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Longbox Junk Marc Spector: Moon Knight Part 5B (Issues 46 50)

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CONTINUED FROM PART 5A BECAUSE I WENT OVERBOARD AND BROKE THE COMIC BOOK REALM WORD LIMIT AGAIN!

PART 5A IN THE BLOG LINKS TO THE LEFT. . .

ISSUE FORTY-SIX

 
DEATH WATCH
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, we find Moon Knight at the mercy of Demogoblin.  Realizing that he has very limited time and that in his weakened condition, he has no chance of defeating Demogoblin, Moon Knight gives in to the demonic entity inside him, allowing it to give him the strength to escape.
 
As the partially-transformed Moon Knight makes his way through the prison, he encounters DeZoan.  A fight breaks out and Moon Knight loses his adamantium staff to DeZoan, who flees the battle with the Demonic Moon Knight in hot pursuit.
 
Moon Knight runs into a mob of rioting prisoners that DeZoan freed, and fighting his way through them delays him long enough that he loses DeZoan.  At the end of the battle, the exhausted Moon Knight collapses.  He's taken too long to escape!
 
Luckily, Frenchie has been monitoring the situation and rescues Moon Knight with the Angel Wing, rushing the dying hero and the sample of Demogoblin's DNA back to Four Freedoms plaza, where Doctor Strange and Mr. Fantastic use a combination of science and magic to remove the demonic creature living inside Moon Knight.
 
Unfortunately, Mr. Fantastic reveals to Moon Knight that he got to them too late to completely remove all traces of the demonic virus, and that the next 48 hours would tell them if Moon Knight will live or die!
 
With Moon Knight's ultimate fate unknown, he returns to Shadow Keep with Frenchie to discuss the next step in his "Legacy Quest" protocols. . .choosing the next Moon Knight from a list of candidates the computer has created.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not a bad issue.  Most of it is spent with Moon Knight fighting his way out of the prison he broke in to.  Once again, the new art team does most of the heavy lifting by elevating this story with some fantastic visuals that make a sort of "Meh" issue into something interesting.
 
The story itself is leading into a somewhat interesting direction even without the great art backing it up.  I know from reading ahead that (SPOILER ALERT) Marvel didn't pull the trigger on a replacement Moon Knight, but I can see from the last few issues that it was a definite possibility, especially given the time that this comic was published. . .the era of Knightfall, Reign of the Supermen, Thunderstrike, Danny Ketch Ghost Rider, U.S.Agent, and many others.
 
1993 was smack dab in the middle of the years of both DC and Marvel rolling out replacement heroes in an attempt to shake up the status quo that was already shaking from Image coming on the scene with newer "edgier" characters and blowing the roof off of sales figures with every new #1 issue (and expanding a speculation collector bubble that just about took down the comic industry as a whole when it finally burst).
 
They eventually came up with another "solution" for Moon Knight that was also a trend in the 90's, and we'll see what THAT was in the final batch of issues.  BUT I DIGRESS!
 

Overall, a decent issue that leans heavily on the new art team to keep things on the good side of average.  The most interesting part of it for me was seeing what looked like Marvel setting up for a replacement Moon Knight that never happened.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE FORTY-SEVEN

 
THE LEGACY QUEST SCENARIO
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, with his survival in doubt and Frenchie in a wheelchair, Moon Knight and his Shadow Cabinet test three likely candidates to replace Moon Knight in case he dies, each of them unknowingly put into situations where Moon Knight will judge their abilities and character.
 
The first candidate is a baseball player, but he is taken off the list after Moon Knight discovers that he's addicted to drugs.  The second candidate is a construction worker, but Moon Knight finds his courage lacking and takes him off the list.  The final candidate is a reporter that makes the grade in every way, but when Moon Knight tells him he was being tested and for what, the reporter declines. . .because he's Peter Parker and Moon Knight doesn't know he's actually Spider-Man!
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .While Moon Knight and company are out testing possible replacements, we see that a female agent of the Templars is watching Shadow Keep, waiting for the signal to approach Frenchie.  As she waits, the demonic allies of Seth The Immortal (who destroyed the Knights Templar leadership in issue #44) attack her, proclaiming that they are there to destroy Jean Paul DuChamp! The Templar Agent barely manages to defeat the demons, but they promise they will return.
 
Disappointed with not being able to find a replacement, and not having time to test any others, Moon Knight returns to Shadow Keep to count down the final hours that will determine Marc Spector's fate with his best friend Frenchie.  At the appointed time, Moon Knight removes his armor to reveal that he has been healed!  
 
