Editor's Note: Moon Knight #19 arrives in stores tomorrow, June 11.
"God and Country: Part Six"
Throughout this story –arc, one thing has become abundantly clear. Mike Benson knows these characters. He understands what makes them tick, he understands how each character plays an essential yet different role in Spector's life and most importantly, Benson understands Spector. This has definitely been one of the highlights of this story-arc. While one major concept of the arc didn't exactly cover new ground, Benson's take on Spector's quest for redemption was explored in a unique and new way. Rather than using the cliché "hero simply searching to atone for sins past through moral obligation," Benson has actually given Moon Knight a catalyst to continue his crusade, a superhuman registration card. The arc has been consistent, it's been building to this final issue since the very beginning, and Mike Benson's first full story-arc most certainly comes together and concludes with a very loud bang.
I'll admit that it is a bit of a silly concept, the "Unsung Heroes Day" celebration. While it may seem a bit silly on the outside, and seemingly nothing more than a mere plot device to allow the Black Spectre to unleash his plan, the "Unsung Hero" idea actually has a deeper and more powerful meaning in this story. In an interview I conducted with Benson earlier in the year, I asked if he had any plans to make Moon Knight an Avenger. He answered by saying "no" and explaining to me that his view on the title is that Moon Knight, in a way, is a team book. Of all the Marvel characters, Moon Knight has a consistent supporting cast that is probably just as strong as the supporting players of Spider-Man. In a way, not only is Moon Knight a figurative and literal "unsung hero" of the Marvel Universe, but his supporting cast are the unsung heroes of his life. This was made more than clear last issue when his old informant Bertrand Crawley literally slapped Spector out of "self-pity mode" after S.H.I.E.L.D. took his Moon Knight gear and Black Spectre beat the hell out of him. Crawley went on to explain that Spector is his hero, thus reinvigorating Moon Knight to go out and stop the Black Spectre from releasing mind-controlling nanobots into the New York City night. It's a chain that Benson understands and really brings to the forefront of this arc. Moon Knight is Marvel's unsung hero, yet the characters that surround Moon Knight are his unsung heroes.
I also loved Benson's writing as he introduces an "Unsung Hero" of the Initiative, some secretary/floozy who is showing too much cleavage. What he writes in the dialogue of reporters covering the event and the images that follow is what truly hammers home the point about Moon Knight's supporting cast. It's just excellent storytelling as the newscasters describe the energy of the crowd and the spectacle of the celebration. Benson uses this as a segue into the newscasters discussion of the Moon Knight investigation and Tony Stark's comments that "Unsung Heroes Day" isn’t about super-heroes or Moon Knight. As Benson writes this dialogue, the scenes jump to the most important people in Spector's life, namely Frenchie, Rob, Marlene and Ray, the real unsung heroes of this title.
Finally, as the Black Spectre releases the mind-control nanobots into the air, Crawley assists Moon Knight in regaining his strength to confront the Black Spectre. Keep in mind, Moon Knight's super-powers have been non-existent since this series relaunched, so here he relies on pure will and painkillers. I personally love that Benson includes the scene where Crawley injects Moon Knight with Novocain and cortisone. Sometimes I don't feel we see the humanity of superheroes enough anymore. Sure, every now and then you will see Batman working out, being stitched up by Alfred, and even see the numerous scars on his back from his battles. But he is still human and takes a beating regularly. Peter Parker is often portrayed sporting bruises from his battles, but Benson brings a level of realism to the injections Moon Knight takes. He just got his ass handed to him by the Black Spectre, but since he's the only one who can stop him, he's got to suck it up and fight. Whenever a professional athlete suffers an injury, most commonly a knee or joint injury, they are often whisked into the locker room and injected with cortisone and Novocain amongst other pain killers and more than likely performance enhancing drugs. I just found something remarkable about this scene. This book certainly does not pull its punches, and Benson certainly brings the performance enhancing drug debate into comics by having Crawley object as he injects Moon Knight. While cortisone and Novocain aren't exactly as serious as steroids, the level of realism Benson brings to this scene elevates this issue to a higher level.
It's also during this scene that Benson's writing takes a turn for the cinematic. As the Black Spectre releases the nanites into the air and Crawley injects Moon Knight with the painkillers, it's like you can almost hear the theme music playing in the background as we come closer to the final battle. The suspense builds as Moon Knight dons his full outfit and Crawley drives him towards the celebration. Benson even adds some humor with Crawley as he drives. Not only does Benson's writing take on a more cinematic quality, but he also doesn't waste time and gets from point to point without wasting page time. For example, right after the driving scene, the Black Spectre prepares for the final stage of his plan when Moon Knight arrives to confront him. As the two engage in battle, the crowd turns their attention to the rooftop where they are.
While the fight scene is very well done, it's the Black Spectre's dialogue that is the true highlight of the scene. He wants the people to love him; he wants to be their leader like he should have been back in the day when he ran for mayor, before becoming a villain. He's more powerful than Moon Knight, but he's also a classic villain whose ego often serves as his downfall. I won't spoil the ending, but the way in which Moon Knight stops the Black Spectre is so simple, yet so perfect that it shows the lengths that Moon Knight will go to not only become the hero he wants to be, but save himself in the process. The issue comes full circle as Moon Knight becomes an "unsung hero," and the reactions from his supporting cast should prove to open up storylines for issues to come. We also get a fantastic "moral of the story" from the Profile.
The ending of this issue is extremely well done and effectively concludes the main Khonshu-involved storyline that began with Charlie Huston. I'm interested to see where this goes and how it will affect Marc's future. While it may seem like the type of Moon Knight plot-thread we have seen before, I am really curious as to how it will play out in terms of what Marc plans to accomplish as Moon Knight.
Mark Texiera’s artwork is once again spectacular. Javier Saltares provides spectacular layouts that Texiera brings to life. I love the imagery Tex and Saltares bring to Benson's writing, and the creative team has been assembled and worked very well throughout this arc. Tex has a very distinct, painted style but he still manages to capture the highlights and important details of every image. There's a great level of consistency, the tone is perfect and there's something grateful about the fight scenes. While I am really looking forward to Mike Deodato's art next issue, I can't wait for Saltares, Tex and Benson to return and pit Moon Knight against the Thunderbolts.
Moon Knight is Marvel's "unsung title." Since Benson took the reins, it has become one of the best written books that is on the shelves today. Benson knows these characters, and it really seems as though he is a natural when it comes to writing comics. This story-arc has been nothing short of phenomenal. While I love his work on Moon Knight, I really hope he gets the opportunity to work with other characters in the Marvel Universe. However, he won't be taking any breathers as Moon Knight goes up again Werewolf by Night next issue, followed by a six-part battle with the Thunderbolts. Seriously, if you aren't reading this book, start doing so and get the back issues, it's well worth the money. This is my advance Pick of the Week.
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