You ever see The Raid? It’s this Indonesian action movie. It (and its sequel) is probably one of the best action movies in recent memory.
The plot of The Raid is ridiculously simple. One cop, in one building, against an army of criminals. It is an hour and a half of dudes wrecking shit. It’s eighty minutes of brutal martial arts. It’s something that’s been done lots–you can describe a ridiculous number of movies that way, thanks to Die Hard–but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s absolutely thrilling, a marvel of craft and assured filmmaking.
Moon Knight #5 is pretty much The Raid, but as a comic book.
A gang has kidnapped a girl who was on her way home from a school event at night. They hold her hostage on the fifth floor of a building. Moon Knight spends all twenty-two pages wrecking dudes on his way to the girl.
That’s it. That’s all that happens. It’s not much.
But it is so, so good.
How much you’ll agree with that will depend on your attitude towards plot. As I hinted at by opening this column by talking about an Indonesian martial arts film, a film or comic doesn’t necessarily live or die by how clever its plot is. Tired or thin plots can still result in an exciting story–you’ve just got to make damn sure your execution is stunning.
And Ellis, Shalvey, and Belliare continue to impress. Warren Ellis’ continues his less-is-more approach to story, with almost no dialogue outside of the opening and closing pages. He doesn’t really need much in the way of words, anyway–Moon Knight #5 is a lean, violent, action story that’s mostly carried by Declan Shalvey’s art, which gives Marc Spector’s Mr. Knight persona a slow relentlessness as he tears through thugs. He doesn’t use stealth, nor is he built like a truck. Shalvey draws Mr. Knight in a way that conveys pure surgical finesse, taking on people who can clearly see him coming–just the way he likes it.
That last bit warrants circling back to Ellis’ script. Spare as it may be, it effectively reinforces the notion of who Moon Knight is in this series. He’s a protector of those who travel by night, a hero whom the bad guys can see coming. There’s not too much in the way of new insight into the titular character, but a brief scene towards the end does give readers a bit to mull over and wonder just what exactly Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire will choose to explore for their final issue before the book changes hands with #7.
Color artist Jordie Belliare brings just as much to the table as she always has , working with a tight color palate that never strays too far from the cover’s rusty gold, expanding to include the browns and greens of a dilapidated tenement. Also striking is the color work on Mr. Knight himself–close ups on his biker-gloved hands and exposed forearms give a peek at the man beneath the mask, highlighting how inspired a decision it was to portray the whites of his costume by leaving them devoid of any color.
Last week, I was pretty hard on Superman #32, and comics like Moon Knight are the reason why. While Moon Knight has the luxury of not having to be too heavily serial in its storytelling and is more or less continuity free, it isn’t really doing anything groundbreaking either. It’s just a good story well told.
One commenter last week pointed out that last week’s Superman had a lot of work to do–that what I had seen as a drag was in fact some necessary housekeeping, clearing out poor story decisions made in prior runs. And that’s fine. It doesn’t change my criticism all that much–which is that the book hardly bothered to tell a story.
That, in essence, is why I wanted to do this column in this specific way. I happen to believe that a comic book should tell a story. However spare, however short–it can even be a subplot. Not trying to tell a story is a cardinal sin, something I can’t look past. I buy the comics I review in this column with my own money because I think reviewing comics you get for free makes it easy to forget how damn expensive they are, and makes you more prone to be forgiving of creators content to ship a book that only has the slightest suggestion of a story.
I review single issue comics here, not arcs or trades. And in short, I don’t want to settle for less.
A good story well told. That’s all I want for me, and for you.