Moon Knight (2014): A New Kind of Crazy

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Declan Shalvey’s Cover Art on the whole series is absolutely beautiful. Issue #12; Source: Marvel.com

Delightfully crazy, Moon Knight provides readers with a very different kind of hero. He’s not quite an antihero, at least not along the lines of the Punisher or Wolverine, but Moon Knight’s approach is certainly unorthodox. A good example is that he is the only hero I know of that has a snow-white costume, which he claims is because he “likes when they can see me coming.” He seems to thrive on violence in a way that most heroes don’t, he perseveres through some grisly personal injuries like a man possessed. Though he has been called an “ersatz Batman” because his cape, cowl, and gadgetry is reminiscent of the Caped Crusader, but I think that sells him short. Though the costume, high-tech gadgets and midnight vigilantism do strike familiar chords, the motivation for the man behind the mask is extremely different. Where Bruce Wayne is looking to avenge his parents’ death through utterly destroying the criminal underworld, what we find behind the Moon Knight mask is a hodgepodge of personalities struggling between adventure-seeking, blood-lust, and a genuine desire to seek justice. The questionable motivation, inconsistent personality, and periodic lack of restraint all supports the development of a very different kind of hero. This psychological element is far more essential to Moon Knight’s character than his crime-fighting style or whatever powers he may or may not possess. He is unique because Moon Knight is full-on, basket of cats level crazy.

Warren Ellis/ Declan Shalvey #1-6: Ellis’ work on Moon Knight is really great! He provided a creative spin on the question of whether or not MK’s actually crazy, setting up an early scene with a psychiatrist stating MK did not have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) but rather had brain damage following his possession by the spirit of Khonshu and that this godly presence was too much for any one personality to handle. This made this multiple personalities into a coping mechanism for the embodiment and interpretation of the unearthly possession but his struggle to grasp reality is the result of damage to his brain rather than an innate disorder. It is definitely a cool twist on the classic tale of psychosis. However, shortly thereafter, the whole conversation was thrown into doubt, with the weirdly disfigured faces and imagery suggesting that it may have only been another hallucination from the addled Moon Knight, himself…

Ellis also had the brilliance to introduce “Mr. Knight” a new, more sociable and public-facing persona of MK’s that works with the police as a quasi-detective. Mr. Knight gave MK a means of operating in the real world and presenting someone with some positive PR. I also really liked the artistic style that Shalvey used to depict Moon Knight, making him fully black and white, while keeping the full color palate for his surroundings. All of MK’s accessories (his car, moon blade things, his copter, etc.) are perfectly white, making the blood and dirt that accumulates during his fights much more visible. I also really liked Shalvey’s use of artistic style in framing stories, which is most prominent in issue #2, where the first half of the book shows 8 disparate characters all gradually being assassinated, one page at a time, and leaving more and more of each page blank. I appreciated the cleverness of how the art and storytelling blended together. This short arc was masterfully done, making each issue a relatively minor tale, but gradually building a strong sense of the title character, as well as his multiple personalities and the whole Khonshu question. Great take on the character, an instant classic. Rating 8 of 10.

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A beautiful, if morbid, artistic framing device by Declan Shalvey in Moon Knight #2. Source: Marvel Comics via comicsbulletin.com

 

 

Brian Wood/ Greg Smallwood #7-12: Wood and Smallwood presented a genuinely admirable follow-up to Ellis and Shalvey’s opening act. Smallwood’s art is amazing — I really think he’s a rising star at Marvel. This six-issue set makes an adept transition from Ellis’ exposee on MK into a self-contained arc. But the transition is somewhat gradual, as it seems to continue along Ellis’ pattern until a couple issues in when you realize Wood is building to a larger story. This slow arc-building effect is very reminiscent of Stan Lee’s early work on Amazing Spider-Man back in the late 1960s when multi-issue arcs first started. But the issues and tone, as well as the wonderful art are all perfectly modern. I particularly liked issue #8, where the story was told through security cam footage, with dialogue boxes on the outside of the frame. Stylistically and thematically, it was a wonderful continuation of what Ellis and Shalvey started. The whole first 12 issues of this run are probably the best Moon Knight stories I’ve read. Neck and neck with the first two arcs of Charles Houston’s 2006 run on the character. It may not be the best entry point to the character, but it certainly is great reading for Moon Knight and comic fans alike. Rating 8 of 10.

 

Cullen Bunn/ Ron Ackins #13-17: Ehh definitely not as good as either earlier arc. I didn’t like Bunn’s decision to suddenly make MK much more violent and deal with ghosts and the like. He also called him a priest of Khonshu? It seemed like a pretty big departure from the stuff right before it. Also, Ackins’ art was fine, but it just didn’t hold up to either Smallwood or Shalvey’s work ahead of him. This is a sub-par entry into the Moon Knight canon, and honestly I would prefer to pretend it didn’t happen. The arc doesn’t have any resolution either. Just bam! end. I’d imagine that is reflective of a relatively abrupt cancellation. Likely due to similar sentiments from other readers. Rating: 4 of 10

Side-note: Moon Knight would make an excellent choice for the inevitable next round of Netflix/Marvel shows. I would love to see them try him out. Fingers crossed!