Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Comics You Should Own – ‘Moon Knight’ volume … 6?

Hi, and welcome to Comics You Should Own, a semi-regular series about comics I think you should own. I began writing these a little over fifteen years ago, and I’m still doing it, because I dig writing long-form essays about comics. I republished my early posts, which I originally wrote on my personal blog, at Comics Should Be Good about ten years ago, but since their redesign, most of the images have been lost, so I figured it was about time I published these a third time, here on our new blog. I plan on keeping them exactly the same, which is why my references might be a bit out of date and, early on, I don’t write about art as much as I do now. But I hope you enjoy these, and if you’ve never read them before, I hope they give you something to read that you might have missed. I’m planning on doing these once a week until I have all the old ones here at the blog. Today it’s time for a series that, when I originally wrote it, I said might make some people gouge out their eyes with spoons, but I still think it’s worth your time! This post was originally published on 7 February 2011. As always, you can click on the images to see them better. Enjoy!

Moon Knight by Charlie Huston (writer, issues #1-13; plotter, issues #14-19), Mike Benson (writer, issues #14-30), David Finch (penciler, issues #1-8), Mico Suayan (artist, issues #9-12), Tomm Coker (artist, issue #13), Mark Texeira (artist, issues #14-19, 21-25), Javier Saltares (layouts, issues #14-19, 21-25), Mike Deodato, Jr. (artist, issue #20), Jefte Palo (artist, issues #26-30), Danny Miki (inker, issues #1-8), Victor Olazaba (inker, issues #3-8), Allen Martinez (inker, issues #3-8), Frank D’Armata (colorist, issues #1-12), Dean White (colorist, issue #13), Dan Brown (colorist, issues #14-19, 21-25), Rain Beredo (colorist, issue #20), Lee Loughridge (colorist, issues #26-30), Joe Caramagna (letterer, issues #1-9, 11-30), and Rus Wooton (letterer, issue #10).

Published by Marvel, 30 issues (#1-30), cover dated June 2006 – July 2009.

SPOILERS below, mainly about the first arc, which was a bit of a shocker.

“Grim-’n’-gritty” comics became the thing back in the mid-1980s, and we’ve been dealing with the fall-out ever since. Some comics are grimmer and grittier than others, some are much better than others, but the concept of “realistic” violence has influenced comics in both ways – even the brighter, shinier superhero stuff that have come out in the past 25 years have been a reaction to the concept and even incorporated some of the tenets of a stereotypical “grim-’n’-gritty” comics – brutal violence and moral ambiguity. We can’t go back, no matter how many people want to. In many ways, this volume of Moon Knight – especially the first six issues – is the epitome of “grim-’n’-gritty” – whether that’s a good thing or not. These comics are not for the squeamish, and it’s somewhat amazing that in 2006-2009, Marvel allowed this to be published, even in a comics culture awash in blood. But we get good comics out of it!

Charlie Huston, with his background in pulp fiction, was a good choice to relaunch Moon Knight, because Moon Knight is a very pulpy hero, with his history as a mercenary and “hero-for-hire,” plus his street-level credentials. Even though Marc Spector’s days as a mercenary mean he can easily fit into globe-trotting action/adventures, Moon Knight is (usually) a non-powered vigilante, so his stories work well in an urban setting as well. Huston ditches the globe-trotting aspect of Moon Knight’s adventures that were a part of his earlier series, which is fine. We get a sense of what kind of series this will be in the tremendous issue #1 of his first arc, appropriately titled “The Bottom.” As the series begins, Moon Knight narrates that he’s the only one who does this kind of work – the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Avengers are busy dealing with big-level threats, Daredevil never leaves Hell’s Kitchen, and Spider-Man fights “B-list super villains.” It’s up to Moon Knight to deal with normal punks, and in the first breathtaking sequence of issue #1, he does just that. Huston and Finch show him destroying two rivals shooting at each other from their cars, and Moon Knight’s running commentary indicates a few themes of the series, namely Marc Spector’s mental state and religious extremism. He narrates that he wears white in honor of Khonshu, his god who resurrected him. It’s a bit wacky, but Huston does a wonderful job building an eerie sense of creeping horror as Finch shows his pilot, Jean-Paul, saluting him for a job well done, and then Marc heading home to snuggle with his love, Marlene. As the artwork goes along, Moon Knight’s adventures become more bizarre, Jean-Paul’s outfit becomes more bizarre (Finch adds epaulets and Jean-Paul ends up holding a martini), and Marlene and Marc are covered with floating hearts. It’s then when Huston drops the bombshell: Marc Spector is imagining all of this as he sits in a wheelchair in a lonely room. His knees are shredded, he’s addicted to painkillers, and in a brief series of flashbacks, we see him selling all his possessions and striking Marlene when she tries to comfort him. The only thing left in his life is his statue of Khonshu, which he both loathes and needs – he’s desperate for his god to make him a hero again. It’s a brilliant first issue, showing a man completely broken by his life as a hero. While it’s a gut punch of an issue, it also sets up the rest of the series very well, as Huston and then Benson delve far deeper into Marc Spector’s psyche than most mainstream superhero comics do.

