The Comic Book Club: Moon Knight and Taskmaster

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up discussing what we picked up. This week, Douglas Wolk, Evan Narcisse and Graeme McMillan talk about Moon Knight #1 and the Taskmaster: Unthinkable collection.

DOUGLAS: I have a couple of biases when it comes to Moon Knight stories. The second thing I can’t help but think of when I think “Moon Knight” is the series of stories Bill Sienkiewicz drew in the early ’80s, which were way, way ahead of their time as far as visual storytelling went. Who was drawing covers like this one in 1982? (Who’s even drawing covers like that now?) Which means that if you’re not going to push the visual side of Moon Knight like crazy, there’s not much of a point in drawing him at all.

And the bigger bias is that I can never see him–particularly in stories centered on his multiple-personality issues and the voices in his head–without thinking of the Moon Roach character from the early years of Cerebus. There aren’t a lot of parodies that are powerful enough to efface what they’re based on, but the Cootie is one of them: a “superhero” so mentally messed up that he gets into fistfights with himself (and is also terribly susceptible to any lies anybody tells him about who he’s supposed to beat up or kill next).

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Which is basically the version of Moon Knight that Brian Michael Bendis is writing here: a badass fighter who’s also totally delusional. It’s interesting that Bendis’s three Marvel Universe books right now are the two top-line Avengers titles and this C-lister’s series; this also seems to tie into what he’s doing in the Avengers books, with the Ultron business.

GRAEME: The Ultron tie-in actually took me out of the story, annoyingly; I wish this book had come out before last week’s Avengers #12.1, where we learned that there’s a big “Age of Ultron” story coming up. When the Ultron body appeared here, I immediately thought “Oh, so this is part of the build-up to this big event; I guess that’s smart of Bendis to make this more ‘essential’ for Avengers readers by doing that,” instead of feeling that it’s as random or confusing as Marc Spector himself did. There are times when you can know too much as a reader, I think.

DOUGLAS: For a 34-page first issue, this is kind of light on story, and padded out with the thing Bendis seems to do a lot when he’s filling pages: fight scenes with occasional grunts for dialogue. He’s basically killing time until the final-page revelation, which would be a lot more of a blast if it weren’t the selling point of this incarnation of the series, mentioned in all the advance publicity, hinted at on the front cover, etc. (It’s still pretty clever.)

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GRAEME: There was an interview Bendis gave recently for the Word Balloon podcast where he talked about the fact that he’d essentially had to blow the last page reveal in order to sell the series as a whole to cynical fans. It was interesting, because he didn’t seem particularly annoyed about it. (He seemed to be arguing that, in today’s market, you generally have to tell people what the first issue is all about, and whether they come back for the second issue is down to whether they read the first and thought “Yeah, that’s what I thought it would be” or “That’s nothing like what I was promised at all!”) But here, I think it’s a shame. I would have loved to know how I would have taken that last page if I didn’t already know the new gimmick of the series, especially because I suspect that I wouldn’t really get it: Would I be able to make the leap that Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine are inside Marc’s head just from their sudden absence on the last page? It felt too subtle for its own good, but disguised by the fact that the majority of readers knew it was coming anyway.

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