Gearing Up for the All-New Moon Knight in March - Part 1 of 3 | Fanboys Anonymous

Gearing Up for the All-New Moon Knight in March - Part 1 of 3

Posted by Fellonius Munch Monday, January 13, 2014
Coming on March 5th as part of Marvel's second wave of relaunches and new stories—this time called All-New Marvel NOW! (à la DC's New 52)—is a brand new Moon Knight monthly ongoing comic book by all-star creative team Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. Perhaps not one of the most well-known characters outside of the fandom, Moon Knight will be returning to his old stomping grounds in New York City's crime-ridden back alleys, and Ellis wants to aim a spotlight at the lunar crusader.

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To prepare for the coming of what is sure to be the underdog of the All-New Marvel NOW! lineup, I (Dan) and my fellow Fanboys Anonymous writer and Moon Knight fan Orion Petitclerc will introduce new readers and veteran fans alike to Marvel's fist of vengeance and reminisce upon our favorite Moon Knight adventures. We'll also present our thoughts on the age-old stereotype that Moon Knight is Marvel's Batman. Because of the lengthiness of the topic, we at Fanboys Anonymous have divvied all of this up into a three-part series of articles, with parts two and three to be posted later this week. You can navigate to the other parts through hyperlinks at the bottom of each page.

First up is an introduction by yours truly!

by Dan

If anything could describe the character of Moon Knight, he's that guy you meet at a high school reunion—the kid you always knew was going on to great things, because even if he didn't have high aspirations, he had everything it took to be successful. When you meet him again after all those years, you feel the burning need to ask, "Dude, what happened?" Take that any or every way you'd like. On one hand, I'd personally feel the need to ask why he couldn't have just bought a fluffy little kitten and taught it to make popular YouTube videos. Seriously, that's very therapeutic for people with mental traumas.

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On the other hand, because he's outrageously mental in the most awesome fashion and might cut my face off for asking him that, I'd ask instead just why the hell Marvel has thrown him so many bum deals in the past. Back in 1975, when Spider-Man seemed to be meeting a new villain or hero every week of the year, there were, without a doubt, a hell of a lot of ridiculous-looking characters “gracing” the pages of Marvel. Moon Knight was quite the rarity. Rather than being loved or hated, he had something that could draw in fans of both Marvel and DC. From day one, he simultaneously appeared to be a dark menace and the sort of fantastical hero enjoyed by the greatest of fantasists. Not surprisingly, then, his overall personality is as ambiguous as his appearance.

The fact that he has three personalities outside of the Moon Knight persona (more on that in the next section) might put off readers who don't have the mind or patience to try to get their heads around that—or maybe I mean attempted readers—but Moon Knight is one of a fraction of Marvel characters whose writers not only dare to think outside the box, but who naturally exist there. That's my kind of read!

So if you still don't know why Moon Knight isn't as huge as he ought to be, you're probably a part of that minority who really appreciate him.

Origin: In the Beginning, There was Only One Man
by Orion

Read Werewolf by Night with Marvel Unlimited comic books onlineMoon Knight first appears in the pages of Werewolf by Night #32–33 (1975) as Jack Russell's villain-turned-ally, but we'll start with the character's actual origin, which debuted five years later in his first ongoing series. Moon Knight was Marc Spector before he became the grim specter in white that fans today know and love. Marc was born and raised in Chicago by his father Elias, a rabbi and Holocaust escapee who pressured him and his (presumably) older brother Randall toward nonviolence and religious devotion. Marc rejected his father's teachings, favoring the excitement of a life of adventure and violence.

After high school, Marc pursued a profitable career in prizefighting until he punched out his own father in the ring in front of a live audience. Elias had come to beg Marc to stop the senseless fighting. Marc enlisted with the marines the next morning, and after two tours of duty and a brief stint as a field agent for the CIA—which produced several story arcs concerning the people he worked with and against, including a titular battle against Randall—he quit to pursue a bloody career as a mercenary. Soon after, Marc joined up with Jean-Paul "Frenchie" Duchamp and Raoul Armand Bushman, forming a sort of "three musketeers" as soldiers of fortune.

It wasn't long before Marc and Frenchie realized they were working for a bona fide bloodthirsty madman, and they hatched a plan for leaving Bushman's company after they raided an archaeological dig in the Sudan (or Egypt, as per a later retcon). The site in question was a recently discovered tomb of Seti III (retconned to Seti II for historical accuracy), where the troupe found archaeologists Dr. Peter Alraune Sr. and his daughter Marlene hiding a cache of valuables. Knowing the mercenaries were after the treasure, Dr. Alraune attempted to stab Bushman in the back (literally, with a bejeweled dagger). Marc warned Bushman just in time, and to make an example for any resisters, Bushman killed Dr. Alraune by tearing out his throat with his sharpened metal teeth.

Reprint of Moon Knight #1 included with the purchase of Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1

No longer able to stand Bushman's inhumane brutality, Marc chased Marlene into hiding and confronted the killer. Displeased with Marc's betrayal, Bushman beat Marc into unconsciousness and abandoned him in the middle of the desert to die in its harsh conditions, then made off with Frenchie and the treasures. Marc miraculously made his way back to the tomb's entrance, where he collapsed and died just as Marlene's assistants saw him and took him inside to safety from the raging nighttime sandstorm. Marlene realized that Marc wasn't the one who killed her father and that he tried to protect her from Bushman, thus (almost) forgiving him and mourning over his death.

