Written by Joel T. Lewis
There are two Batmans as far as I’m concerned. There’s the dark, brooding titan of Justice whose shadowy silhouette strikes fear into the heart of Gotham’s criminal underworld, and then there’s the campy, silly, gadget-toting Batman portrayed by Adam West in the live action Batman T.V. series and the Batman ‘66 comics. I love them both dearly. Somehow Scott Snyder found the middle ground between these two portrayals in All-Star Batman and it is so much fun to read.
As Batman and Two-Face continue their journey cross-country they find themselves on the top of a high-speed train. Batman trades blows with villains whose size and madness increase as the train accelerates through scenery reminiscent of the old west. Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala (a trio I was excited to see working together) attempt to rescue Two-Face from Batman with little success. With scenery whizzing by Batman dispatches each muscle-bound foe while balancing atop the speeding train in panels that feel like an old west train robbery sequence. Once free of the hulking villains, Batman scarcely has time to breathe before being accosted by toxin specialists Cheshire and Copperhead. The issue is fast-paced and exhilarating, and Snyder continues to do interesting things as he jumps back and forward in time. By showing us Commissioner Gordon just a few days in the future preparing a raid of Wayne Manor, Snyder expresses how tight Two-Face’s hold over Gotham really is. Even Gordon, Batman’s greatest ally in the GCPD cannot allow Gotham to weather the storm of what Two-Face can reveal. These jumps in time also build up tension, giving each panel set in the present a sense of immediacy and narrative weight. These glimpses of the future deepen our understanding of how corrupt and broken Gotham is and how desperate its citizens are to hide that fact.
Batman’s greatest asset is that he is always prepared for every situation so, naturally we have seen some strange and silly gadgets throughout his history. Snyder references two of Batman’s most ridiculous gadgets in two consecutive pages and elevates them, basking in their silliness. Issue no. 22 of the Batman and Robin (2009) series found the Dark Knight in a last ditch effort to come out on top while grappling with the White Knight. Out of options, Batman triggers spring-loaded ears which shoot up into the Knight’s head. Robin’s question in the following panel echoes the voices of the audience unsure of what just happened, “Are those your cowl ears sticking in his head?” Yes Robin, they are, and while silly, of course Batman has spring-loaded bat-ears! Snyder plays a variation on this gadget in All-Star Batman No. 2: as Amygdala holds Batman up to meet the fast-approaching tunnel roof on top of the train Batman reaches up and detaches his ears, revealing them to be wicked-looking knives. The panel transition is so quick that you nearly miss what Batman has plunged into Amygdala’s arms but after a double-take you accept the truth: of course Batman’s ears are knives!
When you think of silly Bat-Gadgets none is more infamous than the one that caused such an uproar in 1966’s Batman: The Movie. While dangling from the Bat-Copter and grappling with a blatantly rubber shark Batman calls for the one thing in his arsenal that can vanquish his finned foe: Shark Repellant Bat-Spray. The inclusion of this silly gadget in the movie from 1966 has endured years of criticism but it is not the first appearance of Shark Repellant in Batman canon (it appears in Batman No. 117). Nor was it the last.
Now remember that in this issue Batman finds himself on top of a speeding train, facing Amygdala, Killer Croc, and King Shark. After dispatching Amygdala with his cowl-knives Batman turns to King Shark and he’s got an old trick up his cape. Batman aims a few smoke pellets at King Shark’s head and he recoils, unable to handle the stench. This sends King Shark and Amygdala over the side of the train. In the next panel Killer Croc asks the question on all our minds, “What were those things? Shark-Repellent? Smells like--” Batman responds, detailing the exact formula of what he threw at King Shark, “Dead Shark Matter? Copper Acetate mixed with Boric Acid.” It’s shark-repellent Batman, we all know it’s shark-repellent.
