Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Moth Special #1 - A Review

Written by: Gary Martin
Penciled by: Steve Rude
Inked by: Steve Rude & Andy Bish
Colored by: Glenn Whitmore
Lettered by: Patrick Owsley & Willie Schubert
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse/Rocket Comics

It all started with a trading card set and a superhero called The Moth. Writer Gary Martin loved the art and the concept and asked artist and creator Steve Rude from whence the character had come, for he wished to write a story for him. It turned out the character was created exclusively for the card set and Rude had no other plans for it.

Years later, a story was written by Martin and drawn by Rude as part of an inking contest in Wizard Magazine. The story was printed in Dark Horse Presents #138 and proved exciting enough to Rude that he asked for another Moth story, to be drawn as soon as his contract with Marvel expired.

More years passed, and after a legal battle with a former employer (The Moth’s logo looks suspiciously like that of another famous vigilante who has a movie coming out soon. Apparently he’s a death’s head moth…), Steve Rude’s “The Moth” has finally made his solo book premiere some ten years since the release of the card set he was created for. So now that it is here, how does the book read?

Sadly, not nearly as well as it might. Rude’s artwork is stupendous and it truly does inspire, as Martin says in his introduction, “the same feeling I got reading Kirby in my youth.” Indeed, the Moth’s design is pure Kirby. Though I’m sure most will compare the mask to Spider-Man and the cloak to Batman; the influence of The King is undeniable.

The character too is a fitting tribute to the Silver Age of comics. We are introduced to The Moth; aka Jack King (hint hint). Jack was ½ of a pair of co-joined twins, his other half lost through undefined circumstances. Still living in the circus which was their home for years, Jack uses his natural skills as a gymnast and acrobat as well as a special gliding suit to fight crime as he travels around the country, now playing the part of the circus daredevil.

The concept of this book is pure Kirby. From the supporting cast of clowns and other performers to the bearded lady love interest, this comic is just plain fun to look at and read. Indeed, it is one part of the fun that raises the only problem I have with the book.

The basic plot centers about The Moth investigating a series of murderers that later turn out to be connected to a supernatural being. Without giving much away, The Moth’s victory here stems not from his own heroic exploits (great though they are) but from a sheer lucky coincidence and things happening on the other side of the world.

Call me an old traditionalist, but I prefer the old Silver Age stories where the hero won of his own accord and not because of blind luck. At least, I’d prefer it that way in the very first adventure of said hero because events as they are presented here make The Moth look like some kind of bumbling fool who has every right to feel as badly about himself as he does during his one moment of self-pitying soliloquy.

I once heard the term “new classic” applied to a Disney movie and laughed at the presumption of anything new being a classic. I laugh no more, for “The Moth” is truly worthy of the oxymoron “new classic” and I can’t wait for him to take flight again.

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