by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Buck and Moon Knight go after Madame Masque in order to recover the Ultron head.

The Review: In it’s penultimate issue (unfortunately), Bendis and Maleev’s Moon Knight is cooking on all cylinders.

The majority of the issue is taken up by a fight between Moon Knight and Madame Masque.  It is elegantly drawn and carries the required, gritty “street level” feel.  It’s well choreographed, but feels just as low-powered as should be.  More than that, Bendis and Maleev really bring home the ludicrous “faux Avengers” fighting style of Moon Knight, including just how bizarrely effective it actually is.

A good part of what makes this issue exciting, however, is that with the death of Echo still casting a shadow on the book and Buck’s being a new Bendis-created character, you really don’t know if everyone is going to make it out alive.  The result is some serious teasing on Bendis’ part – at a couple points, he really does succeed in making you think Buck is a goner.  After all, if Buck went, it wouldn’t even be a blip in the Marvel Universe.

Buck and Marc’s buddy teamwork is also part of what makes the action so much fun.  It’s enjoyable seeing them work as diversions for one another and really, as a no-nothing SHIELD agent, that teamwork only make’s Marc’s fighting style seem all the more ragtag.  Even without much dialogue, the “buddy dynamic” the two share shines through even in their actions.

What really put this issue over for me, however, is a huge development/twist related to Echo’s relationship with Marc.  Frankly, it’s downright sadistic on Bendis’ part.  The thing is, it makes such perfect sense and I was genuinely surprised that I didn’t see it coming.  That said, it’s really quite twisted and you can’t help but feel bad for Marc – it’s perhaps the clearest sign of just how bad a shape he’s really in.  It’s also such a bittersweet moment; on the one hand, you want to cheer for him, but on the other hand, you really just end up feeling really bad for the guy.  Basically, it’s mission achieved for Bendis when it comes to depicting Marc’s character: he’s a hero, but mentally, he’s also a total mess.

Art-wise, Maleev does great work here, as does Hollingsworth on colours.  The book has a dark, gritty feel that contrasts brilliantly with Moon Knight’s white outfit.  Much like the choreography of the fighting, Maleev makes this book as down-to-earth and as grounded as possible, and the result is a brutally grounded superhero fight.  Moreover, the world Maleev illustrates for his characters is very distinct; it’s clear that Moon Knight occupies his own dark, little corner of the Marvel Universe.

Conclusion: A really fun, exciting issue of Moon Knight with a really nasty twist towards its end.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans