Moon Knight #8-9
Issue(s): Moon Knight #8, Moon Knight #9
(That thing that looks like a weird cut and paste of pixels covering the Acts of Vengeance footnote is in the original comic, by the way.)
And Flag-Smasher is also taking advantage of the chaos, so they have a run-in, and the Punisher is also involved because he's been tracking the Flag-Smasher for a while before Moon Knight stumbled upon him.
It's kind of funny because as soon as MK runs into the Punisher, he ditches his sidekick, Midnight.
Which is fine because i was already sick of their run-a-mouth banter.
Punisher also says that hunting Flag-Smasher's ULTIMATUM group is "more my speed" compared to the "Lots of masked crazies out tonight with a mean on". He takes Moon Knight to the home of a banker that is funding ULTIMATUM. I was a little surprised for Punisher to call the guy "slime". Surely by funding ULTIMATUM's anti-government agenda he'd be more of a dangerously naive idealist, right? "Slime" is a word you'd use for people that are maliciously corrupt.
But turning the page i get it. The Punisher says that the guy is funding ULTIMATUM because as a wealthy banker he'd be happy to see the world's governments torn down, so that the rich can run rampant without regulation.
That's actually a very interesting angle. The banker doesn't dispute it, so i guess we should assume it's accurate. I'd love to see a story where the Flag-Smasher was confronted with the fact that these are the types of people that support him.
But that's as far as Chuck Dixon takes it here. They use the banker to work their way up the chain, but get stymied by an ULTIMATUM agent who is far enough up the ranks that she doesn't have to wear the head piece. We'll later learn that her code name is Anarchy.
She's pretty badass.
Despite that setback (and the death of the banker), Punisher and Moon Knight do make it to the warehouse where Flag-Smasher is organizing.
I do like the ongoing conversation between Punisher and Moon Knight. Dixon has Punisher respect Moon Knight, supposedly more than other heroes, but there's still a difference between them.
They attack the ULTIMATUM base...
...and Moon Knight winds up fighting Flag-Smasher.
Who i guess has super-strength? I've never actually been clear on that.
Punisher, meanwhile, fights Anarchy.
They eventually converge (not quite a So big, so fast alert).
Anarchy eventually takes a nun-chuck to the head and passes out. Moon Knight stops the Punisher from killing her.
Which is ironic since Frenchie is currently outside in a helicopter mowing down ULTIMATUM agents.
The battle ends with Flag-Smasher seemingly dying in a boat explosion. And Punisher has to play a little bit of nursemaid to Moon Knight.
Fun set of issues. I'm surprised and disappointed that Anarchy never resurfaced. I'd like to have seen her as a regular #2 to Flag-Smasher. The cynical banker angle is interesting and i would have liked to see that explored more, and i wouldn't have minded if Flag-Smasher were a little less villain-speak and a little more articulate in his defense against Moon Knight's accusations, but it's not a terrible appearance by the character.
I think Chuck Dixon does overplay the events of Acts of Vengeance, or maybe i'm underestimating them. I never really felt like it was a mega war on the streets that could have made it open season for characters like the Punisher. In fact, Dixon's interpretation reminds me a lot of his depiction of how things went down on Earth during Secret Wars in Code of Honor #3, which i similarly feel is overblown. But he may be more on the mark with Acts of Vengeance. It's true that a lot was going on.
I do think it's noteworthy the way Dixon skirts the crossover with these two issues (we do have one more issue of AoV Moon Knight coming up). Instead of just having the arch-villain cabal send someone after Moon Knight, we have him (and Punisher and Flag-Smasher, who it's worth mentioning could have potentially had an interesting interaction with the Red Skull after recent events in Captain America) reacting to the crossover as a bystander. It gives the impression that Dixon wanted Moon Knight to be thought of less as an ordinary super-hero and more like a grim and gritty vigilante (another aside: of course the Punisher can also be described that way, but he will be much more involved in the crossover in his issues). And that's fine, in and of itself. But it almost feels like too many writers got twist-y with the Acts of Vengeance concept (for different reasons, you could say that at least about all the Spider-Man books, X-Men, X-Factor, and Alpha Flight in addition to these issues).
