Despite the hype surrounding his new Disney+ show, our boy Moon Knight has a pretty spotty record in terms of series longevity. Since his 1975 introduction, Marc Spector has had no fewer than ten solo series, seven of which are ongoing series. That’s a lot of off-time, during which the character had no representation on stands—or in the minds of fans. His longest run on the shelves started in 1989’s Marc Spector: Moon Knight, which ran for 60 issues before folding, at which point he lay fallow for a shocking 12 years.
No one, it seemed, could quite grasp and define the character, with each group of creators neatly dropping their predecessors’ plotlines, supporting casts, and character development. It seemed as if team after team were dead set on starting from scratch.
After a well-received reboot of the character by Charlie Huston and David Finch—a book that, finally, seemed to appreciate the character’s history—was abandoned in 2009, Marvel Comics did what they did with most of their problem properties at the time: they handed him over to Brian Michael Bendis.
Bendis could be said to have been the primary architect of the Marvel Universe at the time, with long runs on solo books like Daredevil, three or four separate Avengers titles, and a handful of the at-the-time yearly crossover events. He had a history of looking to Marvel’s long list of forgotten characters and concepts to define the present and future of the Universe, making major characters of neglected villains like The Purple Man, giving new life to perennial poster boy Luke Cage, and, as his Moon Knight book began to come out, seeding his stories with horrifying foreshadowing concerning sometimes laughable Avengers baddie (and not-yet movie star) Ultron.
The book begins, like so many other MK titles, with the almost willful refusal of the previous creative team’s progress with the character. Bendis (and his longtime collaborator, the amazing Alex Maleev) drop Marc Spector into an entirely new Hollywood life, dispose of any of his alternate personas and refit him with a rare form of comic book schizophrenia in which the voices and hallucinations of his psychoses are of more established and respected superheroes. Namely Spidey, Cap, and Wolvie. Using these avatars, his mental illness seems to bend itself into a trio of heroic guidance counselors.
For fans of Huston and Finch’s work on the character, this seemed both utterly baffling and strangely exciting. The book was, at the very least, accepting the new terms regarding Marc Spector’s mental illness (as shoddily and faultily as it had been laid out), but it was doing a lot of work to pull the character from the oft-overwhelming gloom in which he had been mired.
This volume of the book feels lighter than any Moon Knight book has felt since, despite Maleev’s characteristic moody, shadow-drenched style, and its Marc Spector is somehow “cooler”, less rigid and more willing to make jokes. He and his imagined superhero chorus are certainly Bendis mouthpieces, more in line with his style than Marc’s own, but this is somewhat refreshing. All that doom and gloom had become something of a restraint on the stories that could be told with the character.
This isn’t exactly a complaint, because it provides to the reader, in shorthand, a protagonist we can like, regardless of our familiarity with his convoluted past. This is a snackable version of Moon Knight, one where mythology and magic are suspended so that he might fit into the bigger picture. Indeed, just to make sure the fans know the score, fellow Disney+ star and long-time Bendis favorite Echo becomes our primary supporting character, tying it as close to the Daredevil and Avengers narrative Bendis had been crafting as possible (short, of course, of forcing Moon Knight to share that spotlight).
This makes this volume of Moon Knight unique among all other volumes: it tells one complete, coherent narrative, carrying no previously dangling threads. It asks no questions that it doesn’t intend on answering (outside the looming shadow of Age of Ultron). It introduces, deals with, and concludes its relationships with its supporting cast, some of whom are new but most of whom are, in Bendis style, neglected baddies from days gone by.
This book contains what is arguably the most succinct Moon Knight narrative, the most easily digestible. It’s a book perfectly suited to be an introduction to the character. To achieve these feats, major sacrifices had to be made in editing the character down to a minor version of himself, stripping the complications and concerns that make him his most compelling. It’s a brilliant, flowing, and delightful 12 issues starring what amounts to Marc Spector Lite (now with fewer calories).
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