Snyder continues to intrigue and innovate in his All-Star Batman series. Some have balked at the $4.99 price of every issue, which can be steep for DC fans tracing the lines of the Rebirth comic event. However, if you can swing the extra $2.00 per issue, at the end of every issue Snyder tackles the training of Batman’s newest sidekick Duke Thomas AKA Lark in little mini-issues. It’s very refreshing to read about Batman’s new training method and a new hero following the legion of Robins we’ve had over the years. Lark is all that you want and more in a Batman sidekick: complex, tragic, and rebellious in that classic Bat-Family way. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
Now that we’re four issues into Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight run I want to talk about cliffhangers. They have been a part of how we consume stories throughout the evolution of entertainment. The serialized novels of Dickens, radio dramas, T.V. shows, and comic books are all designed to leave their audience desperate for more. But in a world of streaming-service binging and instant gratification media the cliffhanger can seem a bit trite. We hear the modern equivalent of “tune-in next week” and we sigh in frustration.
It’s hard to wait to find out what happens next when we have gotten used to a show only being interrupted by Netflix checking to see if you’ve fallen asleep. Recently even I’ve complained, rather loudly, about season finales that stop short of gratification for reasons I could only rationalize as inflated confidence in ratings. Whether that belief was founded upon fact or I just really wanted to know who Negan killed on The Walking Dead back in April I cannot honestly say but it’s how I felt.
But the cliffhanger can still be an effective plot device. When curiosity overcomes impatience and shock deflates frustration, that’s effective storytelling. Jeff Lemire accomplishes just that. There has not been a single issue of the 2016 run of Moon Knight (and I have read all 8 issues in print) where the cliffhanger has disappointed me. Issue 1 ended with Spector emerging from the confines of Ammut’s asylum to discover a New York overrun with desert sand and high-rise pyramids. Issue 2 showed us a subway car full of Mummies and issue 3 gave us a street-level view of Egyptian New York and a sky full of winged jackals. But nothing could have prepared me for the bombshell that comes on page 21 of issue no. 4.
As Marc Spector and company pass through the streets of New Egypt their numbers dwindle further as Jean-Paul is savaged by Sobek and Gena stays behind at her diner. These losses hit hard but luckily Marlene regains consciousness and gives Spector some much needed assurance. She remembers their life together, she remembers him as Moon Knight, and for the briefest moment Spector is confident in his sanity. Marlene’s memories come to life as artist Greg Smallwood masterfully recreates the cover of Marvel Preview no. 21(1980).
This panel pays homage to and validates that original cover in the same way that Marlene’s memories validate our faith in the Moon Knight narrative. We can feel safe and confident again in Moon Knight’s sanity, if only for the briefest moment. As Marlene and Spector climb the steps of the Pyramid, Spector is struck by something small, sharp, and in the shape of a crescent moon. “Who...?!” exclaims Spector as he turns to see his assailant. “I’m Moon Knight, you lunatic.” is the answer.
Now I realize that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record about how insecure I feel as a Moon Knight fan reading Lemire’s issues, but this hit me like a ton of bricks. Lemire isn’t just putting Moon Knight through the psychological wringer here, he’s doing it to the reader too. Marlene’s acknowledgement of Marc Spector as Stephan Grant and Moon Knight was a vital life raft to me in the same way it was to Spector. I could breathe again. Smallwood’s homage to a vintage cover I had seen, referencing a story I had read meant the world to me and Spector. That panel served as a canonical touchstone that validated the history of the character for me and with a deftly thrown crescent dart Lemire shattered my confidence in Moon Knight again. I was breathless, I was speechless, and I was desperate to tune in for the next adventure of Moon Knight.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
As they continue to make their escape from the nightmarish asylum, Moon Knight and company discover that the path ahead is as treacherous as the one behind. While they are being pursued by Ammut and the asylum orderlies they run head first into a New York subway car teaming with mummies. There are mummies! Coming out of subway cars! Spector is not phased as he applies the old moon fists to mummified faces allowing his group to narrowly escape. Unfortunately they can’t escape before Ammut drugs Marc Spector, taking away his ability to see Dr. Emmet as the alligator-headed god Ammut and the asylum orderlies as the jackal-headed lackeys they are. Even in his weakened state Spector is able to break free, but robbed of his visions of the “truth” Spector’s faith is shaken again.
