Marvel’s deranged, split personality-laden hero Marc Spector is celebrating a milestone this week, and you better believe we have something to say about Moon Knight #200! Plus, Black Panther and Deadpool are squaring off in a new miniseries, and Spider-Gwen returns in a new ongoing title. We’ve got thoughts on the biggest new books from The House of Ideas in this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Written by Max Bemis
Illustrated by Paul Davidson, Jacen Burrows, Jeff Lemire and Bill Sienkiewicz
Colored by Matt Milla with Jeff Lemire
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: AJ! Moon Knight’s latest run has officially come to an end with the milestone new installment. What did you think of this hyper-dense action-packed finale?
AJ Frost: Alex! I think “hyper-dense” is an understatement. Packed in these 36 pages are healthy smatterings of spiritualism, action, religious obligation, discussions of mental health, and more! I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not 100 percent caught up in the Moon Knight mythos, though I know a basic amount of information to get by. This milestone book was definitely that: an issue that provides a thesis on why Moon Knight is not only one of Marvel’s most cleverly-conceived heroes, but also one of their most dynamic.
Jones: This character has been reinvented several times over and I think it is clear author Max Bemis was pouring a lot of his own personality into the script. Marc Spector is a perfect outlet for the unique tone and dialogue of Bemis. I think this issue has a fairly profound statement to make about redemption, mental illness, and religion. The script is definitely clunky and verbose, however, but I can’t help but admire the ambition Bemis brought to the work.
Frost: Bemis not only had to conclude this arc but also had to create his own spin on the character and I think he did a magnificent job here. Yes, there is a lot of dialogue, some of it rather didactic, but overall I think that was in line with Moon Knight and the supporting cast. There were some times where I had to consult some outside materials to figure out who was who in the cast, but that was more on me. There was a nice mix of humorous and dramatic moments and Bemis used the medium to play with time for some nice fourth-wall-breaking stuff. He brought his A-game here and it definitely shows.
Jones: I agree with all of the above. Bemis’s take on the character feels particularly unique. He has developed his own supporting cast and fused the supporting cast from previous runs on the hero as well. It was interesting to see Bemis attempt to draw a link from his run to Lemire and company’s work on the title to the classic Bill Sienkiewicz and Doug Moench run. Bemis has also directly referenced the Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey run as well with the embodiment of Khonshu. Basically, I think it is safe to say hardcore Moon Knight fans should probably check this out.
Frost: Lemire was directly referenced, which I thought was a nice touch. And you’re totally right, I think hardcore fans will be more than satisfied with the story here. But what about the art? What did you think of Paul Davidson’s work in this issue?
Jones: This script is intensely strange and needs an artist like Paul Davidson who is really expressive to get the story right. Davidson’s work really impressed me with how expressive the cast members were in each scene. I felt like the action was really dynamic as well. When the guest artists came in I thought it was a tremendous contrast to Davidson and a great send-off for the series. Bemis’s script is really odd and Davidson just feels like the right choice for me. What do you think?
Frost: I thought the art was most impactful for the big action scenes but stumbled somewhat when it came time for some of the quieter dialogue scenes. There was one sequence where Davidson drew Marc’s six-year-old daughter that was just creepy as hell, almost like a Margaret Keane painting. Other than that, strong stuff.
Jones: I kind of liked just how odd it looked. This script needs a lot of personality and a strong sense of humor. If you look too closely, you may start to notice the rough edges of the issue, and the whole thing starts to come apart. I think that brings me to the final verdict—did you want to let me know what you thought first?
Frost: Oh, I liked the aesthetic, too. That part just creeped me out a little, haha. Moon Knight is one of those characters I always mean to get back to. This isn’t a great introduction to the character, but it is a fantastic representation of his place in the Marvel Universe. This is a strong BUY from me.
Jones: The issue is an ending, not a beginning. I definitely would not advise anyone to start reading here. I think this is a pretty strong script capping off another interesting Moon Knight run. While I wish some of these runs would be longer, I have no qualms about giving the issue a BUY verdict.
Final Verdict: The quality of Moon Knight #200 unites The Rundown! AJ and Alexander say BUY!
Written by Daniel Kibblesmith
Illustrated by Ricardo López Ortiz
Colored by Felipe Sobreiro
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Alexander Jones: Gentlemen! I can’t think of two characters more marketable and different than Black Panther and Deadpool! What was your big takeaway from the debut issue?