Read about other heroes and villains whose origins come from mythology on Wikipedia
In the light of the full moon and at the feet of an ancient statue, however, Marc was suddenly revived. He told Marlene that Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon and vengeance after whom the statue was fashioned, had resurrected him. Then, grabbing and putting on a white hooded cloak that was draped around the statue, he took off into the desert after Bushman. He found Bushman's camp, disarmed his hired soldiers by blowing up their weapons cache, and confronted the killer in hand-to-hand combat. Their fight was interrupted, however, and Bushman snuck away when Marc responded to Marlene's cry for help. Frenchie had grabbed Marlene, thinking she was going to shoot Marc with a gun she picked up, and apologized for abandoning his friend at a crucial moment.

Marc, Marlene, and Frenchie left the desert and returned to the states after that. Marc, with a new lease on life, strove to leave behind his dark days as a mercenary. He created three new identities for himself through which he began his vigilante career: Steven Grant, a millionaire philanthropist with informants in the highest places; Jake Lockley, a New York City cabbie with street-level informants; and Moon Knight, Marc's superhero persona.

Read Moon Knight digitally on ComixologyMoon Knight's origin in Werewolf by Night was later included in the character's canon as a kind of false origin in the pages of Moon Knight #4 (Series 1, 1981), and his true origin received a mystical mini-retcon of sorts in the pages of Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu #1 (1985, considered the second Moon Knight series). You can read all of this and more of Moon Knight's early, pre-modern adventures in the three Essential Moon Knight trade paperback omnibuses, which I shall cover next.

Review: Back to the Essentials
by Orion

I personally loved the Essential Moon Knight volumes, but for newer readers, getting past the few first stories may prove a bit daunting due to the dated content and classic storytelling. I actually wasn't introduced to Moon Knight through his early adventures as reprinted in glorious black-and-white in these books, and I feel that the way I was introduced to the character and story is a much better route for modern readers to get hooked into one of the most underrated comic book personas. If you want to skip ahead to the next article for my recommendation on where to start, I wouldn't blame you. However, if you're into older comics, classical storytelling, following a character from his/her bare roots, challenging reading material, or if you're still interested after having read the rest of this article, I invite you back to my little review of the Essential books.

Buy Moon Knight: Countdown to Dark in trade paperback on Amazon
When you pick up Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1, you're picking up the very beginning. Seriously. The first story you read is the aforementioned false origin in Werewolf by Night. After that, you get to see Moon Knight transform from a mysterious caped crusader into a flesh-and-blood schizophrenic through his spotlights and features in several other titles before he was given his own ongoing series in 1980. These stories are nothing to shake a stick at, either. Many of the stories included in this volume were written by Doug Moench, Moon Knight's co-creator and godfather, and drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, who gave Moon Knight his definitive look. This creative team is perhaps one of the best and most renowned in the character's history. In this book, you'll be introduced to two of Moon Knight's most iconic villains: Bushman and Midnight Man—a glorified art thief who plays a huge role near the end of the volume in Marc's first of several psychotic breakdowns.

Read the Sandman by Neil Gaiman on KindleEssential Moon Knight Vol. 2 picks up where the first book left off and features nothing but twenty issues of the first Moon Knight series. Again, Moench and Sienkiewicz jointly authored the majority of these excellent stories, with a few exceptional guest writers and artists here and there. This volume really explores the issues that arise from Marc's schizophrenia as they affect the people around him. It also introduces a few more characters from his iconic rogues gallery, including Morpheus, Stained Glass Scarlet, the Black Spectre, and the return of the Werewolf by Night. In the upcoming Moon Knight series, Ellis highlights the weird crime aspect of his stories, and between Volumes 1 and 2, you'll find out exactly from where Ellis is drawing the weird crime influence.

In Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3, we see a brief exchange of artistic roles between Sienkiewicz and the talented Kevin Nowlan before the first Moon Knight series is brought to a close with issue #38 after a heartwarming story involving the passing of Marc's father. After that, a new, albeit short-lived series called Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu takes center stage with an all-new creative team and a bold new direction. Things start to get supernatural for our hero as his mystical connection with Khonshu introduces him to three blind priests who play a vital, yet annoying role throughout the six-issue series. He also develops more refined supernatural abilities to replace his previous lunar phase-influenced strength and agility, which he had thought derived from injuries in his tussle with the Werewolf by Night.

Read the Fist of Khonshu on the Marvel Comics app
I personally loved the first issue for adding another layer to Moon Knight's already rich origin story, but the structure the priests added to the stories became hokey and tiresome pretty quickly. After that, Moon Knight returns solely to appearances and features in other books to close out the volume. A couple of supporting characters were introduced in this book, including Marlene's first husband, Eric Jules Fontaine, and Spence, Marc's director of acquisitions for his oft-forgotten art trade company, Spector International Galleries. Not much stood out from this volume as opposed to its predecessors.

Overall, the Essential collections are a must-have for die-hard Moon Knight fans. Not only do you get a majority of the classic stories, but you also get a bunch of extras, including behind-the-scenes stuff such as unused covers, newsletters from the editors to the fans, character profiles, tech and gadget blueprints, and portfolios. You can get them cheap, too, for less that $20 per book online. Sadly, there hasn't been another Essential Moon Knight book to collect those series that came between the third volume and the next series in my review. That's a lot of Moon Knight uncollected, too—there are sixty issues of Marc Spector: Moon Knight, four issues of Moon Knight: Resurrection War, and four issues of Moon Knight: High Strangers completely uncollected. I've yet to obtain the individual books of these series, nor the trade collection of Avengers: West Coast, which chronicles Moon Knight's membership with the team, so I can't personally weigh in on those.

What do you guys and gals think so far of the mysterious Moon Knight? Still want more? Got any questions or opinions you'd like to share? Leave us a comment below and check out Part 2 here!

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