SCRIPT: Terry Kavanagh
PENCILS: James Fry III
INKS: Chris Ivy
COVER: James Fry III
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. . .
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.
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!