‘Moon Girl’ #1 & 2 Review: By the Light of the Moon

Moon Girl was an EC Comics character from the late 40’s who lasted about nine issues, and over those nine issues, the series’ title changed several times: Moon Girl and the PrinceMoon GirlMoon Girl Fights Crime!, and my personal favorite, A Moon, a Girl…Romance. The last three issues under that final title didn’t even include Moon Girl and were instead a romance comic with totally different characters. Having not read any previous iterations of Moon Girl, I go into the first two issues of Tony Trov and Johnny Zito’s five-part re-imagining of the character totally fresh, besides some quick research done on Don Markstein’s Toonopedia.

In the original comics, Moon Girl was the princess of Samarkand, deriving her powers from a magical moonstone, and in love with Prince Mengu, moonlighting as a teacher at the same American school where he coached athletes. Of course, they fought crime in spandex together on the side. In Trov and Zito’s reworking of the character, she still starts life as a moon-powered princess, but her homeland is identified only as the ominous  “Eastern Europe.” In a flashback to 1938, we see Princess Klara strapped underneath a guillotine by her mentor, Satana, in an exercise designed to make her a superior general. The first issue opens on the New York City of 1954, with Moon Girl socking Satana in the jaw. Clearly, their relationship suffered over the years. A year later, Satana is committed to Bellvue, the hospital where Moon Girl works under the name Clare Lune. As we begin to piece together Clare’s story through a series of flashbacks, a madwoman calling herself Sugar Plum Fairy starts infecting the  citizenry, transforming them into a zombie army that she can use to create her idea of utopia. Clare hops into her moon boots, but Sugar Plum Fairy has plans for her, too: “You’re my hero, Moon Girl. The catalyst of my evolution.”

Being shaped into one crazy lady’s idea of a revolutionary in the present, and having been shaped into another crazy lady’s idea of a leader in the past, we get a sense of Moon Girl as a strong-willed woman who won’t bow to anyone. She won’t be twisted into what anyone else wants of her; she’s her own self-made hero. Trov and Zito have created an intriguing history for the character, one in which things take a darker turn than they did for the EC princess. Here, she still falls in love with Mengu, but he’s not a prince, just a poor kid on his way to Ellis Island, and their relationship is doomed by Clare’s secret past. More than the pulpy style or the big ideas about revolution and society (Sugar Plum Fairy gets a nice monologue about how “the evil bastards weaponized happiness”), Moon Girl’s journey is what will get me to keep reading.

Another big factor is The Rahzzah’s vivid art. Each page is hand-painted in gorgeous detail, and some of the compositions will knock you out. Take one from the second issue, for example: Clare enters a room as Satana stands in the doorway, her prisoner tied to a chair with a hideous mechanical contraption looming above. This image, already striking, is illuminated by a lamp that’s crashed to the floor, and framed by Clare’s legs and a wisp of her dress. The panel might almost be in black-and-white if not for a few crucial splashes of color: Satana’s piercing blue eyes, red hints of blood, Clare’s pale pink dress. That’s the most arresting image in these first two issues, but they are both filled with intricate, eye-catching artwork.

The writing of the book itself leaves room for improvement. There’s potential on most every page, but the plotting seems a little off. The first issue feels a tad rushed, with lots of talk of revolution and leadership splayed over frantic action setpieces. The second issue already bears evidence of some fine-tuning, feeling more complete and satisfying as a stand-alone read. So far, besides Satana, Moon Girl’s supporting cast consists of nerdy co-worker Star, who’s in on Clare’s secret (“You’re famous! Like Frank Sinatra or the Yankees!”); and Dr. Ben, or as Star calls him, “Doc Dreamy.” They both seem pretty one-note right now, but there’s still time. With the pieced-together backstory and the second issue’s violent conclusion–not to mention that beautiful art–it seems like the series is building to something over the course of its five issues. Here’s to hoping the payoff’s worth it.

Moon Girl #1 is available from Red 5 Comics now, and #2 will be published on May 18. Both issues are currently available on Comixology.

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