Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Great Unsung Moments in Comics: Moon Knight#20

Allow me to set the stage...

Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz's Moon Knight#20 (1982) was the conclusion of a four-part storyline which pit Moon Knight against Nimrod Strange, a terrorist leader who murdered one of Moon Knight's old friends in the opening chapter.

By #20, we learn that Nimrod plans to detonate oil tankers at strategic points around Manhattan, setting off an inferno that will surround and ultimately consume the entire island.

Moon Knight goes up against Nimrod, only to be captured and tied up. In true Bond villain fashion, Nimrod doesn't notice Moon Knight's crescent darts weapons, leaving him with a means to escape his bonds.

The problem is, getting the darts off his belt and into his hands proves extremely difficult. By the time Moon Knight finally sets himself free, he has only one crescent dart remaining.

Nimrod and Moon Knight have a climactic battle, but Nimrod realizes the futility of fighting and makes a run for the detonator wired to the tanker's explosives.

Here, Sienkiewicz reinforces the desperation of both men, each physically spent and struggling to meet their goals. Moon Knight is so weakened he can't even stand, yet somehow, he has to stop Nimrod.

Moon Knight realizes he has just one chance: he must throw his last crescent dart at the detonator, cutting its wires.

And he misses! In any other story, the hero's last-second attempt would have succeeded; not here.

Summoning the last of his strength, Moon Knight gets up and beats Nimrod down, halting the detonator.

How does he feel about stopping Nimrod?

Pretty dang good.

It's for scenes like these that I buy comic books. Moench's Moon Knight is filled with great moments like these that play on typical action hero cliches yet find a new take on the situation. Moon Knight first failing to catch his crescent darts while trying to cut through his bonds, then later failing to cut the detonator with his dart are both traditional Marvel Super Hero moments; in both scenes, Moon Knight is the hard-luck hero who can't catch a break.

There is another Moench comic with a very similar situation as the climax of Moon Knight#20 (it's Master of Kung Fu#49), but this story has a very particular tone. Part of me does smile both at Moon Knight's initial failure to stop Nimrod, then again at the image of him spitting on Nimrod's body. It may not be the stuff of heroes, but it is identifiably the stuff of men.

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