Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
There is no question that the star of Red 5’s five-issue Moon Girl mini is the Rahzzah’s stunning hand painted art (The Rahzzah? Just Rahzzah? Rahzzah Something, or Something Rahzzah? Part of the Moon Girl mythos, I guess). Falling somewhere between impressionistic water colour and photographic realism, with a touch of ‘40s pin-up, the mostly female cast is brought to life in an abundance of sparkling highlights and inky shadows, with lots of loving attention paid to the dangerous curves and the suggestion of dramatic, sexualized motion. To say the characters jump off the page would be a terrible cliché, but it would be a fitting one. Facial expressions are eerily authentic, and every character has a distinctive facial structure and body type that stays absolutely consistent throughout, which might sound nitpicky…until you see the effect in action and realize how much more convincing the characters become when they appear to be actual people. In her day-to-day life, Clare Lune/Moon Girl’s redheaded, freckle-cheeked appearance recalls Karen Gillan (I seem to have a thing about her) and takes on a more glamorous, movie-star edge when she goes all super-heroine. Dr. Kane is a dead ringer for Hugo Weaving, to the point where I just automatically read all his dialogue in Agent Smith’s voice. And the Sugar Plum Fairy is particularly grotesque, with her crazed bug-eyes, gap-toothed, liver-lipped grin, protruding gums and buck teeth. She might actually be my favorite character in the whole series. She’s a dirty, trashy kind of hot; so ugly she’s almost cute, and completely nuts in that way you know can’t end well.
Take all that beautiful art out of the equation, though, and I’m not sure Moon Girl would hold up quite as well. I kept losing the story, in part because I kept going back to ogle the pictures but mostly because it’s pretty tricky to follow to begin with. The character has her origins in the late 1940s (the creation of Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff of E.C. Comics fame), a superheroine who draws her extraordinary powers from a moon rock (or moon stone in this series). Take a glance at the vintage stuff and you’ll see the usual bright colors and charming naiveté of the Golden Age, and I can’t help but wonder if writers Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, in an attempt to reinvent the character for a more cynical age, didn’t go a little too far down the “gritty reboot” path. It’ll probably take you at least two read-throughs to get the gist of what’s going on (it took me three) and the gist is about the best you can hope for. Moon Girl, a former Russian princess, is haunted and hunted by her old teacher (?) Satana, who starts out (or ends up?) as a straight-jacket-clad patient at the hospital where MG works as a nurse…until, of course, she escapes. Together with good ol’ Sugar Plum, Satana wants to start a super-human revolution, spiking the water with drugs and using subliminal messages to build an army within the population that they can activate with a code phrase. They don’t want to kill Moon Girl, either, they want to convert her to their cause. Sounds okay, but it’s the showy, heavily stylized way in which the story’s told that bogs it down, with its haphazard hopping between different time periods and the almost lyrical writing that only hints at the characters’ motivations and relationships.
Of course nobody wants a story that holds your hand and reveals everything in cheap, expositional dialogue, but you gotta draw the line of coherency somewhere. Moon Girl is definitely worth picking up, I won’t say it isn’t. Just remember: you might want to take notes.