best action writers in the game. Highly recommended.

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Punisher Max: Kingpin, Bullseye

Jason Aaron is in charge for this incarnation of the Punisher, and not only is his run a worthy heir to Ennis’, there’s a good chance that he might even surpass it. Because this is the “Max” Punisher, there are no superheroes, or costumes, or Norse gods, or nothing. Although realism is the main selling point of the Max line, Aaron recognized that there was some room for cross-over, and decided to introduce two of the regular Marvel U’s top villains into the mix. And so we get the Kingpin, and we get Bullseye. We’ve seen them before, so no biggie, right?

Wrong. Aaron doesn’t so much reinvent these two great characters as much as he deconstructs them for a 21st century crime-ridden world: His Bullseye isn’t dangerous because he can kill a man with a toothpick, he’s dangerous because of his absolute unpredictability. And Aaron’s Kingpin isn’t dangerous because he can bench press a Volkswagen, he’s dangerous because of his uncompromising strategic ruthlessness. And so we get an action-packed, uber-violent gangster story that I truly believe will go down as one of the best Punisher stories of all time. And in fact may end up being the LAST of the great Punisher stories. Aaron is taking the character past the point of no return, and it’s hard to see how he can wrap this up without the character having a bullet in his head. Again, highly recommended.

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Punisher War Journal: Civil War  

This was a recent attempt to bring the Punisher back into the regular Marvel universe, and like all such attempts, it failed miserably. The problem here is that there is NO chance that characters with the moral certainty of Spider-Man or Captain America would EVER let a serial killer like the Punisher walk around. None. There is no way you can justify it to me, and as such I have a hard time taking any regular Punisher stories that seriously. Although writer Matt Fraction does try to give the Marvel characters a good reason to let the Punisher pal around with them for a bit, the whole thing just feels quite gimmicky and forced.

CULL

Punisher – No Escape, The Prize

These are two stand-alone graphic novels from the mid 1990s. I was surprised at how well each of them stood the test of time, with The Prize being of particularly good quality. These aren’t going to win any Eisner Hall Of Fame awards anytime soon, but they’re solid, well-written action stories that serve the character and concept well.

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Punisher – Circle Of Blood

This was the first Punisher mini-series, and it’s one that hasn’t really aged well. This was still in the early days of the character, where there was some attempt at giving the concept some depth. With depth came dilution, and by the end of this toothless mini-series Frank Castle is so watered down from his original heartless assassin concept that you can’t believe the character ever survived past the 80’s.

CULL

NEXT UP: Runaways!

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5 things I noticed about the series finale of Smallville

Moments before the happy couple is interrupted by an alien tyrant.

First of all, yes I watched this. Like Donald Trump and crazy, I decided to give it one last chance, even though I haven’t watched in years. For some unknown reason, I wanted to see how this terrible show, that has somehow lasted longer than Buffy, the X-Files, Lost, or Battlestar Galactica, ends.

Not well, apparently. Here are five things I noticed.
1) Apparently DC’s market share in the future is about the same as the hand-out flyer my local corner store prints out has, as we see that 7 years from now, there is a DC comic book that reveals Superman’s identity. Yet people still keep calling him Clark, and no one seems to know that he’s Superman. Also, DC comics apparently aren’t increasing in price over the next 7 years.

This is your reward for putting up with 10 years of inanity.

2) In the universe that Smallville exists in, there seems to be no planet Mars. Yet we’ve seen a character that actually comes from Mars. Seriously.

3) Sneaking onto Air Force One seems to have about the same degree of difficulty as conning your way onto a public bus.

Moments before Michael Rosebaum turns the pistol on himself after realizing that he gave up 10 years of his life for this shit.

4) In the future, Lois is so ashamed of marrying someone still in the closet that she makes him call her “Miss Lane”, even though they’ve been publicly dating for years, and even had a wedding that was once interrupted by another planet.