This is the second issue in a row that Jeff Lemire examines the tumult of Spector’s psyche through a conversation between Spector and Khonshu. Spector asks, “I can’t see see the truth. Tell me Khonshu...is this all real? Or am I really just mad?” to which Khonshu offers an unexpected response, “Does it matter?” Does it matter if Marc Spector is truly mad? This is a question I have been frightened to ask myself throughout this most recent run of Moon Knight.
Can I cope with the possibility that Spector has been in a psych ward all these years and all his escapades that I’ve spent hours reading have all been fevered ravings of a damaged mind? Khonshu continues, “Does it matter if you’re mad? Your madness is your gift Marc. What will keep you alive. You need to stop fighting it. Give in to it. Let your insanity guide you. Let your madness show you the way.” As Khonshu imparts this wisdom to his disciple the following panels are illuminated where they once were pitch black. It is as if Spector’s madness has shone its light on the darkness of his sanity.
As Spector is reunited with his friends they encounter Anubis, escort of the underworld and Crawley agrees to sacrifice himself so that the others might continue on their journey. The selflessness of Crawley’s sacrifice is yet another example of the care with which Lemire has taken the reigns of the Moon Knight series. Throughout Moon Knight’s history time and again Crawley has demonstrated unexpected charity and compassion and Lemire’s portrayal of him as so selfless is wonderful to see. As Crawley follows Anubis towards judgement, Spector and the others finally emerge above ground on the streets of New Egypt, formerly New York.
I don’t want to gloss over the importance of the appearance of mummies in this issue of Moon Knight. For a character brought back to life by the grace of an Egyptian God of the Moon, Moon Knight has not spent much time fighting off what might be considered typical Egyptian foes, namely Mummies. We’ve seen monks, African warlords, crossbow temptresses, other Egyptian priests and werewolves, but very few of the undead variety have graced the pages of a Moon Knight comic. But our patience has finally paid off in a big way thanks to Jeff Lemire. There are very few things that please me the way seeing Moon Knight punch actual mummies in a comic from 2016 did. They crunch, they shatter, and they turn to dust under the barrage of fists doled out by old Moonie and it's very satisfying to follow from panel to panel.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
While escaping the clutches of the ominous “reality” of the psych ward that Marc Spector finds himself in is the central plot of the second issue of Moon Knight, writer Jeff Lemire dedicates a substantial chunk of the issue to redefining a relationship that’s crucial to the Moon Knight mythos. Khonshu and Marc Spector’s relationship has been underdeveloped for most of Moon Knight’s history. Starting as an ominous statue which silently looms over Spector as he dies in Egypt, Khonshu loomed as a presence that impacted how Spector made difficult decisions in the earlier runs of Moon Knight. Spector does consult the statue in a way, cursing it and begging for its help, but Spector’s “prayers” if they can be called such, go unanswered, at least to the audience. There is some sense in the early comics that Marc hears a response in his own head but more recently Khonshu has begun to speak to Spector loud enough for the reader to hear.
This second incarnation of Khonshu served as a more sinister version of the shoulder devil we used to see in Bugs Bunny cartoons; spurring Spector to deal out as much pain and suffering as possible. This Khonshu is continually disappointed in his choice of Spector as an avatar especially when Moon Knight clashes with his arch-nemesis, Raoul Bushman or the Punisher. Khonshu lusts after these characters because they do not hesitate to kill while Spector is always reluctant to give in to pure bloodlust. While the questions raised about Spector’s psyche by this manifestation of Khonshu are interesting and the character is quippy and as carnage-happy as you would like, this version of Khonshu can be a bit of a one trick pony. Spector’s relationship with this Khonshu is mainly that of doormat as he is browbeaten into carving crescent moons into the foreheads of his victims and even murdering them.
