Oni Press December 2016 cover
Credit: Oni Press
Credit: Marvel Comics

Moon Knight #9
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Garland, Francesco Francavilla and James Stokoe Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Marc Spector face off against his splintered personalities in Moon Knight #9 as writer Jeff Lemire and the talented roster of artists tie together the disparate stories of the previous issues. The investment in the character really pays off here, with an emotional conclusion that gives the series extra weight going forward.

The use of different art teams in this issue plays out a little differently than prior chapters. Whereas before each artist handled a different setting and character, the confrontation between his alternate personalities means that there is no longer a narrative separation to assist with the transition between art teams. While this can make the read a bit jarring comparatively, the issue teams cleverly use page turns to help with the transitions and the merger works well in showing Marc confronting each personality and reasserting himself over them.

This rotation of styles is established from the beginning of the issue as rugged lines of James Stokoe open the issue with the newest of Spector’s personalities recalling how Earth fell to the werewolves. When Marc responds to him, it is under the linework of Greg Smallwood. The coloring transition immediately sets the tone as well – Stokoe’s use of lighter purples and blues is overwhelmed by the oppressive olive tones of Jordie Bellaire’s art, nicely showing the control Marc has in the situation. Francesco Francavilla brings a cruel violence to his segment as Jake Lockley tries to overpower Marc who has to accept some of Jake’s brutality to move forward.

The strength of the narrative in Moon Knight #9 comes from when Marc finally faces off against Steven Grant. As the personality that has been with Marc the longest, Grant is terrified at the idea that none of his memories and experiences actually happened. In a touching moment, Marc acknowledges Grant’s fears, and validates Grant’s existence. Marc knows that he can’t rid himself of his alternate personalities - they are a part of him, after all - but his embrace of the Steven Grant personality is incredibly tender.

The artwork here, with Wilfredo Torres’ smooth lines, detailed expressions and Michael Garland’s use of a narrow palette, is gorgeous. The weighted linework that helped Grant’s story feel glossier than the other personalities now gives the character an extra vulnerability as he hides in the corner of an office, fearing for his existence. By addressing this conflict in such a delicate way, writer Jeff Lemire gives a sense of weight to the conclusion of the issue. Marc’s journey feels like a truly human one, and it’s nice to see his identity disorder handled with such care.

With a very human core, Moon Knight #9 continues the series’ string of excellence. Jeff Lemire’s script is unexpectedly touching, and the talented art teams make the book a visual joy to read. Moon Knight #9 shows that character progression can be just as riveting as a good plot and gives a nice pay off to the setup of previous issues. And now, with all of his personalities back within him, Marc can finally face off against the god that has been haunting him.

Credit: Oni Press

Space Battle Lunchtime #7
Written and Illustrated by Natalie Riess
Published by Oni Press
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If you thought Cutthroat Kitchen was a wild ride, get ready for Space Battle Lunchtime #7, where “make a margarita on a bicycle” seems like a walk in the park compared to the cannibalistic culinary battle royale our heroine Peony is on the run from in last week’s issue. Writer and artist Natalie Riess has crafted a clever, genre-hopping adventure that captures all the high stakes and dramatic tension of your favorite cooking show with a space-age twist.

Space Battle Lunchtime follows the adventures of an Earth baker, Peony, who finds herself recruited for the titular culinary showdown when a contestant disappears under mysterious circumstances. Riess has deftly blended elements of mystery and romance to create an engrossing tale, and plays on reality show archetypes to give her ensemble cast impressive depth in the space of a few short issues. Characters like the villainous Melonhead will seem familiar to avid consumers of reality television show, but Riess slips in bits of backstory for each character that go a long way in enriching her universe and keeping the tropes from seeming like simple stereotypes.

Riess is a skillful storyteller with an excellent sense of pacing; she keeps the story moving quickly and keeps a firm hand on the threads she wants to follow through to the end, never piling on so many side plots that it feels like the story can’t reach a satisfying conclusion. Space Battle Lunchtime #7 is the seventh issue of an eight-issue series and it feels like it, though Riess’ world is such a sweet treat you’ll find yourself hoping for more.

The art is gorgeous, particularly the soft, almost watercolor impressions of the color work - Space Battle Lunchtime is as sweet and cute as Peony likes her coffee drinks. But the unusual juxtaposition between the art and the content is as much fun as the art itself, and it’s Riess’ playful style that makes scenes like Peony being hunted down by a competitor determined to turn her into an entree on live television even more morbid. There’s a seedy underbelly to reality television, and Riess captures it with creeping shadows in her backgrounds and hints of murderous grimaces on her antagonists’ faces.

Despite a brief detour into Cannibal Coliseum, Space Battle Lunchtime #7 is a beautiful read for almost all ages, or maybe all ages, if your kids enjoy the darkest timeline Alton Brown of Cutthroat Kitchen. Riess’ engaging character designs and off-beat humor will keep you engrossed throughout the issue, and as excited to see how the story ends as you will be disappointed there’s only one issue left til Peony squares off against her nemesis in Space Battle Lunchtime’s final episode.

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