A show that is better than Smallville

5) After what seems to be a season worth of buildup, Clark vanquishes the WORST THREAT THE EARTH HAS EVER KNOWN by pushing it. Yes. You heard me. At the end of two hours of tense, overwrought drama, he flew into the sky, and dealt with the evil killer planet much in the same way that you would with a puppy that’s crawled onto your bed.

Bonus thing I noticed: This is the worst television show that ever existed.
Other Bonus thing I noticed: You couldn’t just give us ONE clear shot of the bastard in the costume?
P.S. 10 Years? Really?

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 50: Marvel Comics – Nova, Power Man & Iron Fist, and The Pulse

It’s hard to believe that I’ve done 50 posts about my culling project. It’s been about 9 months so far, and I’m not even half way though. In fact, I really doubt that I’ll be finishing this this year. Although I’m enjoying the reading, I’m having a hard time keeping motivated regarding the writing, especially as I still have several months to go before I can even start writing about my true passions: Independent comics. I’m still muddling through however, and so I present to you yet more writing about gaudily dressed super-clowns:

Nova: Annihilation – Conquest, Knowhere, Secret Invasion, Nova Corps, War Of Kings, Realm Of Kings

Nova was Marvel’s mid-1970s attempt at recreating the ‘average kid gets superpowers’ magic that essentially catapulted the company into superhero success 14 years earlier with Spider-Man. To it’s credit, Marvel didn’t take the easy way out and copy Spider-Man’s origin verbatim. Instead, they took the even easier way out and copied Green Lantern’s origin verbatim: Dying member of an intergalactic police force transfers his power to a hapless earthling. But instead of being a cocky, brash pilot like Hal Jordan, the new Nova is an insecure poindexter like Peter Parker. Original, yes? Umm…no.

Although the character’s first series fizzled after 25 issues, attempts have been made over the years to utilize the character in various comics and plotlines, most notably in the early 90’s teen book The New Warriors. However, no matter how hard the character was pushed, he never really amounted to much. In fact, the character is very similar to Moon Knight, in that his costume is really the only thing he has going for him. When you take that away, all you have is a very poor man’s version of not just one, but two other characters.

Until now. About 4 years ago, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning decided to use the Nova character as a major player in their Annhilation Wave epic, and the character hasn’t been the same since. Abnett & Lanning essentially put this character into the forge, stripped away everything that we knew about him, and rebuilt the character from the ground up. And now what’s left is a confident, extremely powerful hero that can hold his own with pretty much any of Marvel’s A-list villains: Nova. Which brings us to one of the better Marvel titles in recent years, but one that unfortunately requires you to read pretty much everything else Abnett & Lanning have been writing so as to fully understand what’s going on. Not that that’s a bad thing, as they’ve been turning out some great Marvel sci-fi epic storytelling. But  those who are just looking for a simple, straight-forward superhero book that can stand on it’s own two feet might want to look elsewhere.

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Power Man & Iron Fist: Essential Vol. 1

When I was a kid, Power Man & Iron Fist might have been my favourite comic book. I waited for every issue like a dog waiting for a porkchop. And since the World Wide Web wasn’t available at the time, the cancellation of this book was a real surprise to me. So why am I getting rid of this? It’s not because of the quality of the book. The title focused on two characters that had been in their own low-selling books: Power Man (better known today as Luke Cage), and Iron Fist, and  as such was essentially a mash-up between Shaw Brothers-style Kung-Fu & Pam Grier-style Blaxploitation. And it was glorious. It had a little bit of everything I love about superhero comic, and because it was one of Marvel’s lowest selling books, seemed to deal with subject matter that other comics weren’t touching at the time. Unfortunately, the only way you can get this series in collected form is in the oversize black & white Essential trade paperbacks, and as I’ve previously noted, they just don’t give colour comics their fair shake. Although I still love this series, I’ll have to do without it until Marvel reissues it in a format that does it’s original source material justice.