Lemire’s Khonshu is more nuanced and rounded out than the previous incarnations. Even his fossil-bird appearance is more refined as he dons a white on white suit in his conversations with Spector. But what is most striking about Lemire’s Khonshu is the genuine fatherly affection he feels for Spector that comes across in this issue. This issue marks the first long form conversation between Spector and Khonshu in this run and it starts with a bit of “same song second verse” syndrome as Khonshu snaps at his disciple. But this anger melts away after a single panel and Khonshu actually apologizes to Marc. This is an unprecedented gesture that instantly shifts the dynamic of God and Priest into Father and Son. Khonshu is almost tender as he explains that his race, the race that the ancient Egyptians called their gods, came from the “Othervoid” a place separate from space and time.
During the reign of the ancient Egyptians Khonshu and his kind were able to travel freely between the “Othervoid” and the dimension where earth resides, but no longer. Now the old gods have to seek out hosts in order to act in Spector’s dimension. Apparently Spector’s weak mind attracted Khonshu to use him as a host and that same weak mind is what the other gods are using in order to find a way back to earth’s dimension. All of what Spector has been experiencing has been an elaborate illusion created by the god Seth. As Spector struggles to comprehend the scale of these revelations he asks the question on all of our minds, “How do I know if this is real?”
This is the question Spector and Moon Knight readers have been asking for years and the answer Khonshu gives us would be frustrating if it wasn’t so sincere: “You don’t. That is the hard part. Now you must have faith.” Khonshu knows how fragile Spector’s mind is, he knows what he’s put him through, and the compassion that was always missing from this God and Priest relationship finally shines through.
While the plot-driving events of this issue are compelling enough to make you pick up the next issue this expositional scene is a testament to how seriously Lemire takes his job. The affection he has shown for the history of Moon Knight and his creativity in breaking down the insecurity we and Marc Spector feel about his sanity is breathtaking.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's no secret that I have been absolutely enamored by IDW's comic book revitalization of Tales from the Darkside and with good reason. It's a faithful follow up to an iconic show, paying respect where it is due, but all the while adding new wrinkles to the mythos along the way. Because of the quality that has gone into this, it made today's review a difficult one, because the fourth issue of this stunning series...is also its last.
Yes, since the rebooted series never reached the airwaves there are only so many scripts that Joe Hill penned, and we have come to the last of them from that pile and well...they most certainly saved the best for last. Because not only does 'The Window Opens' wrap up the whole 'Black Box' storyline, it prepares us for something far more nefarious and in a way...perhaps explains this whole universe to us in the process.
This go round, we meet a young girl named Joss Waldrop and she's new to the neighborhood. On a seemingly boring day, Joss is terrified at the brief glimpse of a man appearing and disappearing before her while she's behind the wheel of her car, forcing her to run off the road and smash into a mailbox and apologize profusely to the family inside the house for damaging their property. But the quirky heads of the household think of an easy way for her to make up for her mistake, just babysit the kids tonight and all will be well. But little does Joss know, the two children in this household have discovered the gateway to the Darkside on their tablet computers...and she will be in for one incredible night of terror as they begin to play with reality and the horrible things that lurk in the shadows.
So, out of the four 'episodes' that IDW published, this one is my favorite by far. It ties all four stories together by revealing that Briterside's notion of control has completely backfired and unleashed an evil upon the world in Big Winner. Reality is no longer what it seems and the parallel world of the Darkside is ready to claim lives at will. That means in a roundabout sort of way, this final book serves as a prequel to the whole mess, that the horrible tales we enjoyed so long ago are people like Joss, trapped in a world they cannot explain where awful things happen on a regular basis and Brian Newman is more or less the patient zero of it all. It's a stroke of genius and all origin story aside, the story inside this issue is equally as impressive, filled to the brim with chilling visuals as the children's ideas come to life and my particular favorite is the tentacle creature that emerges from the bedroom.
