Comic Book of the Month Awards for April 2016

I picked up 13 comics this past April including my regulars, the second issue for International Iron Man, Sam Wilson: Captain America #8, Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega #1 – the conclusion to the event – and Moon Knight #1 by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, an impulsive buy originating with sheer interest on my part. I barely know anything about the character, and this would truthfully be my first Moon Knight comic book. The first issue of the new Moon Knight series was unexpectedly the best comic book of the month on all fronts, with the runner-ups Doctor Strange #7, The Astonishing Ant-Man #7, and International Iron Man #2 trailing close behind in differing categories. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with this new title (money is money, after all), but it’s off to a very good start and I would recommend giving it a try. The extra-sized Flash #50 released this month, but I found it, as well as Nick Spencer’s final Standoff issue, to be disappointing. I’m liking Dan Abnett’s Aquaman so far, and the last issue of the latest Uncanny Inhumans story arc ended on a more satisfying note than how it began.

But out of these and the other four remaining nominees, why did Moon Knight #1 sweep the Comic Book Awards for April?

Cover of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 

Cover By: Greg Smallwood

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The most obvious visual trait to Greg Smallwood’s cover for Moon Knight #1 is how much the color white overwhelms the image. Some may say this lack of color variety or artistic detail detracts from hypothetically “more interesting” cover art, but, on the contrary, these traits are exactly what furnish a stunning piece of artwork. Marc Spector gazes intensely at the reader, garbed with a straightjacket in a place that faintly resembles a solitary confinement room found in metal hospitals. Spector’s eyes and shadow, plus the brown straps of the jacket, help balance the visual impact of the cover. There is a serene creepiness to this image, and the big and bold simplicity of it is a success.

Art of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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Whether it be the tremendous Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired first four pages, the intelligent artistic storytelling properties of the sophisticated layouts and colors, or a number of other interesting art qualities present within this book, Moon Knight #1 can rest assured as one of the visually deepest comics of the year as of yet. I’m not that familiar with artist Greg Smallwood’s previous work, but if this issue doesn’t put him on the map, then I don’t know what will. He has a down-to-earth, realistic style in how he draws the characters’ facial expressions and gestures that make them, and the book as a whole, feel grounded and alive. Smallwood also has an intriguing balance between overly simple and overly detailed. One small panel may just offer a bit of art to convey a scene and then the next panel or page is an explosion of crisp pencils and lines. The attention to detail in some of these pages, such as pages 1-4, 22, and 24-26, is very much praiseworthy in so many respects. It’s not everyday that you see a comic book with a 15 panel page (page 26). How colorist Jordie Bellaire accents these pages to consistently carry the reader through the issue’s story is also a great, noteworthy accomplishment. White being the central color to Moon Knight’s persona, its arresting visual presence in the comic, and the decision to emphasize it to separate panels with no outline borders, is without fault. Moon Knight #1 is a stroke of artistic genius in many areas, and how it accomplishes to tell such a captivatingly psychological first chapter in the five-part story with the art is just exquisite.

Story of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire 

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The first issue of any comic book series is always exciting. They have the power to welcome in new readers, and, if the reader likes what he or she sees, produce a monthly subscriber to that series for a time being. I really liked what I read and saw in Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s Moon Knight #1. The issue begins with our protagonist experiencing a dream, and in this eerie vision/dream Marc Spector (Moon Knight) communes with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, the source of his powers. Khonshu asks, “Mark? Mark, can you hear me? Mark, is that you?” to which he replies, “I-I’m not sure.” These first few lines of the first page set ablaze the theme of this entire issue as Marc Spector searches out his true identity. Waking up in a mental asylum, Mark is told the Moon Knight figure is a figment of his imagination and a side-effect of his mental disorder. He eventually tries to escape, not willing to believe his entire life to be a lie, and what he stumbles upon as he reaches the building’s rooftop shocks him. An Egyptian invasion force has took over New York; however, it appears to be unseen to the naked eye. The mysterious story of Moon Knight #1 keeps you guessing and you feel for Marc Spector’s confused predicament. At the end of the issue, I had to ask myself, “What is really going on here?” and I love that invested feeling a great comic book can give a reader.

Issue of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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The more I tell you how much I enjoyed Moon Knight #1, the more I want to continue reading what is in store for this character (sorry, wallet). By winning Cover of the Month, Art of the Month, and Story of the Month, this issue automatically places itself as Issue of the Month for April 2016. There’s not much else to say except that I strongly hope this series can continue on with this much talented care and quality. It’s commonplace for comic book series’ to start off a critical hit and then descend into the herd of subpar comics you see on the stands, but I think as long as Lemire and Smallwood continue to keep on keeping on, it won’t fall into this.

With all that said, go out and pick up Moon Knight #1! Like, right now!

Thank you all for checking out my awards for April and be sure to check back sometime next month for May’s Comic Book Awards. Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

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