Moon Knight: City of the Dead #3
Trapped in the clutches of the sinister JACKAL KNIGHT, Moon Knight and Scarlet Scarab must face an army of dead super villains in order to save a young runaway's life. But the City of the Dead is shaped by one's thoughts and memories…and right now, the only thing Marc Spector can think of is nonstop carnage. The Fist of Khonshu brings the fireworks in this action-packed new chapter, complete with a cliffhanger that will leave Moon Knight fans on the edge of their seats!
Moon Knight: City of the Dead #3 – written by David Pepose with pencils by Sean Hill, inks by Jay Leisten, coloring from Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettering from VC’s Cory Petit – resumes the errant search for a lost traveler of the night, a young boy with a connection to the mystical side of Egyptian mythology. He was kidnapped by a new villain calling himself the Jackal Knight, aka Marc Spector’s brother Randall, who was killed years earlier by Marc.
The chase led Moon Knight to Duat, the Egyptian underworld (also the titular city of the dead), reuniting with a lost love, Layla El-Faouly. Having died in a flashback story from Moon Knight #25, Layla found herself pulled into the tapestry of avatars of the gods to assume the mantle of the Scarlet Scarab. The two battle their way into the lair of the Jackal Knight and rescue the young boy, who is revealed to also have a connection with the Egyptian pantheon.
Pepose’s script for the issue carries a similar structure to the previous two, weaving Marc’s interior monologue with the exterior action of the rescue mission. The narration boxes capture a strong, guilt-ridden voice for Marc that feels in line with this atoning version of the hero. Jed MacKay has worked both in and out of story to rehabilitate the image and character of Moon Knight in the main title, and Pepose’s works in this miniseries have continued the sentiment. As Marc and Layla have fallen into step during their mission, the twang of regret permeates every word but never overwhelms or distracts from the mission.
That quality drives the book’s plot and deepens the characters as Marc is able to define himself beyond that sense of guilt. Sure, he wants to make up for losing Layla, but his creed sworn with the Midnight Mission takes the front seat as a motivation. The book loses a bit of the reflective quality with Duat as a city that changes based on the person, which was played up more significantly in the opening two issues. Instead, the relationship between Marc and Layla, Moon Knight and the boy, and Spector and Spector all work to provide distinct but interwoven tensions that speak to the core of the story.
Much of that lack of cohesion, and sense of something different comes from Hill’s pencils. Filling in for Marcelo Ferreira, Hill has a rougher style of linework that lacks a strong sense of kinetic action or specific detail. The artwork in this issue often feels rushed and sloppy, with faces or anatomy appearing distorted on the page. The book thus far has sold itself on concise action and expressive lines, and both are lacking in this issue.
The expressions read as rubbery, with an elastic quality that undercuts the serious nature of Marc’s internal thought and the book’s wistful tone. The only time the art thrives is in the depictions of the villains and mythical creatures, which carry just the right level of grotesque physiology. Scarred faces, angry cosmic crocodiles, and jackal heads shine in an issue otherwise devoid of stunning images or flows.
The action reads as stages, with poor blocking and panel compositions that lack an imaginative quality. That is a result of both the shift in style and the lack of shifting reality that comes with Duat. The action is missing that magical quality that has made the book sing, and Hill’s lack of detail contributes to that bland sense of fighting. The fight is boring and predictable, and the book suffers from the decision to switch out artists for no clear creative reason. The evolving nature of Duat could have been an excellent opportunity to provide a reason or catalyst for the art change, but instead, the shift is jarring.
Not even the consistent coloring from Rosenberg can help the book fully recover from the art shift, even as it evokes the enchanting palette of the series. The ethereal greens and shining whites of Moon Knight’s visage are just as mesmerizing against the harsher red and browns of Duat. The hues of the issue sing with expectations of magic, but feature a flavor separate from the musical energies found in the Scarlet Witch or Doctor Strange titles. The magic and its coloring here are much more practical, and Rosenberg brings that urban feeling from the main Moon Knight title to the mystical vein of this series.
The vibes are off with Moon Knight: City of the Dead #3, which loses much of its momentum due to a shift in art that feels incongruent to the previous issues. Pepose continues the strong voice for Marc who finds himself at the crossroads of passion and regret, weaving past and present to reinforce the idea of Spector as an evolving character. This is in lockstep with the main title but departs when the art pivots from the mystical. Hill’s linework handles the grotesque well, but that is about it, lacking a concise method of laying out action. Rosenberg’s coloring tries to close the gap but even it is unable to reach the level of the previous issues.
Based on solicits, this was a one-issue fill-in, but it's a shame after seeing how well alternating artists can elevate a book with the main Moon Knight title. This, however, is not enough to recommend dropping the book, and the scripting and coloring still offer enough engaging insight to warrant another issue at the very least.
Moon Knight: City of the Dead #3: Death’s Stumble
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 3/103/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 8/108/10
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