Review: Marvel’s got backstory in New Batch of #1s (Moon Knight, Magneto, Wolverine & The X-Men)

Marvel released three new #1s this week.  Revivals of Moon Knight and Magneto and a new first issue of Wolverine & The X-men that is little more than a renumbering.  Reading them in a single sitting, the interesting thing was observing how each title handled the issue of backstory.  Marvel has a tendency to tie its titles into groups and few franchises have as much continuity baggage as the X-Men family.

moon knight 1 197x300 Review: Marvels got backstory in New Batch of #1s (Moon Knight, Magneto, Wolverine & The X Men)The best of the three is Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.  Moon Knight is a character with a lot of baggage, owing to the last few attempts to revive him.  What started out as a sort of “Marvel’s answer to Batman” with multiple identities along the lines of The Shadow and a touch of mysticism to the origin that was left a bit mysterious turned into more of a magic hero and then a raving lunatic.  Rather than astro turf the previous versions, Ellis decides to embrace them and construct a narrative of a man who _has_ gone insane and is trying to get his sanity back.  As to what caused him to go mad, well.. that’s best read for yourself at the end of issue one.  Let’s just say I had no suspension of disbelief problems.

The narrative style is… well, actually it’s kind of what Agents of SHIELD is trying for and failing at, it’s terse with a few zingers thrown in.  Mostly the zingers are about Moon Knight being a little crazy and wearing white because he enjoys it when the bad guys see him coming.  (The one flaw with the book is the jokes about the Bendis version and the Captain America/Spider-Man/Wolverine imaginary personalities were repeated too much.  Oh, they were on target, don’t get me wrong, but the last one completely wore it out.)  Moon Knight is now a bit more clinical and detached, perhaps a bit OCD.  And that fits the “I know something was wrong with me and I’m trying to get better” approach.  The costume change is also explained away and there’s a good reason (linked to Moon Knight’s departure from NYC) for him slightly switching attire.

Shalvey’s art does a good job of setting the mood, alternating between pulp crime and some hints of horror where appropriate.  Most importantly, he can sell that white suit and mask without it looking absurd.  It might have looked off in the preview images, but it’s very natural in the context of the story.

What we have here is an honest to goodness, set the table with an mini-adventure and introduce the concept type of one and done #1 issue.  Moon Knight helps out the NYPD with a little problem and we get a look at the new setup.  The _why_ of the new setup is revealed in the final pages and I’m not sure exactly where things are going in issue #2, but I’m buying into the premise and curious for it.

Very good setup for a series and has enough there to bring in fans of the previous incarnations without upsetting them too much if they have a favorite version.  That’s a bit of a juggling act.  The only lingering concern I have is that this book was developed under the protective cloud of Steve Wacker (much like Daredevil, Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Hawkeye — books that have, for the most part, done their own thing in their own corners of the Marvel universe).  You hope the book’s individual voice stays put going forward.

Recommended.  Highly recommended if “street level + weird goings on in the background” sounds appealing.

magneto 1 197x300 Review: Marvels got backstory in New Batch of #1s (Moon Knight, Magneto, Wolverine & The X Men)Magneto is a character with a LOT of baggage, and like Moon Knight, a few different incarnations.  This is the current quasi-outlaw version of Magneto.  There’s a passing mention of his new partially de-powered state from Avengers Vs. X-Men that could be explained a bit more fully… except that whole big superhero crossover thing would seriously compromise the tone of the book.  Much like Moon Knight #1, Magneto #1 is about establishing the status quo for the series.

In this case, we’re in some serious anti-hero territory.  Magneto was conceived as a mutant terrorist and so he continues to be in this series.  His cause of the day is to hunt down people who have been killing mutants or funding those who seek to wipe out mutants and kill them.  Now, depending on your point of view, this is either a series of assassinations or righteous executions.  And in the mind of Magneto, there’s more than a little Simon Wiesenthal tracking down Nazis going on here.  And having a station full of police standing between him and his target doesn’t give him much by way of second thoughts, since Magneto feels he’s the one who needs to be meting out the justice.

