(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Warren Ellis
Artwork by Declan Shalvey
Color Artwork by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
To me, Moon Knight has always been Marvel’s Batman, or at least the closest approximation to the Dark Knight they had to offer. In the hands of the right creative team, like for instance Bendis and Maleev, Moon Knight is definitely worthy of the comparison however, never before has the character come so close to being on equal footing with Batman as he does in this new series. This stellar accomplishment is the collaborative result of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. This creative team immediately sets this book apart from its predecessors by embracing all the elements that make Moon Knight such an intriguing character and then darkening the tone to the level of a violent crime noir. At a time when Marvel is enjoying great success by exploring the lighter side of some of its characters like; Deadpool, Hawkeye, Superior Foes of Spider-Man and the new Ms. Marvel book to name a few, it is a particularly refreshing change to see them do the kind of book that DC is often criticized for doing and doing it quite well. I will be the first to admit that I subscribe to and enjoy every one of those books I listed and I enjoy them because of the humor they inject into a medium that can sometimes become oppressively dark and violent but when the subject calls for it and you have creators like this who can deliver the heavier, darker stories with the kind of poetically brutal beauty that Moon Knight has achieved you have to be thankful that there are still a few of these gritty narratives left to be written.
Warren Ellis does some of the best writing he has done since Planetary with this first issue of Moon Knight. Ellis brings a level of precision to the back story that is so much more effective and concise than a multitude of flashbacks and re-hashing old material, he very adroitly establishes exactly who Marc Spector is and how he became Moon Knight all before the issue’s title page. It is this kind of precision that allows Ellis to get into the bigger narrative as quickly as possible without making us feel lost along the way. Moon Knight is an extremely nuanced character, full of subtleties and intricacies, his mental disorder is just one of many elements that make him a complex and somewhat difficult character to get a handle on, however Ellis excels at writing this type of character, and again I refer to his work on Planetary which was full of complex, multi-faceted characters.
In this issue, Moon Knight returns to New York, Ellis lets us discover that city and explore the landscape that defines the character’s world. In setting the story in New York, Ellis has given a perfect backdrop to his gritty crime noir but this is not the same New York Daredevil just left, this is very much Moon Knight’s New York and it is populated with a cast of supporting characters that are unique to this world. There is Detective Flint, for example, who seems to have a working relationship with Mr. Knight that is not unlike a certain other Knight and his commissioner friend in the DCU. The overall relationship he seems to have with the N.Y.P.D. is intriguing to say the least. They afford him an unprecedented degree of accessibility to crime scenes and evidence this is a boon of Moon Knight’s extremely high intellect and crime solving abilities, another thing in common with that other Knight. Ellis does not write the character like Marvel’s answer to Batman, far from it, he imbues Moon Knight with a completely original personality and persona. Ellis’ narrative is full of tension, suspense and human drama perfect for a character so alive with the kind of dark pathos that make him a flawed, imperfect and very human hero. Moon Knight is certainly Marvel’s darkest hero and Ellis writes him better than anyone else.
Visually Declan Shalvey packs one heck of a punch with his work in this issue. His kinetic line work and dynamic approach to storytelling are a perfect fit for Ellis’ narrative. Shalvey’s style works so well with the gritty imagery of Ellis’ script giving the entire work a sense of consistency. The detailed character designs and backgrounds capture the subtleties and minutiae of this shadowy world. Jordie Bellaire’s colors bring this world to life, not in a vibrant sense but in a somber yet striking fashion. The contrast between the muted hues of the backgrounds and the stark white of Moon Knight’s costume make the character almost literally leap from the page. Bellaire is without a doubt one of the very best in her chosen area of expertise and she brings something very special to this already phenomenal book.
I have been a fan of Moon Knight for quite some time through all of the various incarnations however; this series can be enjoyed by old and new fans alike. In fact, I would have to say that this is a perfect jumping on spot. Ellis makes a complex character very accessible through his precise re-imagining of the character. I give this book my highest recommendation and suggest that you not sit this one out. This book deserves a spot on everyone’s pull list. (5/5)
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Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.