I don't have any fond memories of the Mark Texiera/Javier Saltares art team. For me, they represent a period of 1990s Marvel comics that I found particularly unreadable. But I've always liked their art. I like their third-generation Neal Adams riff, and I like the way they use three-dimensional shading effects on exaggerated anatomy. From what I've seen of their work individually, Saltares seems particularly skilled at page compositions and Texiera is best when he's rendering. So when they work together, with Saltares on layouts and Texiera on finishes, their work really shines. So even though I didn't enjoy the Howard Mackie comics they often ended up drawing, I liked their craftsmanship.
Too bad "Moon Knight" doesn't provide them much of a story, either.
"Moon Knight" #21 begins the "Death of Marc Spector" arc -- the arc you may have seen promoted in the jarringly odd in-house Marvel ads this month. You know, the one with this issue's cover -- the Arthur Suydam painting of Venom pouncing on a sad-looking Moon Knight. The one with the text, "From 'Entourage' Writer Mike Benson." Nothing says death and violence like a jokey, unimpressive HBO comedy.
Of course, if Benson brought a sense of humor to "Moon Knight," it would probably be a whole lot better than it is, because this first installment of "The Death of Marc Spector" is relentlessly serious and faux-intense. It's a good thing Texiera and Saltares thrive on drawing guys making angry faces and yelling, because they get to show that side of their talent on half the pages in this issue. It's an endless stream of, "Where's Moon Knight?!?" and "I know you know where he is! Tell us!" Because, you see, Moon Knight's on the lam. He's a registered hero who isn't playing by the Initiative rules.
I like the concept of hero who defies the rules. Moon Knight is perfect for such a role, with his insanity, and all. Of course it all hinges on the idea that the government would have let a homicidal maniac register as a hero to begin with. But they're the same people who let Norman Osborn run a government-sponsored super-team. The Initiative has decision-making problems.
And speaking of Norman Osborn, he shows up at the end of this issue, which isn't much of a surprise for anyone who has seen those Venom-and-Moon-Knight ads I mentioned above. Venom is part of Osborn's Thunderbolts strike team, and the rest of the team is depicted in the background of that "Death of Marc Spector" ad as well.
So what we get here is the first part of the Moon Knight vs. the Thunderbolts saga, presumably. That's something that might be interesting, with the lack of morality and lack of sanity involved all around, but this first chapter inspires little faith. It's all talk so far, and the talk's not particularly well-written. Norman Osborn, for example, demands a sugar cookie, because, as he says, "I always get hungry before I destroy someone."
If that's the level of wit we can expect from even an "Entourage" writer, then I'm not looking forward to more.