Frenchie and Marc's celebration of his recovery is short-lived, though.  A Shadow Cabinet alert tells them that John DeZoan, the serial killer that escaped during Moon Knight's break in at Brinkstone Prison (in issue #45 - 46) has been spotted calling himself "Deadzone" and attacking the henchmen of villainous crime lord Tombstone in New York City.  Moon Knight is back on the clock!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This was a pretty good issue.  I think Terry Kavanagh is beginning to get Moon Knight on a little more solid ground as his time on the series goes on.  I'm still not sold on the whole Knights Templar storyline, but in this issue there's only a couple of pages about it.  Most of it is spent on Moon Knight and his Shadow Cabinet putting three possible Moon Knight replacements through their paces without their knowing it.
 
I really got a kick out of the final candidate being Peter Parker!  It was a great way to throw in a Spidey cameo without screaming about it on the cover, and it actually took me by surprise. . .so a job well done to Kavanagh for using one of Marvel's most popular heroes in such a humorous and understated way!
 
This issue also steps back from the edge of bringing in a replacement Moon Knight.  I'm not sure if it was ever REALLY a serious consideration, but like I said in the reviews of the past couple of issues, it really wouldn't have surprised me, given the time when these comics were written.  Still, whether it was a genuine possibility or not, it was an interesting hook to make me think a little while about the 90's wave of Replacement Heroes.
 

Overall, I liked this issue quite a bit.  Not only did it make me think a little about the 90's era of Replacement Heroes, but it also gave me a surprise chuckle by making Moon Knight's best possible replacement none other than Spider-Man!  
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE FORTY-EIGHT

 
WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, after Moon Knight receives reports of John DeZoan (now calling himself Deadzone) on a killing spree against organized crime, he arrives at the scene of the latest murders, only to be attacked by the henchmen of villainous crime lord Tombstone.
 
Moon Knight makes quick work of the hired help and Tombstone himself arrives on the scene, trying to convince the hero to work with his organization to take down Deadzone.  Moon Knight declines.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .while Moon Knight uses his Shadow Cabinet contacts to find out information on DeZoan and predict a pattern to his madness, Deadzone is busy attacking a mob meeting in Chinatown.  In the background of all of this, Frenchie is convinced by his lover, Chloe, to stop moping around the Shadow Keep and go out on the town with her.
 
As Deadzone continues his attacks on organized crime around New York, Moon Knight finally catches up to him at a secret crack factory.  Deadzone tries to convince Moon Knight to join his crusade of "purifying" the wicked, but Moon Knight declines, giving his "We're nothing alike and I work alone" speech for the second time in one day.
 
Moon Knight and Deadzone start to fight.  Moon Knight has a rough time of it because he's still not up to 100% after his near death scare, plus Deadzone is armed with the adamantium staff Moon Knight lost in his escape from prison a few issues back.  The hero goes down hard, and is left for dead by Deadzone.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .Frenchie and Chloe go to their favorite restaurant and encounter a lack of wheelchair ramps, but that's the least of their problems as they are suddenly attacked by the Templar traitor Seth's demonic "Hellbent" allies!
 
The badly wounded Moon Knight manages to make his way back to Shadow Keep, but when he tries to contact his Shadow Cabinet organized crime inside man, he discovers that he's been killed by Deadzone!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I found this issue to be pretty average.  It's basically setup for the conclusion of this "Deadzone" story arc that was started in issue 45 and ends in the next issue.  Honestly, Deadzone just isn't that great of a villain.  Certainly not good enough to carry five issues' worth of story.  Once again, the problem with Moon Knight's slim "Rogues Gallery" rises to the surface.  I guess it's just hard for writers to come up with a good villain for Moon Knight that's able to last more than a few issues (the last we ever see of Deadzone is next issue).
 
Once more, the art team does most of the heavy lifting.  The visuals elevate a pretty "meh" story into something better than is should be.  The question now becomes how much longer will the art be able to continue carrying this series? With just twelve more issues to go in the run, I'd say not much longer.
 
 
Overall, we have a pretty average story propped up by some very nice artwork.  Deadzone is yet another example of the difficulty every writer on this series has had so far with giving Moon Knight some decent enemies to fight.
 
NEXT!

ISSUE FORTY-NINE

 
WHIP HAND!
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, with Deadzone killing mob bosses in New York, their gangs go to war against each other as they try to fill the power vacuums being left.  Moon Knight finds himself distracted from finding Deadzone as he fights to stop gang battles in the streets.
 