However, despite this awesome finale to Joe Hill's run as Maestro of the Darkside, I am definitely sad to see this series come to an end. Tales from the Darkside was an influential television series, one that paved the way for the horror we enjoy on television today, so to see it resurrected, in any form was a big deal to me and no doubt to horror fans everywhere and one can only hope that Joe's incredible work on this series inspires someone to resurrect this series on television in some form or fashion because it's clear from these four issues, there are plenty of scary places that we can still go in this universe and at the minimum, I certainly hope that IDW decides to pick up this series as a regular run with a variety of different writers giving life to new and terrifying stories from the scariest places of our imagination. But for now, this good thing has come to an end and what better way to say goodbye than with the chilling reminder that...'The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter...waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.'
Written by Joel T. Lewis
If you've read any of my previous articles on comics you know that I subscribe to judging a comic book by its cover. My bent and paper-cut fingers rifle through scores of backed and boarded issues and I stop: captivated by a color scheme, a brooding figure, or, in the case of Trencher, utter bedlam.
Image was a different ball game when it came to comics especially in the early 90’s. Content creators had their character’s copyrights, creative control, and could operate independent of corporate big-wigged fingers in their comic’s pie. Image produced unique comics like Spawn and the Savage Dragon, and churned out characters like Shadowhawk and Supreme who were more reminiscent of Marvel and DC properties. Trencher is a property that did not have the staying power of Spawn, Supreme, or the Savage Dragon, but it is a good example of the freedom that a creator had in the early years of Image Comics. Whether the results of that freedom are brilliant or misguided is a question I have not settled when it comes to Trencher.
Trencher is an exterminator of sorts. He sends wrongfully reincarnated souls back to Hell after scenery smashing combat in which both he and his prey leave bits and pieces of themselves in bloody heaps all over the panels. Trencher has an impressive healing factor and a sassy Dispatcher’s voice wired into his head as he goes after a thug with vine-like nose hair, a vomit-themed creature called the Hurler, and four separate reincarnations of Elvis Presley. Trencher is as wacky, violent, and gross as you could hope for however, the artwork and the style of narration of the issues make the comic unreadable. The first issue is so overwhelming and cacophonous that the eye is fatigued within the first few panels as cityscape and hero-villain violence meld and twist into indecipherable soup. You cannot track Trencher from panel to panel: as he tumbles and fractures, spilling flesh, blood, and wreckage all over the pages you're never sure of his position or which direction the next blow is coming from.
At first I thought that I was just too tired to decipher what artist Keith Giffen intended for me to see on the page so I closed the first issue a few pages in and got some sleep. The following day I returned to find that Trencher was just too over-stimulating to process. I did endure long enough to read all four issues in the Trencher series and to his credit, Giffen tones his style back a few clicks with each issue, making the fourth of the series much more accessible. This dialing back came too little too late as the fourth issue was to be the last of the Trencher series and to be honest, I'm not sure if I could have powered through a fifth.
Trencher is a comic like no other that I've ever read: one whose artwork overwhelmed any attempt at narrative clarity. Not that narrative clarity is absolutely necessary to enjoy a comic but even when a narrator is unreliable or a storyline is unclear, it shouldn't be impossible to discover what the story is because of the artwork. Though they inspired this reaction from me, I treasure my issues of Trencher. No comic has made me think more deeply about how I read comics, why I enjoy comics, and to what lengths I'll go trying to find purpose and clarity in a comic.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
With all the continuity shake-ups of the DC universe over the last 10 years or so it has been a daunting task to enter that comic book universe for me. With 'Flashpoint', 'New 52' and now 'Rebirth' there have just been too many titles shuffling too many threads of too many storylines for me to grab ahold of anything with any confidence. Then I heard about All-Star Batman. The first issue was described to me as a madman’s road trip with Harvey TwoFace and Batman. Sign. Me. Up.