Joe Grunenwald: Nice to be back with you for another week, fellows. There’ve been so many of these middling “Deadpool vs. insert character name here” miniseries at this point that I was really skeptical of how this one was going to go. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this first issue.
AJ Frost: It seems almost like a no-brainer to do something like this that I’m surprised it’s taken Marvel so long to actually go through with it. The odd coupling is really the stuff of sitcoms and that’s my one major takeaway: you can take the good and you can take the bad and you end up with one of the funniest team-ups that Marvel has put together in a long time. I was actually howling with laughter throughout the issue. Maybe it’s that I like Deadpool in general, but the wall-breaking references were more on-point than ever in this book.
Jones: You guys, the script for this issue is nothing short of delightful but let’s not beat around the bush! The real winner here is Ricardo López Ortiz. His art takes command of the issue and imbues the issue with an eclectic tone I can’t get enough of.
Frost: Damn straight! Even though the digs at yuppie naming conventions and the profitability of the respective film franchises for each character were appreciated, Ortiz’s art was transcendent! This is exactly what I’m looking for in my Marvel books: zip, big action, attention to details in the small moments, and lots of character. There was an abundance of all of these in this comic!
Grunenwald: This is my first experience with either Ortiz or writer Daniel Kibblesmith, and I’m very interested in checking out their other work after reading this comic. I’m much more familiar with T’Challa and Wade based on their movie incarnations, and Kibblesmith does an excellent job capturing the tone of those characters and translating it to the page. And Ortiz’s work is off-the-charts good, capturing little character moments and big, cartoonish action with equal style and skill. Great stuff all-around.
Frost: Casual fans of both characters will have no problem being caught up with this book because the characterizations are pretty close to the big screen versions. That’s a plus.
Grunenwald: It certainly made the issue accessible for me.
Jones: There were lots of great small moments in the title but the eclectic pencils and approach to the story is what hooked me from the first page. Kibblesmith approaches the script with a logical direction that carries the personality Ortiz was trying to evoke. If one member of the creative team wasn’t as excited as the others, this chapter definitely would have suffered.
Frost: Agreed. The love for the absurdity of the team up is palpable from the first page.
Grunenwald: So I don’t know how in-character Deadpool’s behavior is one way or the other here, but I love how the reason for his trip to Wakanda is set up, and how it plays out once he gets there. It’s the definition of a Stupid Hero Fight—if he had just told T’Challa why he was there it could easily have been avoided—and I loved it. It looks like the rest of the series is going to follow the cliched hero team-up pattern that Wade lays out in this issue, and I’m completely into it.
Frost: I hope the rest of you peeped in the sly references to early nineties Disney. Those were some of my favorite parts of the book!
Grunenwald: I caught the obvious Darkwing Duck reference, but I may have missed some others.
Jones: Even though I enjoyed this issue, I would still say I had one major gripe. The best Deadpool stories are often the ones that can really ground his performance and direction to something that would actually be believable. The movies do a great job of this. I found that my favorite parts of the title were the more understated Black Panther segments which still carried a loose vibe but were slightly more serious and down-to-earth.
Frost: Spoilers, Joe! And Alex, I see where you’re coming from, but in some ways, unhinged Deadpool is just as amusing to me, so it’s not a major gripe.
Grunenwald: Yeah, I get where you’re coming from as well, Alex. I think the juxtaposition of over-the-top Deadpool with understated Black Panther is what makes the issue work so well. That said, if I had to pick one of those things to read a full story about, it would probably be Black Panther.
Frost: This really would be a great premise for a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s such a fun concept. I know that Deadpool has been partnered with others in the Marvel Universe, but the stark difference in tone and personality is so cleverly used here. It’s really a joy when the synergies work to the strength of each character.
Jones: It would be incredible if we got the chance to see Ortiz’s art on a more mainstream title. I think it would be great if Marvel actually applied a creative team like this to one of their more focal titles. I don’t know if the tone between Deadpool and Black Panther quite matches up, but at this point, I’m splitting hairs. This issue is executed very well given what the creators had to work with.
Frost: I’d love to see what Ortiz could do with an Avengers book. Maybe one day.
Grunenwald: Or a Spider-Man book. His art actually reminded me a lot of Robbi Rodriguez.
Jones: What sorts of aspects do both of you want to see in future issues of this title?
Grunenwald: I don’t know that I have any specific things I’d like to see, but I do hope that Kibblesmith and Ortiz are able to maintain the momentum they’ve established in the debut. As long as they keep up the energy and the humor, I’ll be interested.
