Do you ever wonder about the tone of a comic? I’ve been sitting here thinking about “Moon Knight” and what tone Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev are going for. In considering tone and comics, I’ve come to the conclusion that most comics are horrible at conveying anything between serious and goofy. It seems that comics exist at those two poles with anything in between read by most as existing at one of those extremes. After five issues, it’s become apparent that “Moon Knight” is somewhere in between. Could it, in fact, be a dramedy, a book that fluctuates between serious and comedic explicitly, while maintaining a generally less-than-serious undertone?
The comic stars a man who has the voices/personalities of Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America running through his head, all of them shouting at him while, in this issue, he faces the dilemma of running or allowing the police to arrest him. It’s not absurd, madcap funny, and it can’t be taken seriously. As the issue progresses, it almost seems like this is a comic about how Moon Knight is a pretty crappy superhero, possibly even a bad person, while Echo doesn’t fare much better. Their interactions consist of him leaving her with the police, them escaping together later, him trying to kiss her, and her responding by hitting him in the face repeatedly. And these people were/are Avengers.
Reading it as a traditional, straight forward superhero comic doesn’t seem an option and, once you begin to see it as something not quite funny, but not quite serious either, it reads a lot better. Moon Knight is a flawed, screwed up hero that isn’t particularly good and is looking to enter into a dysfunctional relationship with Echo, who’s just as screwed up. In between, there’s brawls in the streets of Los Angeles that end with them getting arrested, fleeing from the cops, and, then, Moon Knight needing a ride from his assistant. All of that points to a pretty straight forward story of a failing hero.
Alex Maleev’s art, with Matthew Wilson’s colors, continues to impress, particularly in the opening pages where they take advantage of the stark whiteness of Moon Knight’s costume. He’s drawn like a walking negative space that immediately catches the eye. Later, Echo abusing the hero is drawn in extreme close-ups and colored with a sickly yellow background, orange tinges on both figures, and bright red blood and sound effects, giving those panels an odd pop that stands out. Wilson is great at giving every location and scene its own look and general color, doing some fantastic work.
Trying to read “Moon Knight” #5 like any other superhero book, even one written by Bendis, doesn’t work. It’s too skewed, almost written so close to the craziness of its characters that the reader needs to step back and see them for the quasi-losers and weirdos they are. It’s not a book about proving one’s self or making good, it’s just a comic about a screwed up guy who dresses up in a bright white costume and thinks he’s awesome.