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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