During a short break in the action, Moon Knight thinks back on how he recruited a former mob boss (now murdered by Deadzone in last issue) into his Shadow Cabinet.  He decides against the advice of his Shadow Cabinet to work with Tombstone to lure Deadzone out and bring him to justice.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .we see a group of remaining New York City crime bosses hiding together in a fortified mansion.  Unfortunately, their security isn't enough to keep Deadzone out and he attacks, killing them all.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .Frenchie and Chloe have temporarily escaped their demonic attackers, and Frenchie desperately tries to get Chloe to safety.  The "Hellbent" attack again and Frenchie manages to hold them off using weapons built into his wheelchair, allowing Chloe to escape.  As the demons go in for the kill, a mysterious woman jumps into the fight. . .the same Templar agent that's been watching Shadow Keep!  After she defeats the demons, she knocks Frenchie out when he seems to recognize her.
 
BACK WITH MOON KNIGHT. . .The hero has teamed up with Tombstone, posing as the crime lord's chauffer as he pays a respectful visit to the grave of Moon Knight's murdered Shadow Cabinet organized crime connection.   Deadzone takes the bait and he and Moon Knight fight in the graveyard.  This time, Moon Knight is better prepared and he manages to take Deadzone down. . .but then Tombstone steps in and snaps the neck of the helpless villain!
 
Filled with a near death frenzy, Deadzone attacks Moon Knight again, allowing Tombstone to make his escape.  Moon Knight almost beats Deadzone to death, but manages to stop himself from killing his enemy and becoming like him.  Moon Knight leaves the horribly beaten villain for the police.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
All in all, a pretty weak ending.  It almost seems like the writer wasn't exactly sure of what was going to happen until the last minute, making this issue seem disjointed and a bit sloppy.  Once again, most of the blame rests on the antagonist just not being an interesting or worthy adversary for Moon Knight in the first place.  
 
This wasn't the worst issue of this series so far, and it's not BAD. . .it's just sort of average and forgettable.  Not what I want in a comic that's supposed to wrap up a conflict that's been brewing for five issues. . .five months if you were buying these as they came out.  That's almost half a year!  
 

Overall, this was a pretty forgettable issue.  It hinges on the reader needing to suddenly place emotional weight on a character that until now has just been a face on a computer screen (Don G.  Moon Knight's murdered Shadow Cabinet contact) and leans on a throwaway villain that will never be heard from again.  The art is still great, but I ask again, how long can a good artist be expected to prop up average storytelling?
 
AND FINALLY. . .GIANT-SIZED 50TH ISSUE TIME!
 

ISSUE FIFTY

 
BLOODRITES
 
SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
 
THE STORY:
 
Buckle in, folks. . .they packed a LOT into this issue!
 
We begin with Moon Knight training in Shadow Keep's Danger Room. . .er. . .Holo-Gym.  He's going up against a "Best Of" list of enemies from the entire series. . .from Bushman to Doctor Doom to Deadzone.  One after the other until it gets to his brother, Randall Spector. Marc isn't ready to face those memories and shuts the simulation down in order to return to the investigation at hand. . .trying to find his missing friend Frenchie.
 
Between his Shadow Cabinet contacts and witnesses on the street, Moon Knight follows a slim trail of clues that lead to a dead end with a stolen police car (That Frenchie had Chloe run for her life in during the attack by the demonic "Hellbent" last issue).  During the investigation, Moon Knight ignores several calls from the Avengers demanding that he meet them at their headquarters.
 
Finally, the Avengers get tired of being put off and send Thor (actually "Replacement Thor" Thunderstrike) out to bring Moon Knight in the hard way.  A short battle between the two begins as Moon Knight tries to dodge Thunderstrike's pursuit, but he finally surrenders after enlisting the Thunder 's aid in stopping the murder of a prostitute by her pimp.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .In a secret New York Templar base, we catch up with Frenchie as he wakes up with the mysterious woman who saved him last issue from the demonic Hellbent talking about a civil war in the ranks of the Templar and how she was assigned to protect him.  He suddenly realizes that the woman is actually his lover, Chloe in disguise!
 
BACK WITH MOON KNIGHT. . .The Avengers, currently under the leadership of Black Widow since Captain America (now operating as Nomad) decided to quit and let Replacement Cap (AKA U.S. Agent) take his place (The 90's wave of "Replacement Heroes" was an interesting time), are discussing why they've dragged Moon Knight to headquarters.
 
It seems they don't like him working with Punisher at all. They frown upon using a reserve Avengers I.D. to access resources to attack a sovereign nation's leader (Doctor Doom in issue #40). They didn't appreciate him starting a prison riot and accidentally allowing a psychopathic killer to escape custody. And they certainly don't approve of him teaming up with a known villain like Tombstone to capture that same killer (instead of enlisting the aid of the Avengers) and then almost beating Deadzone to death before dumping him off on the police.  And honestly, when they put it out there like that. . .I think I agree.
 
