Anniversary issues and finales are both special things in the world of superhero comics. They have incredible expectations placed upon them, with the former typically acting as a celebration with lots of special elements and an extended page count and the latter intended to potentially wrap up years of distinct stories. Moon Knight #200 is both of these things, and it plays into their associated expectations. The result is something messy, but in an endearing and occasionally fantastic fashion. It is full of elements bound to please old school fans of the character and readers of the current run, enough so that even when execution does not meet the demands of ambition, it's difficult to not enjoy the issue as it exists.
On the celebratory front, Moon Knight #200 includes a set of guest artists with actual purpose. They function as guests with both Lemire and Sienkiewicz, two of the most distinctive and accomplished creators to work on the series, only providing a single page. The pages they provide stand out and are perfectly crafted to the talents of the artist, winking at the audience without forgetting the story at hand. This balance is one of the best elements in Moon Knight and establishes an affectionate tone where it's clear no one cares more about the long-running hero than those producing the big issue. Elegant touches like this make any pitfalls all the more forgivable.
One of the most consistent flaws with writer Max Bemis' run has been a tendency to overwrite dialogue, explaining what already exists in panels and removing any tension from action sequences. It is a common issue with new writers, and one that is still present here. Bemis wants to make his final points clear, and an explanation of themes sometimes becomes overt and spills into sequences where it feels clearly out of place. The script is not without restraint though, and two spreads deliver a great sense of scale while also allowing readers to linger on strong elements of layouts and draftsmanship. Those sets of pages make for a powerful centerpiece and also express Bemis' growing skill as a writer.
There's a seeming urgency to tie together all of the new villains introduced throughout this run and for them to make a grand statement on the nature of mental illness together. While the point is made, it is done bluntly and without any massive revelation. The broad strokes of plotting carry the story better and build to a final page that absolutely sings with its sense of catharsis, even after that feeling has been explained multiple times. It's the power of these of strong individual moments that linger in memory after the issue is shut though, and the messiness of bringing so many disparate elements together is easily forgotten in the face of some rays of greatness.
Bemis' run has been uneven, but Moon Knight #200 captures it in its entirety and reveals a take on the character that delivered far more good than bad. An abundance of new characters and evolved relationships provide a good mix of laughter and some genuinely moving moments. For any flaws in the discussion of mental illness, Bemis and his collaborators resist the urge to turn the issue into a punchline or excuse for action, and redirect the series to addressing it with seriousness. Paul Davidson is given ample opportunities to shine alongside a collection of guest artists who contribute to his storytelling rather than distracting from it. While Moon Knight #200 is as messy as most special issues of a long-running series, its approach to the character and story of the past few years provides lots of reasons to love it, flaws and all.
Published by Marvel Comics
On October 24, 2017
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Paul Davidson
Guest Art by Jacen Burrows, Jeff Lemire, and Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors by Matt Milla with Jeff Lemire
Letters by Cory Petit