Moon Knight by Warren Ellis #1-3 review

‘Delayed reaction’ Moon Knight #1-3

Including a five page preview of #1

MOONKN2014001_DC11Moon Knight has a mixed and manic past as a comic character. Bi-polar even. He’s been penned and drawn by some comicbook heavyweights and rookies. He’s taken on the biggest and most powerful characters, and been tasked with chasing down street punks. He’s even held the head of Ultron and was haunted by Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Moon Knight’s unintentionally erratic past as a comicbook property mirrors the character’s different personalities in several ways. For some reason, hopefully other than Marvel’s need to renew the copyright, Marvel gives him another series. The last limited run by Brian Michael Bendis was a great series, with a different take on Moon Knight’s mental illness that saw him move to Los Angeles. Thankfully, the new series sees him return to New York.

The latest iteration of Moon Knight has, or had, by now, Warren Ellis as word and story-smith, and in many ways, redefines Moon Knight. Redefining is probably the wrong way to describe it. Marvel and Ellis strip away a lot of the veneer and trappings of Moon Knight: the costume, the at times overbearing focus on Khonshu and his past, the guest appearances and focus on his mental illness. The Warren Ellis Moon Knight starts as a singular vision and personality. A professional. He’s almost a force of nature.

The first issue starts with a very different Moon Knight. Dressed in all white with black complimentary colors, he makes his way to a crime scene in the Moon Knight version of the Google self-driving car. He is dressed like an assassin with a mask and 4-piece suit with magician’s gloves. He’s clinical with little pretense. He uses his intelligence and experience and little else. He inhabits and traverses a very dark section of New York City like an alley cat through, well, an alley.

Moon Knight picks up the trail of a killer that is waylaying well-built travelers and must track the killer because, of course, the detective and police department can’t find him. One of my pet peeves with the Marvel universe is that the police, government and those in positions of authority are utterly helpless without the help of superheros. Another thing I don’t like is Marvel’s over-reliance on S.H.I.E.L.D. They are all-powerful and seem to be connected to everything. Moving on.

The Warren Ellis Moon Knight lives in a sparsely populated New York. There is still a dull energy that ebbs and thumps underneath, and it somehow reminds me of a bygone comic era. Ellis doesn’t take himself too seriously though, and in issue 3, even pokes fun at an old comic standby;the punk-rock bad guy. Even when using the trope and peering through the 4th wall, Ellis cleverly adds in his own slants.

 

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As you move through issue #2, another aspect of Moon Knight reveals itself in a more traditional Moon Knight. The Moon Knight that has been heavily criticized as a Batman knock-off. He uses detective skills and an intimidating and over the top fear factor to get information. He’s rich and uses gadgets, and even has a dark and traumatic past. I can see the differences in Moon Knight from Batman of course, but I can also acknowledge the similarities. While we’re discussing that, it does also remind me that comics seem to rely on a few archetypes. The rich-playboy Tony Stark/ Marc Spector/ Bruce Wayne type, and the nerdy scientist good guys and villians.

So, the old-school Moon Knight shows up to chase down an assassin, who in turn is stalked by an assassin. The comic is glaringly stark with its choice of colors and the lack of sound. The comic uses that lack of sound, or sound-effects expertly and the panels that Ellis chooses give a phenomenal sense of space and drama. Issue #2, like every other issue leaves many questions. But like every issue, is a sufficient self-contained story.

 

 

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Issue #3 explores the parts of New York that can only be done properly in comicbook form. That barely lit and nearly empty part of New York that if lighted properly, would reveal things that should not be, and show evidence left behind that we would rather not know was there. Issue #3 starts just on the edge of that part of New York, where that line blurs and things start to get lighter. This is where Moon Knight encounters his first obstacle, and must lean on Khonshu and his vast stores of information and experience. The previously mentioned punk-rockers are much more dangerous than they appear, and Moon Knight must explore a different side of himself.

Throughout issues 1-3, Moon Knight is being rebuilt. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey and team creatively reveal his background through conversations and encounters, and it never really feels like it’s going on. Shalvey is subtle in his approach and when Moon Knight jumps into action, it is explosive. Faces are expressive and the way he pulls attention towards the focal point of every panel is perfect for Ellis’ writing.

Moon Knight is broken down and rebuilt, and he even dwells in a dusty mansion with a few chairs and cobwebs fit for a Boris Karloff set, with colors that seem weary. Khonshu’s appearances are powerful, although appear subdued. Whenever the demi-god appears, it seems as though he is finally fed-up with Moon Knight and will devour his soul whole. Knonshu never does though. He keeps giving Moon Knight another chance, just like Marvel and I do.

The new Moon Knight is one of my favorite comic runs ever. I read through Moon Knight via my Marvel Unlimited subscription (which I can view on my iPad, iPhone and Mac. The browser version sucks quite frankly.) and the preview and images were provided by Marvel.

 

Moon Knight 1-3 by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Richard Paul Davis

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