A Bloody, Glorious Return
Review by Orion
As I said before, I wasn't introduced to Moon Knight through the material in the Essential books. It was probably for the better, too; it took me a grand total of three attempts to just start reading the first Essential book before I finally began to appreciate it for what it was. I was a naïve comic book reader back then who was used to modern storytelling and art, and it didn't help that the first story I read in the first volume wasn't even Moon Knight-centric. New readers may face the same dilemma when choosing the Essential volumes as their introduction to the character, so I'm going to suggest to you how I started reading everything Moon Knight.
After the end of his early run in 1999, Moon Knight experienced an utter lack of solo adventures until 2006 when Marvel launched a new ongoing series written by acclaimed crime fiction author Charlie Huston. Moon Knight (the third series, after Fist of Khonshu) reintroduced the character to the modern world in a grittier, Dark Knight-esque (the Christopher Nolan film trilogy version) light that defined Moon Knight for this age. This series was perhaps the most popular in the Moon Knight fandom, and rightly so. This also was how I was introduced to the Lunar Crusader. I knew next to nothing about him before I read the series' first collected trade paperback, "The Bottom," after finding Moon Knight's design cool in 2006's cross-platform RPG video game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance (which I'll talk about in the next article).
Coming into the third series, you don't have to know jack squat about Moon Knight. It helps doing a little research on his origin at least, but it's completely unnecessary. Huston does a bang-up job drawing you into Marc's story despite feeling as though you've just started watching a TV show in the third season. Add the beautifully gritty and powerful art by David Finch (pencils), Danny Miki (inks), and Frank D'Armata (colors), and you're instantly transported to the glum, violent suburbs of New York City.
Moon Knight's new lease on life means he's making a lot of waves, too. He has run-ins with other heroes and Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts throughout the series over his new attitude toward crime, and it all shows how much of a bad-ass Moon Knight really is. There are thirty issues total in this series, and even after Huston and Finch leave the creative team, it still proves itself one of the strongest and most popular runs in the character's history. You can buy it all in five collected volumes, and these are a must-have for any Moon Knight fan, new or old.
|Sadly, that's Mac Gargan as Venom. A shame, as|
Moon Knight versus Eddie Brock as Venom would've
A Shining Knight in the Dark
Review by Dan
The fugitive Captain America won't allow him to join the resistance because as much as Moon Knight's trying to turn away from all the killing, who knows whether he'll be able to? At the same time, Tony Stark won't even let him register under the SRA because his multiple personalities reek of psycho. Great, none of your friends want you around because you're a loon, so you're stuck in the crossfire without a pot to piss in. I can relate to that. That doesn't stop the White Knight from trying to have his way, though—caught between the moon and New York City. (See what I did there?) All the while, Khonshu is so pissed at him for refusing to kill that he has chosen to haunt Moon Knight as the ghost of Bushman, the mercenary whose face he carved off in a fit of rage, thus giving "Midnight Sun" that certain American Werewolf grisly-apparition-of-a-half-eaten-friend vibe.
The real reason I wanted to highlight "Midnight Sun" is Moon Knight's encounter with a certain Punisher. They're so alike that it's possible I got into Moon Knight because I've been a fan of Frank Castle for so long. During the Civil War, which I read before this series, Punisher joined the resistance only to be made to look a total idiot by writer Mark Millar. I wasn't happy at all. Millar should not be allowed near Frank Castle. The only benefit from that would be a consistent artist.
With regard to their modi operandi, Moon Knight and Punisher are very similar. They only kill when they have to, despite what Millar would have you believe. They mostly work alone, as they don't get along with others because what they do is unpleasant business. Being a killer really does put them on a completely different wavelength from other heroes. Wolverine is a loner and Black Widow tends to go home alone at night for the same reason, so it's not hard to understand. These dark heroes are damaged beyond repair. They have chosen and accepted their way of life, and yet their understanding of the most likely consequences for what they do is more frightening than the consequences themselves.
The story of "Midnight Sun" sees Marc struggle to go in the opposite direction of the Punisher even as Khonshu taunts him, and yet he is still starkly compared with the death-dealing vigilante. When one of his most prominent foes makes an appearance, he may have to go against his vow never to kill again!
What this story arc pointed out really well for me—inside and outside of the lengthy conversation Moon Knight and Punisher have—is that it's not just other characters that don't understand Moon Knight and the way he lives; it's a great deal of writers, too. Is it best to have a bad interpretation of someone else's character, or to bend that character to your will, providing you have a writer who doesn't quite qualify?
"Midnight Sun" wasn't just a reflection of Moon Knight's being or his fictional problems; it was also sort of reactionary to the shit that die-hard Moon Knight fans have suffered, and as a Punisher fan, I was on board with that. That is a huge part of Huston's legacy.
Also, having read so many great stories that suffered from terrible art, I was drawn in by Finch's incredibly dark and moody, yet descriptive, penciling. I'd be surprised if "Midnight Sun" wasn't a standout Moon Knight arc for so many other fans of the character.
Back with a Vengeance
Review by Orion
Toward the end of the third Moon Knight series, Marc had been pitted in a corner (metaphorically speaking) by Osborn's Thunderbolts as they hunted him down on the orders of the U.S. government due to his violations of the SRA. He had no other choice but to fake Marc Spector's (the identity) death and retreat to Mexico to lay low for a while. While "Down South" (as the story arc was called), Marc struggled with Khonshu's influence over him, paralleling his struggle to separate his killer instinct from his heroic life. When he finally learned to tell Khonshu "No" and take back control of his life, he decided that New York City desperately needed Moon Knight back. Moon Knight wouldn't return without vengeance on the man who chased him into hiding, however.
