Thee Comic Column #77: Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight

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Oh Khonshu – will you ever have a long-running series again? Let’s check with the magic eightball… not bloody likely? Oh, well you know what magic eight ball? Have you ever had the absolute privilege of reading a comic penned by the intimidatingly twisted and sharp-witted Warren Ellis? No? Well then, you don’t know shite! Away with you devil ball! Away, and back to the hell from which you came…

You know, Moon Knight is one of those Marvel characters that I imagine must be both absolute agony and absolute joy for DC to keep tabs of. The agony, I would think, comes into play when you realize that a throw away, D-level Avenger character is still light years cooler than even some of DC’s main, bread and butter heroes. I mean…

Moon Knight or Aquaman? No competition.

Moon Knight or The Flash? Well, power-wise Flash might get it but coolness factor? Sorry, the match goes to Moon Knight.

Moon Knight or Batman? Well, obviously I won’t go that far, but here’s the thing – for such a blatantly Batman-esque character Moon Knight definitely has his own identity and at the very least could get in the ring with his inspiration, though I’m sure Bruce would mop the freakin’ floor with him.

And if I’m so convinced that a character such as this has so much more to offer than most of DC’s characters where could the joy possibly come in? Well, from the fact that despite ol’ Moony being pretty damn cool Marvel just cannot seem to crack the code to keeping him in a long-running regular series. Is Warren Ellis going to change that? Probably not is what the cynic in me says, but maybe is what the rest of me says, because the brand new Moon Knight #1 that came out two weeks ago as part of the new wave of Marvel NOW titles was a great, dark original take on the character and if Mr. Ellis’ track record for weird, awesome, creepy and violent goodness is anything to go by, this book might just turn out to be a hit that would fit nicely in pull boxes right next to some of the work being done for Marvel NOW by the likes of Ales Kot, Rick Remender and BMB.

Although I missed the original ongoing Moon Knight series from the mid-80’s I’ve liked the premise of the character since the first time I laid eyes on him. This was the impetus for my on-again-off-again fandom of the 90’s Marc Specter: Moon Knight title – I even wrote a little about it here. And yet that particular Moon Knight series never seemed to hit its stride, and despite a fairly impressive sixty-issue run it ultimately collapsed in on itself trying to bridge a line between the still fairly conservative and un-self aware Marvelverse of that era and an inclination the company had to try and incorporate a more sophisticated, adult (a la Vertigo, not Playboy) element to some of the stranger heroes sitting unused in their stables. Moon Knight wasn’t the only character to fall into this trap; inconsistent editorial tones eventually ruined other promising B, C and D-lister books such as Ghost Rider, Spirits of Vengeance and the absolutely ridiculous number of Punisher titles available during that period (when Mike Baron’s flawless The Punisher was really all you needed until Garth Ennis came along).

I missed the Charlie Huston/David Finch series from a few years back because, honestly, at the time I thought Marvel’s needle was skipping something fierce and I pretty much didn’t read any of their books from that era. And I don’t feel as though I missed anything either. But in the last three years or so Marvel has really gotten things down in regards not only to streamlining the tone of their books but also re-vamping their properties without the need to alienate their continuity or more importantly their fans who hold that continuity as something mostly sacred. In line with this I was a huge fan of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s take on the character that ran an astonishingly brief twelve issues during 2011/2012. Honestly Bendis and Maleev could do My Little Pony and I’d read it, but with Moon Knight I honestly thought they had one of the best takes on the character yet, emphasizing his mental instability and attempting to carve a niche for him and a supporting cast outside of super hero-heavy New York, across the country in my adopted hometown of Los Angeles.

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There was a fantastic noir to that most recent Moon Knight book, and in reading the aforementioned first issue of this newest incarnation of the character I can see that Ellis’ statement that his Moon Knight unifies all the previous takes…”  spins out of that noir and actually ups the ante, bringing Marc Specter into a what appears to be a very street level take on “weird crime”. This is somewhat of a specialty Ellis excels at in many of his comics (particularly his short-lived collaboration with artist Ben Templesmith, Fell) as well as his novels (I’ve not read Dead Pig Collector yet but Crooked Little Vein is brilliant), and with fantastic art by Declan Shalvey that really sets a dark, urban tone and then dribbles a creepy, almost Ken Russell element over it I think this book is going to go deep into the weird of the Marvel Universe. And I’m all for that because, in a world where a time travel, mutant powers and cosmic showdowns are everyday occurrences you know the sadists and perverts are an extra kind of weird, the kind that stays stuck to the inside of your eyes for days after you experience it. And this first issue was exactly that, a kind of strange, bloody, urban noir that I expect will, as expanded upon, hopefully lend some longevity to this marvelous but often misused Marvel character who deserves to be held in a lot higher esteem than he currently is.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #77: Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight
  1. […] book I followed. Then came Ellis and Shalvey and, well, I still weep at night for the end of their r...

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