Two-Face may have gone too far. In the aftermath of a Gotham-wide spout of acid rain leaving thousands of Gothamites suffering from severe burns, Batman decides to take Two-Face across state lines to an unknown location rather than letting him manipulate the criminal justice system again. This scheme was suggested by Two-Face’s other personality Harvey Dent who wants to be rid of Two-Face once and for all. But, little does Batman know that Two-Face has put out a bounty on Batman, threatening to reveal every scrap of dirt he's accumulated on the citizens of Gotham if someone doesn't prevent Batman from relocating Two-Face. Seconds after this is revealed the BatPlane is shot out of the sky and a quick aerial hop turns into a road trip scenario. Cue a roadside diner brawl starring Batman, Killer Moth, Firefly, and Black Spider complete with some killer Batman quips and chainsaw sculptures. Rest assured I am not exaggerating and it is glorious.
The artwork is sleek and crisp, and villain and hero alike leap off the page as you read. I was particularly struck by the character designs for the Fly, Moth, and Spider themed villains as they flew through panels and window panes. Being bad never looked quite so good as Batman trades blows with Black Spider. Also the hooded Two-Face that we meet aboard the BatPlane builds up tension and mystery that pays off in a big way when he is finally unveiled on the ground. His sheet mask mirrors how he sees the world: there is a thin veil of humanity that everyone hides behind. Underneath that thin veil, like his thin sheet, lies a dark core capable of monstrous things.
Apart from nailing the philosophy and tone of Two-Face’s character and the killer twist at the end of the issue, All-Star Batman captures the spirit of a road trip that I sincerely hope continues throughout the series. You feel like you've been in this roadside diner, and driven passed tacky chainsaw sculptures like these on every cross-country outing your parents dragged you along for. If this issue is any indication there is a lot to be excited for in the coming months as All-Star Batman continues. It's not often that we get to see Batman out of Gotham, in broad daylight , and in such intimate proximity to one of his most dangerous foes. Writer Scott Snyder gives us all that and more as the panels unfold with cinematic timing; jumping between the present and just before slowly revealing more details of the plot.
Further, Snyder’s take on Batman breathes new life into a character that can be a bit one-note at times. Too often we are presented with a dark and brooding Batman who carries the weight of his crusade for justice in every panel, but Snyder gives us a hero who seems like he actually enjoys being Batman and that’s quite refreshing. He quips, he innovates, and he is present during combat in a way that I haven’t seen before. Typically Batman will dispatch a room full of goons with surgical precision and an emotionless demeanor whereas All-Star Batman is almost as talkative as Spiderman. I haven't read a Batman comic in quite a while but boy is it good to be back!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
The first issue of Moon Knight 2016 wastes no time in establishing tone, setting, and subject matter: and all of that comes before page 1. Old Moonie is right where we’ve speculated he'd end up someday: on the wrong side of a padded cell, with his white straight jacket, and a crescent moon cut into his forehead.
In this run, Jeff Lemire places Moon Knight’s sanity under the microscope as Spector wakes from a vision of Khonshu to discover that he is an inmate at an asylum for the insane. Spector struggles to reason out which of the multiple personalities of his past is the real one only to discover that his therapist Dr. Emmet insists that none of Spector’s past was real. According to Dr. Emmet, Spector has been a resident of the asylum since he was 12 and has used the vigilante Moon Knight (who actually exists) as an escapist fantasy. Lemire, through Dr. Emmet, suggests that all we know of Moon Knight, but that Jake Lockley, Steven Grant, and Marc Spector could have been imaginary this whole time. The truth is unclear as Spector is torn between the “reality” of the asylum around him and the vivid flashbacks triggered during his search for answers.
Spector is not alone as familiar faces Gina, Marlene, and Crawley are residents of the asylum too. Gina and Marlene seem to have no idea where they are or who they were, while Crawley, unsurprisingly, seems to be in his element, serving as Spector’s tour guide within the asylum walls. The thorazine drips and threats of shock treatment seem to have had no effect on Crawley’s chipper demeanor as he attempts to reassure Spector of his identity as the Fist of Khonshu: Moon Knight. Khonshu himself makes a brief appearance in the opening dream sequence compelling Spector to remember his “pasts” as Moon Knight and urges him towards the end of the issue to escape the bonds of the asylum’s mundane reality.
