For a change, I thought I would talk about a book that I have actually purchased, rather than borrow from the library. Having enjoyed his Joe Pitt novels, I was interested in Charlie Huston’s updating of Moon Knight. I’ve no personal infection for the character, and I’m only vaguely aware of his history (mostly Sienkiewicz’s artistic development from Neal Adams clone to his own unique style); however, a combination of the cool and gritty prose stylings of Huston and the muscular artwork of Finch suggested a risk work taking (bearing in mind that I didn’t read any reviews, including the biggest fan of the series Greg Burgas).
First off: The Bottom is a really bad title. Not only does it say, ‘Moon Knight is an arse’, but it also has unfortunate connotations with the reveal that the Frenchie character is gay (which I believe is a retcon).
The story starts off promising. Finch brings his ‘superhero noir’ stylings to the action scenes (i.e. it’s not really noir but spandex in the night and the rain). Marc Spector, Moon Knight, is dispensing justice and Huston lays down the tough guy dialogue: ‘I don’t wear white to hide myself. I wear it so they’ll see me coming.’ The reveal is that it is our hero remembering – he is in fact in a wheelchair and just wants his old life back again. He had his legs broken, turned to pills and turned on everyone who was close to him.
The second issue reveals why – a fight with Bushman caused the leg damage and Moon Knight carves Bushman’s face off. This is a bit much, but Bushman did bite his mask off … Crawley arrives with Spector’s prescription and informs him that Frenchie said hello and that he is in trouble. This causes Spector to go out of his home for the first time in ages – cut to a red-hue office, ‘Asset Prime is moving’, and an oleaginous suit being analysed by another man (in a panel that is very reminiscent of Sienkiewicz).
The third issue is the background on Spector, as presented by The Profile, so we know everything pertinent about him, intercut with his meeting with Frenchie (where Frenchie reveals his secret). An aside: Finch reuses a panel of an old man dining at a table – seems a bit poor. For those of us who don’t know, we learn that Bushman killed Spector before, at the first visit to the tomb in the Valley of the Kings (where Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon, first brought Spector back to life as his avatar on earth). The Profile has analysed Spector and set up a contingency plan to get him to work for The Committee; however, one of the stupid members did it too early (assaulting Frenchie), meaning Spector has been given a lifeline to return to the thing he loves doing: being a hero. The Committee brings in Taskmaster to tidy up and deal with Spector, who they wanted to turn into an assassin for them, something which their fathers in The Committee couldn’t do. A bit of a silly justification, but this is only superhero comics …
Meanwhile, Spector hallucinates Khonshu talking to him again, which brings him back. Marlene returns and the Taskmaster crashes in … He delivers a video message from The Committee, before talks about how he is going to kill him and all his friends, only for Marlene to defend herself and the butler, Samuels, defends himself (while Taskmaster has some fun, snappy dialogue). They drive back to the old Batmansion, I mean, Moon Mansion, to fix up Spector. He gets suited up in the old white costume and goes to The Committee in one of his Moon jets.
He fights the Taskmaster and The Committee (but lets them live), meaning he can get his life together (sharing, being nice to people, etc.) It turns out that the plot is a bit like the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods – Khonshu needs to get Spector to believe in him again and start spilling blood in sacrifice for him again.
This isn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, especially compared to the exhilarating thrill of Huston’s novels. Finch does his usual stylish, overly ornate, muscular job to good effect, with some nice camera moves in his panel composition, but it’s not serving an engrossing story. I think that bringing back Moon Knight to noir trappings is a good idea (Batman isn’t working in that territory anymore, so it distinguishes the characters I guess), but the story never quite comes together.