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The Pulse: Thin Air, Secret War, Fear

The Pulse was Marvel’s attempt at a follow-up to their high-on-acclaim, low-on-sales title Alias, and their hopes were that this would get the high numbers the previous series lacked, as well as continuing to get great reviews. It received neither, though it definitely deserves more credit that it gets.

It’s essentially the story of Jessica Jones, a former superhero-turned-private eye, who has been hired by J. Jonah Jameson to help Ben Urich uncover super-related stories for the Daily Bugle. It’s a sound premise, and one that should have been a good companion piece to Bendis other series about normal people who get pulled into the bizarre realm of super-heroics, Powers. However, Powers only has to stay relevant to itself, and the Pulse quickly got pulled into the bazillion-and-one subplots are running through the Marvel Universe at any one point. And so what should have been a small, character piece about journalism in a super-powered world became exactly what we didn’t need: Just another superhero book. While it’s still very readable, especially for fans of Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, the comic quickly becomes so watered down from it’s original intent that one wonders why they even bothered doing this series in the first place.

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Next up: The Punisher!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 49: Marvel Comics – Ms. Marvel, New Mutants, NewUniversal, Nextwave, and Nick Fury!

Ms. Marvel: Best Of The Best, Civil War, Operation Lighting Storm, Monster Smash, Secret Invasion, Ascension, Dark Reign, War Of The Marvels, Best You Can Be

This was a well-intentioned effort on Marvel’s part to bolster their ranks of prominent female heroes a few years back. Ms. Marvel’s history goes back all the way to the mid 1970s, but to even call her a B-list character would be giving far more credit than she deserves. She’s worse than a B-list character; she’s a female ripoff of a B-list character. After the events of House Of M (Middling Marvel cross-over event that we’ll get to later) Marvel felt that the character could use a push, and enlisted Brian Reed to make it happen. I remember this series starting well, but also remember it losing steam about half-way through. I was wrong. This series never had any steam to lose. The premise is sound: A B-list hero who has never fully realized her potential decides to become the A-list leader she always new she could be. That’s a good premise, but Reed seems to forget about it almost immediately after coming up with the idea. And so plot lines regarding publicists and career juggling are dropped almost immediately, and this becomes just another run-of-the-mill superhero title quite quickly. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there, and frequent artist changes, as well Reed’s misguided attempts to make the title always fit into current Marvel continuity scuttle the book completely. I should give some kudos to the stunningly sexy covers by Frank Cho, though unfortunately they’re not enough to save the series from the dreaded CULL.

CULL

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E.

Warren Ellis is considered one of the very best writers in the recent history of mainstream comic books. And there is much evidence to support that. All you need to read are Planetary, Fell, or Global Frequency (not to mention The Authority or Transmetropolitan) to realize that the man has a serious talent.

But you’d never know it by reading his work for Marvel and DC.

Why? Because the man has a very unique and specific voice. And writers that have very unique voices rarely succeed in mainstream superhero books (The two BIGGEST exceptions to this are Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Claremont, both of whom have very distinctive dialogue styles, and both of whom have been extremely successful). And while he’s one of my favourite writers, I don’t believe he continues to get Marvel and DC work because his work for them is that good, I believe he continues to get it because HE”S WARREN ELLIS. So when you hire him to do X-Men, you get WARREN ELLIS. And when you hire him to do Batman, you get WARREN ELLIS. And those stories are never quite as good as when he’s playing with characters and concepts that are wholly his.

I’m not complaining at all, I’m just saying that I’m not sure why a man with such a unique voice, and such interesting ideas, even bothers with franchise characters that don’t lend themselves well to what he can bring to the table. And so enter Nextwave. Nextwave was basically Ellis’ attempt to play in the Marvel sandbox while giving himself as much freedom as possible. And so we get an over-the-top comedy action book featuring a bunch of characters so bush league that they make Ms. Marvel look like Spider-Man.

