Moon Knight is back, with a superstar creative team featuring the talents of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. But can Marvel’s psychopathic, moon-addled sorta-Batman mount a successful return in Moon Knight #1?
Previously, in Moon Knight: Under the guidance of the ancient Egyptian moon god Khonshu, mercenary Marc Spector has taken on the aspect of Moon Knight, a harsh vigilante. Battling mental illness as much as his foes, Moon Knight is back in New York and ready to do his thing.
Moon Knight is a weird character. He’s one of Marvel’s Batman-inspired characters, amplifying some of Batman’s more peculiar aspects. Moonie has Bats’ gadgetry and nocturnal predilections, but it is his penchant for taking on multiple identities that recent writers have sunk their teeth into. He’s not one of Marvel’s more popular characters, although he’s flitted around the fringes of the Marvel Universe for a few decades. His relative obscurity allows writers to put their own spin on the guy. Most recently, Brian Michael Bendis amplified the specious “split personality” aspect by having Spector believe that Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine were part of him. It… wasn’t great.
As a reintroduction to the Moon Knight character, Moon Knight #1 does the job. In the first two pages, Warren Ellis succinctly delivers Moon Knight’s history, giving the reader an easy set-up to grasp. The story presents a solitary Moon Knight, working with a complicit homicide detective on the “freak beat,” to solve a series of slashings. Ellis likes to write big, giving his characters strong voices. A few lines are a little precious coming out of Spector’s mouth, but Ellis’s Moon Knight is more of a detective than an action star, so a little hardboiled dialogue is perhaps appropriate. And when he’s not solving crimes, he oozes loneliness and desperation. While this story is self-contained, Ellis is creating a character that will provide a lot of fodder for exploration this series.
HE LIKES PEOPLE TO SEE HIM
Declan Shalvey’s character design for Moon Knight loses the classic hood and cape look for something simpler. This Moon Knight wears a three-piece suit, with a crescent-moon emblazoned balaclava, looking no-frills freaky. The getup is colored in pure black and white, no gray, creating a stark effect that pops the character off the page. Jordie Bellaire might be the hardest-working colorist in the business (or perhaps just the most ubiquitous), but you can understand why after looking at these pages. Aside from Moon Knight, the rest of the comic is dark, gritty and grim, as befits the nocturnal, street-level focus. Shalvey displays his talent with a few inventive layouts that give this issue a cinematic feel, such as when Moon Knight descends a sewer ladder into the depths of the city. The brief action scene in particular is well-illustrated, with Shalvey adding wordless tension to the page. The body language he gives Spector in the moments without the mask also provide a lot of the character punch in this issue.
BOTTOM LINE: THE PART I LIKE
Moon Knight #1 is a well-executed, self-contained murder mystery, with an interesting one-off villain and good character beats. The team of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey is a strong one. What I like best about this issue is how Ellis handles the somewhat thorny idea of Moon Knight’s personalities. Whether you’re calling it multiple-personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder, the idea of split personalities is a pretty corny concept that could possibly be the most annoying mental disorder in genre fiction. Unfortunately, it’s also core to the concept of this character. Ellis isn’t ignoring that, but he looks to be handling it in a way that gave me chills. The idea he presents, coupled with Shalvey’s masterful art on the final page, sunk the hook for me. Moon Knight #1 should appeal to readers both old and new. Check it out.