(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Warren Ellis
Artwork by Declan Shalvey
Color Artwork by Jordie Bellaire
It has been said that nothing good lasts forever and that is sadly true in the case of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s amazing but, all too brief run on the All New Marvel Now Moon Knight series. Ellis and Shalvey came out of the gate killing with the debut issue of this completely reinvented Moon Knight. The prolific and enigmatic writer along with the dynamic and imaginative artist will be departing the title with their sixth and final stand-alone story. The always unconventional and sometimes controversial Ellis opted to write his Moon Knight stories in this fashion because he “…thought it would be amusing to provide a book that could be entered at any point and still give the reader a complete experience.” Acknowledging that this goes against the grain of the modern commercial comics industry who, Ellis says expects long arcs rather than singles, however he points out that this did not stand in the way of issue 1 of Moon Knight going to a third printing and issues 2 and 3 both went to second printings. So it clearly was not a question of success or popularity that brought about the decision to leave a book with a large and growing readership, in fact, in Ellis’ own words, it was just a matter of a “…job reasonably well done.” Anyone who has been reading Moon Knight would have to agree. Ellis accomplished the task at hand which was reactivating Moon Knight as a productive property and viable part of the All New Marvel Now Universe.
In Shalvey’s case, the artist was faced with the unenviable decision of staying on the book after Ellis’ departure and developing a new working relationship with the incoming writer with whom he may or may not have a similar chemistry as he had with Ellis. That was a chance Shalvey decided not to take opting instead to take a break from the monthly grind of Moon Knight and make way for an entirely new creative team.
Issue 4 of Moon Knight is perhaps the best yet and that is high praise in this case because every single issue has been incredible. The story focuses on Dr. Skelton, a rather unscrupulous researcher working in the field of sleep exploration. The dodgy doctor is allegedly carrying on the work of his mentor, the late Dr. Peter Alraune, who was also a colleague of Marc Spector aka, Moon Knight. Ellis constructs a hauntingly Poe-esque narrative full of all the eerie tropes and trappings that make for a tantalizing tale of terror. The pace is methodically deliberate unfolding slowly then building to a crescendo of gasps as the final page revelation fills our eyes and minds with the unspeakable. This is pure sequential poetry at its finest and a darn fun comic book to boot.
Declan Shalvey turns out some of his most gorgeous pages to date. Particularly impressive are the elaborate dream sequences that call to mind the best of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series through nightmarish images like clumps of invasive mushrooms sprouting from the eye sockets of a living man. Shalvey’s painstakingly detailed panels flow into one another forming organic page designs brimming with fantastic imagery. Jordie Bellaire, the only member of this creative super team to remain on the title, does a jaw dropping job of coloring the issue creating a water color-like appearance. Her use of vivid purples and electric blues add an ethereal glow to Shalvey’s astonishing, esoteric images.
The fact that there are only two issues remaining in this stellar run is heart-breaking, like being led to the precipice of some ethereal wonderland only to be evicted after a short stay. This book is perfect in much the same way as a snowflake is perfect; it’s here for such a brief time then melts and leaves us with the memory and impression of its poetic beauty. At the end of their six issue run, Ellis and Shalvey will have given us a gift of great worth, in fact six of them, six singular gems of storyteller brilliance that we can re-visit anytime we open them and recall the bitter-sweet joy of having read them for the first time. Moon Knight is such a fitting character to convey this indefinable benefaction because like an immaculate narrative he is elusive and mysterious. I highly recommend picking up every issue of this incomparable run and re-reading them often. Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood will be following the departing Ellis and Shalvey with issue 7, Wood is an extremely gifted writer in his own right so I will not be scratching Moon Knight from my pull list just yet. (5/5)
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.