Greg Smallwood’s artwork mirrors Spector’s introspection as he flashes between the “remembered” past as Moon Knight and the apparent reality of the asylum. The colors and texture of the remembered panels strike out in harsh contrast to the bright, antiseptic asylum panels. The reader is, as Spector is, more convinced of the validity of the memories than the reality presented to them. This is complicated however, as the vibrancy of these panels would seem to be too vivid and too surreal to be credible. Smallwood’s panels defy margins and leave more blank space than content as their shape mirrors the content of the panels: as Spector is knocked unconscious the panels seem to trickle off into unconsciousness as he does. Also, at times the shape of Smallwood’s panels serve as punctuation: as Spector is subjected to electroshock treatment the dial controlling the current running through his body is the dot of an exclamation point. This narrowing of panels from page to page focuses your gaze and intensifies the action of those panels. This style of paneling also establishes expectations that are blown away by massive splash pages whose scope and scale hit home all the harder for coming after the decrescendo of the page before.
This is not the first story arc to tackle the tricky subject of Marc Spector’s sanity (or lack thereof) as we have seen Moon Knight driven to psychotic rage and mutilation of his victims in the past. However, this is the first series of Moon Knight that I’ve read that attempts to capture the how cerebral madness can be and challenges both the reader’s and Spector’s faith in the legitimacy of Moon Knight’s legacy. Overall, I believe this issue succeeds in establishing the tone and style necessary to explore the Madness of Marc Spector (which would be a great title for a series of Moon Knight by the way) in an accessible and compelling way.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Deep down, there is one thing we all truly fear...losing control. Be it giving in to our tempers, or perhaps the vices we are ashamed of, we work hard to keep those respective 'darksides' to ourselves and where they belong...in the shadows and recesses of our soul. But what happens when the worst case scenario arrives and the ugly parts of us that we keep hidden within are unleashed?
Do we say goodbye to our friends when our tempers flare up non stop? Do we let our vices take over our lives? Most likely, our friends and family would step in to get us the help we need, but for those without friends and family...the results could be disastrous and in the comic world, the IDW revitalization of Tales from the Darkside decided to take this notion one step further, by personifying the worst parts of our souls in 'The Black Box - Part Two'.
When we last left Brian Newman, he was mere moments away from being free at last from the monster that plagues his dreams and causes harm to those around him; Big Winner, and thankfully the delicate surgery performed on his brain to remove this being from his life turned out to be a complete success. But what the scientists at Briterside are completely unaware of, is that by trying to change the chemistry and composition of Brian's fragile mind, they have unleashed true terror upon the world. For while Brian sleeps and heals, Big Winner is free to do as he pleases, and he is going to unleash revenge upon anyone that has ever harmed Brian in the slightest...
It seems as though with every issue of this comic, Joe Hill manages to recapture the magic more and more of this iconic series and this issue is no exception to that unspoken rule. This go round, Joe has managed to bring the gorier side of the show back to life as Big Winner begins his wholesale slaughter of those who have 'wronged' Brian and the blood is thrown about the pages of this issue with glee. But what makes this episode even more like the regular show, is that it continues to captivate and ignite the imagination by bringing forth so many questions. For example, is Big Winner truly a manifestation of psychic power from within Brian...or is he some kind of supernatural being that attached itself to the poor man and has been with him all the way.
Heck, this issue even manages to become philosophical in nature, speaking to exactly what we discussed earlier, the struggle to keep the worst parts of ourselves under wraps because now that we can see what Big Winner is capable of, we understand completely why Brian has worked so hard to keep himself away from other human beings and protect them from this awful being within. As an added bonus as well, another first for the franchise comes into play here since I was under the assumption that this was a two part fiesta, and well...this is turning out to be a three parter, with the epic conclusion now looming before us and well, I love it. This has been quite the engrossing story, and I'm dying to see if we will learn more about Big Winner and what he really is...and if he can ever be put back under control. Guess we'll find out in Issue #4, until then.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
There’s a used bookshop in Breckenridge that my family visits every year when the international snow sculpture competition is in town. It's everything that you want in a bookshop: it has the smell of dust jackets living up to their name, books are precariously arranged on every surface you can see, and there’s a vague sense of organization but finding anything is an adventure and this is where I discovered Moon Knight. Actually, this is where I rediscovered comics through Moon Knight.