This is a fun book, but it’s also one that’s fairly disposable. It’s huge, funny, violent, and not big on plot. It’s basically Ellis reworking his Authority concept, but played for laughs. Get it if you’re an Ellis completist, or for the fantastic art of Stuart Immonen.

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New Mutants – New Mutants Graphic Novel

Mutants are the Marvel version of corn. Marvel creates so many of them that they end up putting out mediocre book after mediocre book just to feature them all, even though all we really want is one GOOD book. This 80’s graphic novel was one of Marvels MANY attempts at skewing their X franchises at a younger demographic, as well as an attempt at duplicating the success they had a few years earlier with their “new” X-Men. The story is quite pedestrian: Charles Xavier doesn’t want to train any more mutants, but they keep showing up, and so he does. The end. The New Mutants would go on to actually have some very good and very interesting stories in the 1980’s, but this one, their first, wasn’t one of them.

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NewUniversal: Everything Went White

Yet another attempt at a Marvel book by Warren Ellis, and it’s one that takes some explaining. In the mid 80’s, then Marvel EIC Jim Shooter launched something called The New Universe, a half-assed attempt to create a whole bunch of new IPs that Marvel could exploit for decades to come. Good idea, except that Shooter forgot the first rule of superhero comic books: People who like superhero comics fear change. He also forgot the second rule of superhero comic books: People who like superhero comics always want something new. Now, if you can figure out how to make Rule 1 work with Rule 2, then you’re a better person than 98% of the people who have ever worked in the comic book industry.

Suffice it to say, the New Universe fizzled out, but for some reason Marvel decided a few years back to get Warren Ellis to revamp it. And I would say that he did a nice job. Not necessarily nice enough that I want to see a dozen comic books based on his concepts, but nice enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing another 10 or 15 issues just to wrap everything up in a bow. This is basically Ellis introducing superpowers into a non-superpowered world, and he’s introducing concepts that will be familiar to anyone that’s read his Planetary or Authority books. While I’m not sure that this is different enough from those landmarks to justify owning it, it’s still an entertaining enough origin story, and one that stands up quite well.

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Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

If you look at any list of the greatest comic books of the 1960’s, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury is pretty much always going to be high on that list. And for good reason. Any comic that can blow me away with its action sequences at the same time that my wife is peaking over my shoulder to steal furniture ideas for our home HAS to be special. And this one is. This is a pop art masterpiece disguised as a James Bond pastiche, and probably more of a product of its times than pretty much any Marvel comic before or since. And so the number one characteristic that the book has going for it, is also its biggest drawback. This thing is so dated that it makes Watergate look timely. As negatives go it’s a minor one, but one to watch out for nonetheless.

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Next up: Nova, The Pulse, and The Punisher!

A story of a man and his hammer: My review of Thor

I’ve been looking forward to Marvel’s adaptation of their Thor character for a while now, ever since it was announced that Kenneth Branagh would be directing. I thought right off the bat that Marvel had made a wise choice, and I’m happy to see that choice was justified. I had a shaky moment or two when I actually saw the first images and trailers from the film, as to say that they looked like something a film student would do would be an insult to film students everywhere.

But now I’ve seen it. And it is wonderful.

Here’s the saga: Thor is the son of Odin. They are both part of an ancient race of extra-dimensional creatures that were once worshipped as gods (though Branagh goes out of his way to ensure that the “g” word is barely mentioned here, in deference to our hillbilly cousins to the south) on Earth. Thor is the greatest warrior of his race. He’s also a bit of a douche. And so his father strips him of his powers, and banishes him to Earth. Once there he is found, and flirted with, by Natalie Portman. Eyelashes are batted. Adventures ensue.

