Moon Knight #1

Moon Knight 1

B

It wasn’t long ago that Marvel Comics attempted to revitalize the character of Moon Knight by giving him a new ongoing series under the direction of crime novelist Charlie Huston and superstar penciler David Finch. After three years and 30 issues that series was no more, although last year Marvel surprisingly folded Moon Knight into their Secret Avengers team book, bringing an interesting dynamic to an already diverse group. When it comes to his solo book, though, it seems like Marvel really wants Moon Knight back in the game. To that end they’ve reunited the Daredevil big guns of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev to launch the character in, it seems, a fairly new direction.

As Moon Knight #1 (2011) opens, alter ego Marc Spector’s wrapped up in a Hollywood party thrown in honor of the new television show he produces, Legend of the Khonshu, which according to one attendee promises to be “the most successful syndicated strip action adventure show since Xena.” Suddenly, Spector gets a surprise call from Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Cap lays out a game plan for Marc: lots of villains have figured out that the East Coast offers too much competition, so they’ve started to migrate west, where heroes don’t have much of a presence. Marc Spector’s new task is therefore to provide Los Angeles with its own Avenger.

From there the issue follows Spector, in his Moon Knight guise, on a seemingly routine patrol. He ends up dropping in on a deal between the super-strong Mr. Hyde and a couple random criminals. When the deal goes bad, Spector and the readers discover what they were negotiating for, and it’s a prize that should set off alarm bells in the head of any long-time Marvel comics reader.

I must admit that I wasn’t crazy about most of this book. Though the idea of setting up Moon Knight as an LA hero is kind of interesting, there have certainly been enough stories about the lack of a superhero presence on the west coast (Brian K Vaughn’s excellent Runaways series comes to mind). Additionally, most of the issue seems to eschew Mark Spector’s mental instability and general weirdness, something which has typically defined the character in social situations (how much does the guy ever say in Secret Avengers?). It leaves one with a significant feeling of disconnection, as though Moon Knight’s literally off in its own corner of the Marvel Universe, which is not really a great thing when you’ve got marquee characters like Spider-Man and Captain America in your book. Primarily I felt the most interesting thing here was Spector as a television producer. That angle could definitely go places.

The art, of course, is excellent. Alex Maleev’s dirty pencils are probably an acquired taste, but I think his grim and gritty style adds a lot to a book like this or Daredevil. For fans of the last Moon Knight series, it’s a pretty sharp contrast to David Finch in some ways, although despite their opposing styles I think the two end up achieving something of a similar tone.

As much as I wasn’t feeling this book, the last page is a killer. It’s the kind of conclusion that demands you go back and read the book again to see what you missed. It also assuages a lot of my misgivings about the direction of the series. I’m still not entirely sold on Moon Knight’s being a Los Angeles staple, but it’s clear that Bendis and Maleev have an interesting journey set out for the character. I’m not sure if this is the home-run relaunch Marvel was undoubtedly hoping for, but they certainly have an compelling mystery book on their hands.

tags: alex maleev, brian michael bendis, moon knight

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