Which is to say, we’ve got a book with it’s own twisted and complicated morality.

The writing on this is by Cullen Bunn, who’s probably still best known for The Sixth Gun.  The art is by Gabriel Hernendez Walta.

The art reminded me a bit of a darker version of Steve Dillon on Punisher.  Which suits the vengence + internal monologue nature of this issue.

As for the actual plot, Magneto is taking his angel of vengeance act on national tour while contemplating his existence and runs into a bit more than he was expecting to.  Likely a conspiracy.  Magneto as a Parker novel, perhaps.

This is a book that knows what it wants to be and excelled in setting it’s own town.  Well executed, too.  Still, the mutant anti-hero thing isn’t exactly new.  There are plenty of echoes of Wolverine and X-Force here, though a bit more philosophically drawn out.  Very good at what it wants to be, though.

Mildly Recommended to Recommended; If you’re an X-Fan, Highly Recommended – in one issue, this book has established it’s identity better than some of the primary X-books.

Speaking of which, there’s also Wolverine & the X-Men #1.  I may not be the right person to be reviewing this book, since it doesn’t feel like a number one issue, so much as a new writer saying “hi, I’m here to continue.”  I didn’t read the previous volume, so I really felt lost reading this book.

wolverine 1 197x300 Review: Marvels got backstory in New Batch of #1s (Moon Knight, Magneto, Wolverine & The X Men)This wasn’t so much Wolverine & the X-Men as Quentin Quire and some New Mutants with Wolverine & the X-Men in the background, although I gather this is what the previous volume ended up being about?  It seemed mis-named to me.  The issue attempts to set the table by checking in on some characters, but the backstory mostly isn’t there.  Quire is apparently reformed and going to be Phoenix someday (not a clue what they were talking about).  Wolverine and Fantomas are fighting… in an interdimensional prison I’m not familiar with… and there’s a child that means something to Fantomas that was not explained.  Beast is in space.  Storm is fretting.

I think this must’ve been what if felt like in 2000 if you saw the X-Men movie in the theaters and tried to pick up current issue of Uncanny X-Men.  I didn’t have a clue what was going on.  Cards on the table, I’ve read 3 volumes of All-New X-Men and 2 volumes of Uncanny X-Men, but not Battle of the Atom.  If I need to read Battle of the Atom to know what’s going on in this issue, then it’s not really a jumping on point.

Jason Latour is the writer.  Mahmud Asrar is the artist.

Avoid like the plague if you haven’t been already reading Wolverine & The X-Men.  If you’ve been reading it the whole time, you might like this.  I really don’t know.  This felt to me like the next issue, not a first issue.

Comments

  1. Strabo says:

    “Avoid like the plague if you haven’t been already reading Wolverine & The X-Men.”

    No, hunt down Aaron’s WatXM-run, because it is really fun and pretty good.

  2. Snikt Snakt says:

    “Avoid like the plague if you haven’t been already reading Wolverine & The X-Men.”

    This is exactly how you FAIL at launching a new #1 issue, if a newbie still has NO idea what is going on after reading it. Way to go, Marvel…

  3. Suzene says:

    Aaron’s run wasn’t my cup of tea, but I did pick up Latour’s first issue because I like teen heroes and wanted to see if it was a better fit. Didn’t do it for me. The kids I’m familiar with from the NXM days read like they underwent character regression for no good reason, Quire seems to have turned into a generic woobie, and no one else was interesting enough to be worth noting. Pass.

  4. Suzene says:

    I would second the Magneto recommendation, though. Walta’s visual storytelling was great, and it seems like Bunn’s going to have some grim, inventive fun with a powered-down Master of Magnatism.

  5. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Moon Knight was pretty good, but the editor should have really let Ellis know that Americans say “hideout,” not “hide.”

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