Growing up I owned a handful of comics: a few obscure issues of Batman that came along with an action figure or from somebody who just picked one up for me on a whim. I didn’t follow massive continuities or wide sweeping story arcs but I did read those 4 or 5 issues over and over, wishing I knew what had come before and what would happen next. I just never had the access to comic shops so I wasn’t able to pursue that curiosity. So it was with this fascination and unfamiliarity that I approached a dusty long box full of old comics, intending to flip through just to see if there were any cool Batman covers that I was interested in taking home with me. But as I was flipping through the faded issues I came across a cover that infected my brain, one that I couldn’t put down, and one that I would eventually purchase along with every other issue I could find of this new hero I had discovered. That cover was Moon Knight no. 17.
In the months that followed I bought trade paperbacks, drove out to comic shops, and poured over everything the internet had to offer on my new favorite superhero: Moon Knight. I’m obsessed. I’m using the present tense here deliberately because mine is a constant state of fascination when it comes to Moon Knight. I have read nearly every issue that bears his name, I own the issue in which he makes his first appearance, and I am well on my way to owning every comic in which he makes an appearance. So when I tell you that what follows is the short version of what Moon Knight is about and why I love the character, rest assured that I am telling the truth.
Marc Spector was a Mercenary. An ex-marine who decided that his combat training could prove more profitable if the operations he staged were auctioned off to the highest bidder. But when confronted with a fellow mercenary’s willingness to harm truly innocent people, Spector had a change of heart, which proved fatal. Left to die in the middle of the desert, Spector stumbled into a forgotten temple, collapsed at the feet of the Egyptian God of the Moon, Khonshu, and died. Khonshu, taking pity on Spector, intervened and resurrected him, molding him into his avatar on earth, his warrior-priest, his Moon Knight of Vengeance.
Spector returned to the United States and rebranded himself as the millionaire Steven Grant by day and Moon Knight by night, funding his affluent playboy lifestyle and moon-themed gadgets with the spoils of his mercenary days. But here’s where the character gets truly interesting: Spector willfully suppresses his true identity as Marc Spector the soldier for hire and affects an affable millionaire playboy persona in his everyday life. This is not his sole performance, however, as he affects the gruff persona of New York City cab driver Jake Lockley. Lockley allows Spector to keep an ear to the ground and spy on the seedy underbelly of the city he protects as Moon Knight. One man: four personalities.
Now Moon Knight, or Moonie as he is sometimes called by his rogue’s gallery and writing team, has been through the the Marvel blender like most superheroes: he's been through reboots, redesigns and relocations like the best of them. What have remained constant are Spector's uncertainty of his own sanity and the support of his friends. Whether it's his brother-in-arms Jean-Paul DuChamp who serves as Moon Knight's mechanic and Moon-Coptor pilot, Jake Lockley's friends Gina and Crawley, or Spector's girlfriend Marlene Alraune, Moon Knight is never alone in his fight for justice, vengeance, or sanity.
Is he crazy or is he sane? Can he balance his crime fighting with his off-again on-again relationship with Marlene? Is the vengeful God Khonshu real or is he a delusion created by Spector's damaged psyche? These are the most prominent conflicts that Moon Knight's Comics have explored over the years and though they are revisited again and again they continue to fascinate me with every reexamination.
He's been bitten by werewolves, seduced by serial killers, and traded punches with Spiderman and the Punisher. He's been a Defender and a member of both the West Coast and Secret Avengers. He's carved crescent moons in the foreheads of his prey, he's taken on the personalities of other superheroes, and he's worn the face of his most hated enemy. Moon Knight is clever, brutal, and completely insane.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing review/recap articles on the most recent run of Moon Knight and I sincerely hope if you've never heard of Marc Spector before you'll consider picking up an issue and sharing in my obsession.