Vengeance of the Moon Knight follows directly after the third series and is perhaps my favorite series aside from the first two Essential volumes that depict Moon Knight as a goody two-shoes hero and not a bloodthirsty vigilante. (I love bloodthirsty, Huston-written Moon Knight the most, just to set things straight.) Only the last two issues of the ten-issue monthly limited series carried the "Heroic Age" banner on its cover. This signified the beginning of the Marvel comics era in which their superheroes were reemerging from the doom-and-gloom of the "Dark Reign" era that Osborn spearheaded with his Dark Avengers. If you ask me, however, I'd say the entirety of Vengeance of the Moon Knight signified Moon Knight's arrival to the "Heroic Age" well ahead of Marvel's schedule.
Gone was the über-violent, face-ripping, forehead-scarring vigilante of the previous series. Gone was the hero who settled for his place on the D-List. This new Moon Knight exploded onto the first pages of this new series with a new suit, new gear, and new vehicles, looking to make a name for himself and to prove Osborn wrong in chasing him out of Marc's own town. Khonshu still nagged at Moon Knight to serve bloody vengeance upon the deserving, but Marc would have none of it. Gradually, Khonshu's presence and voice became larger and louder the longer Marc ignored him, which accumulated to an interesting climax that Dan will discuss in the next section.
Overall, this series was just downright fun and a fresh breath of air from the dank swamp of gloom and gore in which Marc found himself suffocating. He managed to patch up relations with Marlene and Frenchie and went toe-to-toe with some of the Marvel Universe's colorful characters of the time, including a tense conversation with Sentry (who was a part of Osborn's Dark Avengers at that point), a fun battle against Deadpool, and a fateful crossing of paths with his newly-resurrected nemesis, Bushman. The short-lived series ended with a special crossover issue in which Moon Knight joins Steve Rogers' Secret Avengers (which I'll cover a little later). Vengeance of the Moon Knight might not have been as well written or exciting as its predecessor, but it's definitely second or third in my top favorite Moon Knight series and worth a read.
Now I'll hand you to Dan as he takes you briefly back into the shadows…
A Lone Avenger and His Cab
Review by Dan
Following the events of "The List" and "Siege," Osborn, the Dark Avengers, and H.A.M.M.E.R. are gone. Unexpectedly, Daredevil returns as champion and leader of ninja cult the Hand's New York chapter. Here stands Shadowland, where the battle for the soul of New York City will take place! In the place where Bullseye had blown up an apartment block full of people to spite him, Daredevil builds Shadowland to police the streets of Hell's Kitchen and let it be known that his means of justice has changed with the times—no longer content with the presence of the law or the likes of the Avengers. One night, when Bullseye escapes captivity and hunts Daredevil down, Avengers Luke Cage and Iron Fist witness Daredevil brutally slay Bullseye. The mood and Daredevil, too, begin to change in unexpected ways.
Enter New York cabbie Jake Lockley (one of Moon Knight's many personalities), who drives into Hell's Kitchen, steps out onto the street, and totals the crap out of his own car just to be captured by a ninja patrol and locked up in a dungeon built into the sewers. He does this at Steve Rogers's request in order to find out what's going on behind the walls Daredevil had built up around himself. Finding out that nothing is what it seems, Moon Knight escapes only to find that Daredevil has hired his most bitter enemy, the Profile (introduced in the third series as an enemy-turned-spiteful ally), to eliminate him from the equation. In turn, the Profile brings in the one man who could remove Moon Knight altogether: his psychotic brother, Randall Spector, a.k.a. Shadow Knight (formerly Hatchet-Man), and contender for the title of Fist of Khonshu!
You see, when I said that Moon Knight is an ambiguous character, I'm really not saying just how much. He is haunted by the spirit of Egyptian god Khonshu, who compels him to slay his enemies and spill their blood. At the same time he is trying to reject the demands of his master, refusing to kill anymore. This was all news to me, however, and I was easily sucked in.
It turns out that he might have to kill his own brother in order to prevent worse things from happening, which might seem easy when your brother is a murderous madman who would kill everybody you know and love. However, it's not that simple when you're clinging desperately to who you are and don't want to lose your soul. This is the reason Moon Knight has several personalities; as someone who has killed a lot of people, he must keep trying to redeem himself in order for Marc Spector, his true identity, to survive. He lives as Steven Grant now in order to separate himself from the monster he originally was. Without redeeming Marc, there is no telling what Moon Knight would become.
His dark and twisted character, the Carbonadium armor under the cape, and the nightmarish mask beneath the hood made him not just your average bad-ass character, but also one that stood out for all the right reasons, and quite originally. If Batman is the Dark Knight, this guy is the nightmare evil people don't wake up from!
This Fist Of Khonshu For Hire!
Review by Dan
Following the events of "Shadowland" was Heroes for Hire—this mostly straightforward feature, with Misty Knight (absolutely no relation) employing New York's heroes to take down crime operations all over the city. What nobody knows is that the whole operation is being overseen by the Puppet Master for his own sick and twisted purposes!
The majority of the series was based around Misty, Iron Fist, and Paladin, but with greater input from other characters than Shadowland allowed. When I got up to Moon Knight's part, I found this to be a lot more fun. Not only was Moon Knight given a lot of action to shine through, but you just don't know what you're going to get: violence and threats of breaking every bone in a man's body (in alphabetical order), or ticklish gallows humor like when he asks Misty for information on how to knock out a velociraptor and then just brutally skewers it like some sort of angry chicken satay-stick-making psycho person.
Good so far? You're more than half way done, guys! Kudos to everyone who's made it this far, but let's keep pushing to the end. We saved the best for last: video games, other comics worthy of honorable mentions, and Batman. Yes, the goddamn Batman! Drop a comment below on what you think about everything we've covered here, and read our series finale here!