Things I loved: 

The script:  It’s also a tight script, and it’s one that makes Thor that rare superhero movie that has a better origin for its lead character than the actual comics ever did. The script is a combination of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Journey Into Mystery stories, J. Michael Strazynski’s recent run on Thor, and Mark Millar’s work on the character in Marvel’s Ultimates line, and to my mind should pretty much be the definitive origin for the character going forward. In addition, the dialogue really set the tone here, and walks a fine balance between simple fun, and straight camp. The script also understands that it’s not necessarily Thor and the Asgardians that people want to see, it’s Thor and the Asgardians interacting with people from Earth. It’s your classic Stranger In A Strange Land scenario. That’s what’s always worked best in the comics, and it’s a big part of why this works as well as it does.

The acting: Chris Hemsworth is a star. You might not know it yet, but he sure as hell sure does. His portrayal of Thor has all of the intensity you would expect from a great warrior, but also has a sincere humility and charm that basically makes the film. Like Robert Downey in Iron Man, it’s Hemsworth’s performance here that is going to be what allows non-superhero fans to truly enjoy this movie. Fantastic choice, and I for one can’t wait to see how he interacts with Downey and Chris Evans in The Avengers next year.

Not that this is a one person cast. While I still think the role of Jane Foster was wasted on someone as talented as Natalie Portman, she still did a fine job here. And Anthony Hopkin’s Odin really captured the idea of an old and tired god, who wants nothing more than to hand the reigns of power to his son. But it’s Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Thor’s kind of evil but not really evil but still pretty evil brother Loki that is the other real star of this show. He mixes the perfect blend of mischievousness and anarchy for the character, and I think Marvel is right to feature him as the lead villain in the Avengers next year.

The direction: Branagh was the perfect choice for this, as he’s a director that not only understands father-son drama VERY well, but also understands how important character is to whatever story you’re telling. This entire movie is crafted around character. It’s character that moves every plot point forward, and even minor characters are full realized under Branagh’s direction.

Almost everything else: This movie really captures the wonder of Asgard. This is a true land of the gods. This is also Marvel raising the bar. This is still only  done 3 movies now on their own, but it’s the first one that really moves out of the mostly light sci-fi world they’re been playing in, and pushes into full genre storytelling. And it’s effortless. Like the original 1960s Marvel Universe, you truly believe that the same world that has gamma monsters and futuristic battle suits would also have travellers from another dimension.

What I didn’t like:

I’m not sure if it was the fact that Branagh has never really done this type of movie before, or Marvel’s legendary frugality, but the CG isn’t exactly going to light anybody on fire. I’ve seen a lot worse, but rarely in a movie this good. Although this is a story and character-driven film, it’s also one with a LOT of CG, and so the poor effects are quite noticeable. The problem with movies like Avatar setting the special effects bar as high as they do, is that if you hope to hit that bar, you need to spend $300 million. Marvel did not, and so the effects aren’t great. That is a SMALL price to pay, and is a relatively tiny gripe.

In short, Thor is the perfect superhero movie. It captures a healthy mix of camp, adventure, and action. And it’s fun. So much fun in fact, that  I will pay it the highest compliment I can: I want a sequel.

Rating: A

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 48: Marvel Comics – Moon Knight!

Moon Knight – Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1, 2, 3

Moon Knight has the unique distinction of being one of the most visually striking characters ever created for superhero comics, but also one of the silliest, least original ideas that the House Of Ideas ever came up with.

On the surface, the Moon Knight is nothing more than a cheap Batman knock-off. But when you scratch beneath the surface, you get…well, you get a cheap Batman knock-off. But his costume is white instead of dark, so he’s different. Sadly, that’s about as original as you’re going to get in today’s comic book world. While his appeal has never matched that of his more famous DC counterpart, his backstory and character idiosyncrasies have proved unique enough to garner some interesting stories over the years.

Here are 3 things you need to know about Moon Knight.