Still, it's a fun set of issues with some interesting ideas thrown in. And the Velluto/Palmer art continues to work well.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Based on the way they talk in this comic, you'd think Acts of Vengeance was Secret Wars on Earth. I'm therefore placing this so that it's concurrent with a few other major battles, specifically the ones that were all said to be happening at the same time in Avengers Spotlight #27.
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showFlag-Smasher, Frenchie, Midnight (Jeffrey Wilde), Moon Knight, Punisher
"Surely by funding ULTIMATUM's anti-government agenda he'd be more of a dangerously naive idealist, right?".
Flag-Smasher's thought does not seem opposed to government per se, rather it opposes Terra/Earth-616 having **separate** governments. Flag-Smasher would possibly feel quite content if his planet had only one government, much as the Kree, Shi'ar, Skrulls, etc. have only one native planet with one government.
John Sunlight from Doc Savage had a similar goal.
World Federalists have a similar goal.
I wonder how Flag-Smasher contemplates the economy. Free enterprise or government ownership? Does he find the supposed exploitation of labor acceptable so long as people do not think in terms of nationalism?
Posted by: PB210 | March 26, 2015 7:50 PM
An enjoyable set of issues, but I don't think ULTIMATUM was depicted as well here as in Gruenwald's CAP. Flag-Smasher's goal was never anarchy, but a kind of transnational utopia - a world where UN bureaucrats decide everything. I would have liked a more sophisticated depiction to his methods and goals.
I did like the Punisher/Moon Knight team up.
The Midnight sidelick angle simply doesn't work, and it's the major failing of Dixon's run. I think he has in mind a long term payoff, but it doesn't justify the wasted space or time.
Posted by: Chris | March 26, 2015 10:51 PM
In the Assassin Nation Plot, Ultimatum was working for the Skull. I guess there are two different factions- one loyal to the Skull, the other loyal to Flag Smasher.
Posted by: Michael | March 26, 2015 11:49 PM
I don't think ULTIMATUM was ever well depicted. They ill suit the original character of Flag-Smasher.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 27, 2015 12:35 PM
"Flag-Smasher's goal was never anarchy, but a kind of transnational utopia - a world where UN bureaucrats decide everything. I would have liked a more sophisticated depiction to his methods and goals".
Flag-Smasher explicitly claims himself as other than a Communist. One could take that to mean Leninist-Marxist. So Flag-Smasher could still fit in the latter part of that description-not all socialists, Marxist or otherwise, follow Lenin. That said, Flag-Smasher never, to my knowledge, ever expresses any concern regarding the exploitation of the workers or proletariat.
I still find it odd that Flag-Smasher expressed such disdain for the Warsaw Pact. As I wrote earlier, Communists and other Marxists do generally strongly oppose nationalism and other such forms of bigotry as dividing the working class of all nations from uniting against the corporations. Eric Ambler in one of his novels, Journey Into Fear, postulated much the same. On the other hand, Marx actually thought that corporations would try to discourage warfare, since he felt that corporations have their as their priority their class, not other members of their nation.
I would guess Flag-Smasher would extinguish all protectionist trade policies, abolish all tariffs, and so forth.
Posted by: PB210 | March 27, 2015 8:34 PM
The Soviets opposed nationalism in theory, PB210. In practice, the Soviets carried their own form of imperialism in Eastern Europe. During Stalin's era, suspect nationalities were deported to Siberia.
Posted by: Michael | March 27, 2015 9:18 PM
I always find it cute when you guys educate each other on communism. A bit like a white man telling another white man what its like to be black:-)
Posted by: kveto from prague | March 27, 2015 9:36 PM
I never thought Flag-Smasher was any kind of Marxist, but I figure his economic ideas are probably a bit more left wing than right. Flag Smasher is just not motivated by economic motivations. He believes in a global government and a "one world" philosophy. He probably even believes in a kind of democracy - except when the people vote the "wrong" way. I think he trusts the "experts" more than "the people".
He's like an evil Dag Hammarskoljd. That's a strange concept, but I think Flag Smasher decided that terrorism actually works and that by taking "direct action" he can radicalize people into joining a one world movement, or perhaps weaken the major world powers so that they stop acting on their own, this strengthening the transnational movement.
If he ever did succeed in his goals, I imagine he would act in a similar way that Gruenwald had the Squadron Supreme in their Utopia Project except much more willing to kill people.