Moon Knight doesn't speak up in his own defense while Black Widow lays the charges down, because. . .well, they're all true.  Moon Knight has been a bad, bad, boy.  As they discuss what to do with their problem child,  Moon Knight gets a message from a Shadow Cabinet contact that they've picked up Frenchie's trail.  He decides that he doesn't have time to waste and ends the Avenger's debate by burning his I.D. card and showing himself out the door.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .We see Seth The Immortal in France at a hidden Templar base where he's briefing a new group of "Hellbent" demons on their mission to capture "Bloodline" (AKA Frenchie) before his full power can be activated by his Templar watchdog (AKA Chloe) before teleporting them to New York City for the attack.
 
At the same time, Chloe is explaining to Frenchie that he is "Bloodline", the last of a Templar family that has long been entrusted with the knowledge and secrets of the Templar, and that she has activated a hypnotic command that has begun Frenchie's transformation.  The final piece of the process is that Frenchie has to speak the final command words himself.  Chloe finally sells him on the idea by telling him that if he does, he will be able to walk again.  He speaks the phrase and begins having visions of long-dead ancestors, but nothing else happens.
 
WHEN SUDDENLY. . .The Hellbent strike team materialize and attack!  Taken by surprise, Chloe is quickly defeated.  Frenchie puts up a good fight, but being in a wheelchair is a bit of a hamper on his fighting ability.  BUT THEN. . .the adrenaline of the fight finally activates the hidden Templar code in Frenchie's DNA and he physically transforms into a sword-wielding pirate ancestor named Henri Remont, who skillfully continues the fight against the demonic attackers!  WAIT! WHAT? 
 
JUST THEN. . .Moon Knight finally manages to track down Frenchie's whereabouts and jumps into the fray!  Together, Bloodline and Moon Knight are able to better fight the Hellbent team.  At the last moment, yet ANOTHER creature teleports into the battle. . .but this time fighting on the side of Moon Knight and Bloodline!  After dispatching the final Hellbent, the creature introduces himself as "Manx", a "Shadowspawn" and informs Bloodline that there is a trial by fire coming for him, and that they will meet again. . .then he jumps out of the window and flies away!
 
After trying and failing to pursue Manx, Moon Knight returns to find Henri Remont gone as well, with Frenchie transformed back into his usual self, but hardly appreciating the rescue attempt and demanding that his friend now call him by his actual name instead of Frenchie from now on.  Moon Knight is a bit confused (ain't we all?) but agrees.  They return to Shadowkeep with one of the Hellbent bodies to examine.
 
EPILOGUE:  We find Seth the Immortal now in New York City and presiding over PhalkonCorp, making plans to wrest control of SpectorCorp from Marc Spector in order to build his financial base for his new Templar Order, and still plotting to gain the knowledge of Bloodline for himself.  We also meet his newest assistant. . .Marlene! Someone we haven't seen since she dipped out on Marc in issue #38 after his maniac brother kept trying to kill her.
 
BONUS EPILOGUE/ PROLOGUE!  At the newly-rebuilt, but still empty, Spector Mansion, we discover the mutant thief known as Gambit AND Werewolf by Night squaring off for a fight! 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Sheesh!  Like I said before the plot summary, they packed a LOT into this issue!  
Let's break it on down.  
 
It's a hefty hunk of story, but when you boil it down, there's two main things going on here.  The first is disengaging Moon Knight from the Avengers.  The second is the full transformation of Moon Knight sidekick Frenchie into "Bloodline", a Knight's Templar superhero able to transform into his ancestors in times of need.
 
The Avengers storyline is actually pretty good.  I liked the cameo appearances by the likes of beardy Thor (AKA Thunderstrike), aggressive jerk Captain America (AKA U.S.Agent), and Short hair "I didn't ask for this lousy job!" Avenger leader Black Widow.   I liked that Moon Knight himself realized he wasn't much of an Avenger in the first place and showed himself the door.  I'd say that it read like a pretty natural reaction for this character.
 
On the other hand. . .
 
Most of the issue is devoted to the Frenchie/Bloodline origin story, and I gotta admit, I'm not thrilled.  I'll venture a guess and say that not many other fans were either, because there's barely a mention of it to be found when looking for information on the internet. Once this series was done, it seems it was never referenced again, and in later Moon Knight runs Frenchie was just Frenchie.  I'll venture to say that when they're done, THIS set of reviews will probably be the most information on "Bloodline" to be found.
 
