Moon Knight #1

Moon Knight #1

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

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Tradepaperback: Moon Knight v1: From the Dead

Moon Knight and Warren Ellis is an interesting combination that at first does not seem to be all that intuitive, but as it turns out it is quite the effective match.  Moon Knight has been a difficult character to get a grasp on for quite some time now.  Originally he was more associated with horror comics than with traditional superheroics, and a lot of his early comics feature all sorts of psychological terrors.  His original series also had two notable aspects to it from a historical perspective: first, it was one of the early works of Bill Sienkiewicz, who would go on to be one of the masters of the psychological horror genre, and second it was one of the first comics to be published only to the direct market (i.e. comic stores) because it was deemed too mature for kids, which was a new thing at the time (interestingly, Dazzler was also direct market only).

In the years since then Moon Knight has fallen more and more until he is a by-the-numbers superhero (often accused of being a Batman knock-off, though that is not strictly true despite many similarities) with the odd shtick of having multiple personalities.  This originally manifested itself in the first Moon Knight series with three distinct personalities residing in his head, and them sharing the responsibilities as Moon Knight.  Later the focus would be on his Marc Spector personality (also the original one, who was a mercenary), and that is generally considered to be his primary personality.  He was dormant for a number of years before his series was brought back as a super-violent crime book, which also established his long-time partner from his mercenary days, Frenchie, was gay and in love with Marc (even though this completely contradicts earlier depictions of the character).  The series did not do anything else of note except to remind people that Moon Knight existed.  He spent a little time in the Secret Avengers before being picked up by Brian Bendis to star in his own series again.  This time Moon Knight’s multiple personality issues resulted in him believing that he was Wolverine, Captain America and Spider-Man… sometimes all three at once.  It is certainly an interesting interpretation of the character, but one I can not speak authoritatively on since I never read the series.

And all that brings us up to today, with the master of craziness himself, Warren Ellis, writing one of Marvel’s craziest characters.  The multiple personalities appear to be gone for now, though I suspect that is temporary, but no one would accuse Moon Knight of being even remotely sane.  Known as Mr. Knight to the local police he now wanders into crime scenes in a white tailored suit with a full white mask on and performs a sherlockian sweep of the area.  He has shown decent detective skills in the past, so it is not completely out of the blue for him to do this, and it works by making him just that much weirder.  Everyone else seems either amused or confused by the way he does things, but he certainly gets results.

There is very little actual conflict in this issue as Moon Knight tracks down the murderer quickly and takes him down.  They have a bit of a discussion first, in which Moon Knight gets to be weird and the murderer gets to be creepy, which is a good thing when we are in a Warren Ellis comic.  There are a lot of elements to this comic which could easily stray too far into the land of craziness, but this is subdued by Ellis standards and all the more effective because of it.  Mostly this is an examination of Moon Knight and his rather unique psyche.  Ellis has a good grasp of what makes Moon Knight an interesting character, and this version is certainly entertaining to watch in action.  He is sort of a superhuman version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes, which is truly an excellent thing to be compared favorably to.

When I first saw preview images of Moon Knight strutting about in his white business suit I was worried about the direction Ellis was taking with the character.  Now that I have had a chance to see it for myself in action, though, I am sold on this interpretation.  The character is still crazy, but he has embraced it and made it his own.  The usual Ellis weirdness is here, although toned down to more sensible levels.  The art works for the subject and finds the right balance between grotesque and subdued, which helps to make the delivery of Moon Knight’s matter-of-fact dialogue all the more impressive.

This is not a comic that will be for everyone.  The character is introduced and an abbreviated history is run through which covers most of the key points, but leaves out a lot of context.  It is also undeniably weird, which will not be to everyone’s taste.  Still, for people who enjoy a bit of weird writing mixed in with their superheroics this is about as good as you are going to get at the moment.  Enjoy it for what it is.

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