That his real goals were never properly developed is a major reason he never became an interesting character. I agree with kveto's earlier comments that he had potential.
Posted by: Chris | March 27, 2015 10:35 PM
Flag-Smasher, as originally conceived by Mark Gruenwald in Captain America #312, had the ultimate pacifist ideology, admitedly mishandled into an schyzoid violent form by some form of PTSD or something. The concept is hard to write correctly, and I fear Gru is just not nearly subtle enough a writer to pull it off.
Quite simply, the concept was far better than his writing skills could sustain. Flag-Smasher's behavior becomes self-contradictory even in his first appearance, because the story needs him to be a threat despite his own concept. Which may be why, after nearly a year without touching the character, Gru decided to bring him back in a frankly insane, unrecognizable form in #321. He has been nothing but a gross caricature with inescrutable and probably insane motivations since about halfway into his very first appearance, being reduced to a generic boogeyman leading a generic terrorist group.
Such a waste of a fascinating idea.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 28, 2015 9:55 AM
I disagree that white people talking about being black is an apt comparison--nobody is born being a communist; that has to be learned.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 28, 2015 11:59 AM
I think kveto's argument is that he actually grew up in a Communist country (Czechoslovakia) so he knows more about it than those of us that were raised in the United States or Britain. It's a legitimate argument, as long as you remember that a Ukrainian or a Balt might legitimately have a different view of Communism than a Czech.
Posted by: Michael | March 28, 2015 12:04 PM
Well said, Michael. That is what I was going for but I was trying to say it affectionately. (I had also just returned from the pub last night so I were a bit tipsy)
Mark, I wasn't intending you to take it as an exact like for like obviously. Just trying to put it in terms which (I presume) are closer to home for you all.
I'm just amazed how often discussions of the Flag-smasher transform into discussions on communism. As far as I know, Flag-smasher has never proposed an economic platform of any kind. He denied being a communist in his first appearance and was shocked that he'd be accused of such.
As Luis notes, I think he had the ultimate pacifist ideology, militarized. Making him, or at least the idea of him, interesting.
As far as I know, this was his first important appearance outside of Captain America , showing how pointless it really is for him to face any villain other than cap. remove the nationalism vs anti-nationalism debate, and he's just another generic terrorist.
Posted by: kveto from prague | March 28, 2015 3:03 PM
"I'd love to see a story where the Flag-Smasher was confronted with the fact that these are the types of people that support him."
IMO, Flag-Smasher pays as much attention to who he hires as the High Evolutionary did. They both employ people of questionable values.
Posted by: clyde | July 22, 2015 9:27 AM
Relevant to this discussion, if you don't mind me asking kveto, how old were you during the sametová revoluce? (I totally just looked up that spelling on Wikipedia).
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 18, 2015 11:54 AM
A bit personal and not sure how its relevant to an old (boring) discussion but I was born in '74, so about 16 at the time.
Erik, how old are you? :-)
Posted by: Kveto | September 19, 2015 1:51 AM
The same age as you, born in 1974.
I have a theory, relevant to how people look at things such as ULTIMATUM. My theory is that people born in the 80's (or at least, those born in the West in the 80's) have a much different view of the world. They were still little when the wall fell and the Cold War ended but they were grown enough before 9/11. So, unlike those of us who grew up in the Cold War and those who grew up after 9/11, they grew up with the world as a safer place (that's why I specify the West). It makes for a very different worldview.
I was also curious because you have an experience with Communism and the Soviet Bloc that seems to be fairly unique among the commenters here and it's fascinating to see, so I was curious how long you grew up with that before things changed in Prague.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 19, 2015 8:24 AM
Erik, speaking as someone born in '83, I agree with you. As a kid, it definitely seemed that all the big reasons to fight wars were in the past; even before the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev was leading a "kinder, gentler" USSR that seemed more of a friendly rival to the US than a sworn enemy. All we had to worry about were tin-pot dictators like Saddam and the environment. Then things ended up going pear-shaped.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 19, 2015 1:23 PM
Let's hear it for being born in '74! I was too.
I think you summed up things rather nicely, Erik!
Posted by: Bill | September 19, 2015 6:34 PM
Comments are now closed.
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