It's just a really strange and convoluted sort of thing, but it looks like Terry Kavanagh was all in on the idea because he's been laying the groundwork of this origin issue for seven months of real-world time (since issue #43).  The retcon of random Marc Spector housekeeper/ Frenchie love interest Chloe into a bad@$$ Templar secret warrior is pretty jarring. . .especially since when Stained Glass Scarlet attacked her and Frenchie on a date (back in issue #27, the last time we saw her prior to this arc), she was reduced to a whimpering, sobbing messenger.  And then there's Frenchie's ability to transform (clothes and all) into a swashbuckling pirate through the power of a hypnotic phrase that activates something in his DNA.
 
It just really seems like a bad idea that Kavanagh is having to over-explain.
 
One interesting thing that DOES stand out to me when reading about Frenchie/Bloodline, is the strong resemblance to the story beats of Assassin's Creed. . .which (for those reading who might not be gamers) is a video game franchise (the first released in 2007) that is based on secret orders of Templars and Assassins locked in eternal struggle, with the most recent strife being around technology that allows time travel via DNA, where the modern day ancestor actually transforms into their descendant in the past.
 
It's not note for note, but there's enough of a resemblance that it raised my eyebrow a bit, considering this storyline came out 14 years before the first game.  As a fan of Assassin's Creed, I can't help but wonder if this strange, practically-forgotten storyline in a barely-acknowledged Moon Knight series might have been part of the inspiration for the video game story.  If not, then it's a heck of a coincidence.
 

Overall, this issue could be described by me as "interesting".  Moon Knight quitting the Avengers was pretty good, but the new hero "Bloodline" that Kavanagh is transforming Frenchie into just seems to be a convoluted mess requiring so much explanation that it took up most of a double-sized issue.  In this strange (and pretty much forgotten, it seems) storyline, I can definitely see the writing on the wall for the end of this series in less than another year.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I've gotta admit. . .Marc Spector: Moon Knight is getting to be a bit of a grind to read and review at this point.  Overall, the ten issues in this batch were, on average, a pretty decent bunch.  There really isn't a BAD issue here, but on the other hand, there isn't a really GOOD issue either.  There's some pretty bad IDEAS to be found, but on the whole Terry Kavanagh is riding right down the center line of quality, with occasional small swerves toward the good or bad side of the road.
 
The art team switch-up in issue 45 certainly managed to breath a little life into the series, with the art actually carrying a few issues that swerved a little off toward the bad side of things.  Unfortunately, the art can only carry so much weight, as we will clearly see in the next batch of issues with the introduction of (then) superstar artist Stephen Platt.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
 
Almost half of these issues were part of the massive "Infinity War" crossover, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Moon Knight's part to be pretty small and painless. . .actually some of the better issues of the bunch!  After that, we got issues hinting that Marvel was preparing to introduce a "Replacement Moon Knight" that never came to anything, but were an interesting look back to the 90's wave of hero replacements.  If you have an interest in comic book history, then those might be some of the better issues in the batch.
 
And then. . .
 
It's been pretty clear since Terry Kavanagh came on board as regular writer that he REALLY wanted to put a permanent stamp on the Moon Knight "Canon".  From resurrecting Marc Spector's brother, Randall, to giving Moon Knight a high-tech base, to giving Moon Knight a shiny new suit of 90's armor and his Shadow Cabinet group of contacts and confederates.  None of these efforts really survived into any future versions of Moon Knight, and are barely referenced at all today.
 
His biggest attempt at making his own permanent change to the Moon Knight mythos was turning long-time Moon Knight sidekick Frenchie into a superhero in his own right. . .a member of a secret Knight's Templar family that are able to tap into their ancestor's abilities and even their physical form in times of need.  So far manifested to readers as a duel sword-wielding swashbuckling French pirate named Henri Remont.
 
This "Knights Templar" storyline continues to the end of this series, and in my extremely humble opinion, it's what finally sank the whole thing into cancellation.  Once again, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, but Kavanagh's final "Hail Mary" attempt to make a permanent change to Moon Knight never made it into the end zone.  I've found while trying to do a bit of research on this series that there is only the briefest of mentions of Frenchie as "Bloodline" to be found today.
 
In other words. . .it was a bad idea.  
 
Up Next. . .
 
This is it, folks! The FINAL ten issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight!
 
Come with me and observe the STEEP downward slide of this series as Terry Kavanagh tries hard to push his new hero "Bloodline" into the permanent Moon Knight narrative, Marvel brings in a big gun artist to try and save things, and then they just throw their hands in the air in defeat and end the series!
 
Be there or be square!
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