  • He’s Marc Spector, a former mercenary. After being left to die in the North American desert, he has a vision of Khonshu, an Egyptian god that offers him his life IF he becomes his avatar on earth. He accepts. Khonshu isn’t one of Marvel’s cuddly gods like Thor or Hercules. He’s more of the wrathful, avenging, kill-all-your-enemies god type. Like…well…God.
  • Weirdly enough for someone who can hear dead Egyptian gods speak to him, he’s batshit crazy. In addition to his Spector and Moon Knight identities, he also has two other identities that have grown over the years into full-blown multiple personality disorder. It’s a part of the character that has really been pushed hard in recent years, and it’s really the only interesting part of the whole concept.
  • He’s got a really cool costume. In fact, I think that’s the only reason the character has lasted as long as he has. Now, a more cynical man might argue that wearing a WHITE costume while you’re fighting crooks in the DARK might be the height of stupidity, but….but…shut up. I like it. Shut up.

These 3 black & white omnibus’ collect the entire run of the original 1970’s and 1980’s Moon Knight series, as well it’s follow up mini-series, and a bunch of other appearances by the character from around the same time period. I’ve written previously about how I’ve been getting rid of most of my Marvel Essential collections, as the black & white nature of them really doesn’t do their original colour source material justice. Moon Knight is a rare exception, and I think a case could be made that at least in the case of some of the work here, it stands up better as a black and white comic book.

It’s not really fair to judge these as a total package, as there are numerous creators represented throughout. But as Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz were the team on the lion’s share of the comics these editions collect, it’s their run I’ll discuss.

This comic might be the most underrated Marvel comic book of the 1980’s. Not only does Moench write his hero as a true tortured, yet ultimately heroic soul, he also creates one of the better supporting casts Marvel has ever boasted. But the true star of the show here has to be Sienkiewicz. He’s been known as one of the most unique voices in serialized art for a long time, but Moon Knight has to be considered a career highlight, and possibly the last time he allowed “realism” to actually influence his art style. This book isn’t nearly as well known as some of the other  Marvel books from the same time period that get more praise, but if you’re a fan of dark, well-written, superhero comics, this one might be worth your time.

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Moon Knight – Divided We Fall 

This was an early ’90’s graphic novel that attempted to recapture the magic of the early ’80’s series, but unfortunately it never really gets there. What we do get is a fairly disposable “mid-life” crisis story that really only serves to portray our hero as a whiner, rather than a tortured vigilante. Not awful, but neither is it necessary.

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Moon Knight – The Bottom, Divided We Fall, Death Of Marc Spector, God & Country, Midnight Sun

And we’re back. Marvel tries to bring back this character every couple of years, and some attempts work better than others. This is one of the good ones. Or at least it starts that way. Charlie Huston and David Finch bring us a tale of a superhero slowly going crazy. Or at least they try to. The problem here isn’t execution, it’s one of focus. The story starts with the character at the end of his rope, and then he starts to slide even further. The problem is, that Charlie Huston (and I would guess Marvel) realize about 5 or 6 issues in, that the spiral they’ve started Marc Spector on is so deep, and so dark, that really the only logical end is for the character to die. Or at the very least, imprisoned for the rest of his natural life. That’s not really where you want the hero of your mainstream superhero comic book to end up, and so the brakes are applied very early, and any momentum the great first arc garners is quickly lost. After that, it doesn’t take long for this book to become yet another toothless vigilante book, and for the Batman comparisons to start up again. Still, the first collection is absolutely phenomenal, with some of the best work David Finch has done to date.

The Bottom: Keep. Divided We Fall, Death Of Marc Spector, God & Country, Midnight Sun: CULL

I should also mention as a mini-review, that I’ve read the first issue of the brand-new Moon Knight series that’s being done by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev. While it’s interesting enough to get me to read another issue, I can’t say that it has the immediate intensity of some of Bendis’ other darker themed work. Still, I’m curious to to see where he goes next with it.
Next up: Nextwave, New Universal, and Nick Fury!