It’s a shame that Warren Ellis spends so many interviews bad-mouthing superhero comics, because he’s a really good superhero writer, and I’d even go as far to say that, as much as I love Transmet, Global Frequency and Fell, his superhero stories are his best work, Planetary in particular is the best thing he’s ever done for me. But it doesn’t matter so much what he says, more what he writes, and now he’s returned to Marvel to write a new Moon Knight series, and no surprise, it’s really bloody good. With this opening issue, Ellis, along with art-team extraordinaire Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, takes a character that, even under Bendis and Maleev struggled to grab readers and puts a new spin on him, whilst at the same time remembering the past. This issue is only a teaser really, but I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The plot here is a done-in-one mystery that’s not really a mystery, but it expertly sets up what Moon Knight’s new status quo will be, and what Ellis’ take on the character is. We open with Moon Knight having returned to New York after his time in LA during Bendis’ run, and a blogger discussing this news with journalist friend and basically recapping the character’s origins, that he was a mercenary, blah blah, shot in front of a statue of Khonshu, blah blah, went crazy and became Moon Knight, blah blah. We then see Moon Knight making his way through the city, in a bad-ass all-white limo being driven by nobody, to meet the police.
I love the rationale Ellis uses here for why Moon Knight wears all white, it’s because he wants people to see him coming, and Shalvey and Bellaire’s art portrays that beautifully, as, when in costume, Moon Knight is coloured completely differently from the rest of the book. In fact, he’s not really coloured at all, he’s like a black-and-white character in a colour world, and looks amazing. The art throughout looks fantastic, as Shalvey unleashes some stylish layouts and techniques, but this colouring adjustment really stands out as something special. Speaking of the costume, in this issue, Moon Knight isn’t wearing his traditional cape and cowl combo, instead he’s in the all-white suit and tie that he wore in that one issue of Ellis’ Secret Avengers. From the covers of upcoming issues, it looks like we might see the traditional suit, but I personally love the new look, it’s something different, to go with this different-looking book.
Moon Knight meets up with the police, and in cool Ellis twist, the head Cop refuses to acknowledge him as a superhero, because then they wouldn’t be able to work with him. Instead, he’s just Mister Knight, a concerned citizen who wants to help. This is Ellis approaching superheroes in his own unique way, and it’s just cool touch. The case to be solved is a slasher, but Moon Knight quickly works out that there’s something different about it, it’s not random, and the fact that all of the killings are within one small radius leads him to believe that the criminal is hiding out underground in the tunnels.
Moon Knight heads below, where he finds the killer, a former SHIELD Agent who was blown up by an IED and left crippled, who has been killing people to take their limbs and organs and upgrade himself. Shalvey’s depiction of this shambling horror is appropriately creepy, and again, this is a uniquely Ellis villain. The way Moon Knight defeats this guy is also pretty unique, as he throws a ‘Moonarang’ at him without either him, or the audience seeing it. This is not going to be your typical superhero comic that’s for sure.
The issue ends with a flashback to before Moon Knight’s return to New York, with Marc Spector under psychiatric care. Interestingly, Spector’s doctor comes to him and tells him he’s actually not crazy, he really was possessed by the spirit of Khonshu. The nature of Khonshu, and how he has 4 aspects is what led to his split personalities, whether they be in the form of Steven Grant and Jake Lockley, or as Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man in Bendis’ run. This is a different take from a lot of the more recent Moon Knight stories, which definitely leant more on the ‘he’s fucking mental’ side of the character, but I think Ellis could be onto something here in really exploring the nature of Khonshu. Plus, there’s only so far you can go with an insane protagonist I feel. Of course, that doctor seemed pretty creepy, so he could just be crazy, at the very end, back in his creepy abandoned base, Marc Spector sees visions of Grant, Lockley, and a very creepy looking Khonshu. It’s going to be fascinating to see what side Ellis eventually falls on.
This was a spectacular opening issue, the art was beautiful, the dialogue strong, and the take on the character new and exciting. If you’re looking for a superhero title that’s a little off-beat, that’s in the same spirit as Hawkeye, then Moon Knight is perfect. Just don’t read any of Ellis’ interviews, they might drive you mad.