Frost: I’m interested to see how traits of each character somehow get internalized from their counterpart. Will Black Panther become more irreverent? Will Deadpool, somehow, be able to be a little bit more serious in his tasks? All of this remains to be seen.
Grunenwald: Oh, I like that, too, though I don’t know if I could handle an irreverent Black Panther. I like that he’s so stoic. He’s Martin to Deadpool’s Lewis.
Frost: It’s hard to imagine, right? But that’s why it may be interesting to see if it happens!
Jones: What are everyone’s final thoughts on the issue?
Frost: Wade meets T’Challa. Hi-jinx ensue. Healthy laffs mixed in with great action. ‘Nuff said. BUY.
Grunenwald: This is a great, fun comic with an unlikely pairing that works really well together in part because of how unlikely it is. It’s a BUY from me as well.
Jones: I didn’t want to like this but it won me over. I think it is safe to shoot this one a BUY verdict for the art alone.
Final Verdict: Bask in the glory of another unanimous Marvel Rundown BUY!
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1
Written by Seanan McGuire
Illustrated by Rosi Kämpe
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
It’s honestly hard to believe that it’s only been four years since Spider-Gwen made her debut in Edge of Spider-Verse #2. The character took off so quickly, and her reach has extended so far in such a short time, that it seems like she’s been around forever. So when the Spider-Gwen ongoing series ended a few months back, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the character wouldn’t be gone from her own series for long, and lo and behold here we are with the first issue of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider.
It’s a hard thing to immediately follow the creative team who created and defined a character. It’s equally difficult to craft a compelling first issue for a rebooted series that’s engaging both for new and returning readers. And it’s often damn near impossible to produce a meaningful tie-in to a large event series. Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 is saddled with trying to do all three of these things, and as a result, regardless of how nice it is to see Gwen headlining her own book again, this first issue leaves something to be desired.
On the first measure of following Spider-Gwen’s previous creative team, writer Seanan McGuire and artist Rosi Kämpe acquit themselves well. McGuire’s Gwen is the same as she’s ever been – clever, heroic, and burdened with the responsibility that comes with having powers. The writer presents a lot of information through expository dialogue, while avoiding said dialogue being particularly clunky or unnatural. The narrative captions from Gwen’s perspective, a staple of the previous series, serve nicely here to give new readers insight into the character and her motivations, and they work particularly well in the latter half of the issue as Gwen finds herself in some new surroundings. Rosi Kämpe’s art throughout the issue is full of energy, with action that’s exciting and that flows nicely. Her characters are well-defined and expressive, and during dialogue-heavy non-costumed scenes, Kämpe does a nice job of keeping characters in motion and using visually-interesting page layouts. Colorist Ian Herring’s work complements Kämpe’s line art nicely, and the palette he uses creates a nice visual continuity with Rico Renzi’s colors on the previous volume of Spider-Gwen. There’s a lot for Spider-Gwen fans to be excited about with the character in this team’s hands.
Unfortunately, the thing that holds this debut issue back from its full potential is that most dreaded of corporate comics maladies: the Event Tie-In. The first half of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 reads as an accessible continuation of what has come before for the character, which is great for readers new and old. Unfortunately this issue is also a tie-in to the current Spider-Geddon event series, and that’s where the trouble begins. The first half of the issue takes place before the events of Spider-Geddon #1 and 2, while the second half takes place after Spider-Geddon #2. McGuire does the best she can to gloss over the details of what happens in those comics quickly and get back to telling her own story, but there’s a lot that’s lost for readers who haven’t read those Spider-Geddon issues, and it’s ultimately to the detriment of this first issue. It’s a shame that this new creative team didn’t even get a full issue to establish themselves on the series before having to tie in to an outside event.
This situation reminds me of when Marvel launched Spider-Woman launched back in 2014. The first four issues of that series were a tie-in to ‘Spider-Verse’, but with issue 5 the creative team was free of that event and able to take Jessica Drew in a new direction – likely the direction that they pitched for her before the event tie-in was saddled on them – and the results were some really stellar comics. I’m hopeful that the same will be true for Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider.
Verdict: I’m giving this issue a Browse. The work that McGuire, Kämpe, and co. put forth on this issue is solid, even if the issue overall is hindered by having to tie in to Spider-Geddon. Once that event is in the rearview, I’m looking forward to seeing what this new series has in store for Gwen.
TRICK OR TREAT, TRUE BELIEVERS! Next week is the Avengers Halloween Special!