The first arc is, naturally, all about Marc Spector returning as Moon Knight. Huston follows issue #1 with, perhaps, an even more controversial issue #2, which features Moon Knight’s nemesis, Bushman. He doesn’t get into who Bushman is (he does in issue #3), but he shows their final confrontation, which is where Moon Knight’s knees were busted by a fall down the side of a building, hitting the fire escape repeatedly on the way down. This is a horrifically violent issue, as Moon Knight gets Bushman down and kills him by slicing off his face. It’s also a terrifying issue, as Finch lovingly draws every single drop of blood and every single piece of flesh, and Moon Knight offers up a mask of skin to his god, the moon illuminating his sacrifice as he collapses on the body of his enemy. It’s horrible, but once again, Huston is showing the extremes Moon Knight has gone to and what it has cost him. All he has left is his worship, and even that doesn’t fulfill him. Issue #3 re-introduces Jean-Paul DuChamp, Marc’s pilot, who has left him and opened a bistro. In another twist, Frenchie reveals that he’s gay, which angers Marc because Jean-Paul didn’t trust him enough to tell him. Of course, Huston makes it clear that Marc didn’t know because it wasn’t important to him – if it wasn’t about him, he didn’t care. In yet another twist, Jean-Paul has no legs – he alludes to Marc’s brother “taking” them. This issue also introduces the main villains of the arc, The Committee, which was the group that hired Moon Knight in his first appearance back in 1975. This Committee is a new one, made up of heirs of the old men who formed the first one, and they have hired a man called Profile, who can read people with uncanny accuracy and figure out how they will react to any situation. Profile becomes more important as the series goes on.

The entire first arc is full of shocks like those in the first two issues. The Committee wants to turn Moon Knight into their assassin like the first Committee wanted to, so they hired Bushman to maim him, planning then to “resurrect” him. Unfortunately for them, they went about it the wrong way, hiring someone to beat up Jean-Paul and therefore giving Marc Spector a reason to live again, one that doesn’t involve them. In issue #4, Huston drops another bombshell – Marc is hallucinating a faceless Bushman, whom he believes is Khonshu. This specter never leaves Marc from then on, and the theme of religious mania remains in the forefront, as Khonshu/Bushman demands sacrifices for his largesse of bringing Marc back to life, but Marc struggles against the idea of ritual murder. Khonshu refers to this very often throughout the series, most notably when Marc encounters the Punisher at two separate occasions, because Frank Castle honors his god in the “correct” way. Marc resists, and Huston and later Benson force us to wonder if he’s resisting because murder is wrong or if it’s because he’s too stubborn to submit to Khonshu. By the end of the series, we realize it’s probably a mixture of both.

By the end of the first arc, Marc has regained his edge and announces Moon Knight’s return to the world of superheroing in the most spectacular way possible – he flies his helicopter into the building where the Committee is meeting and beats Taskmaster (who was hired to kill him) to within an inch of his life. This triumphant return doesn’t mean his problems are over, of course – the writers aren’t interested in writing a superhero epic where the return means the hero can go back to fighting the good fight. As his return is fueled by several dark areas within his psyche, Marc is certainly not the picture of a healthy human being. He doesn’t get the girl – Marlene wants a normal life without drama (although that doesn’t mean she’s out of Marc’s life for good). He doesn’t get his best friend back – Jean-Paul has moved on, both in his romantic affections (he admits that he loved Marc for years, but of course Marc was ignorant of this) and in his pursuits, as he doesn’t see the attraction of causing bodily harm to people anymore. He has alienated others in his life – his old ally, Gena, wants nothing to do with him, mainly because she blames him for the death of one of her sons, who joined the Army because he wanted the adventure Marc once promised him and died in Iraq. He hires Ray, Gena’s other son, to fly his helicopter for him, but Ray is dealing with his own demons. The climax of the first arc is not the way Marc dispatches the Committee or Taskmaster – those are minor annoyances once he’s regained his mojo. The climax is his confrontation with Khonshu, who reveals exactly who Marc Spector is. The most fascinating thing about this first arc and the series as a whole is that Huston and then Benson never explicitly state one way or another if Marc is crazy or if he’s actually experiencing something otherworldly. We might think he’s crazy, but there’s also the fact that Crawley is somehow “pushed” to suggest that Marc visit Jean-Paul in issue #2, and in issue #6, he can’t explain it. Plus there’s Profile, who can’t “read” Marc when he’s wearing his Moon Knight outfit but can when he’s in regular clothing. The possibility that Marc is actually carrying out the instructions of a supernatural entity is always tantalizingly hovering on the edges of this book, and it makes it far more interesting than if Marc is simply crazy.

The first arc also sets up the major themes of the series. Religious mania is one of them, but not the only one. Coupled with Marc’s “spiritual re-awakening” is the idea of insanity and how we determine if someone is crazy. As a consequence of Marc’s newfound “mission,” the book also examines the nature of relationships and how twisted they can become. Many comics feature fairly simplistic relationships, but Huston and Benson know that people are complicated, so Marc’s friendships become more and more complicated, and not always (even rarely) in healthy ways. Finally, there’s the violence of the book, which is fairly gruesome. Again, unlike many superhero comics, Huston and Benson are as interested in the consequences of the violence as they are in the violence itself – both the physical and emotional consequences. Can anyone be a hero if they aren’t at least a bit excited by the violence? How do you walk the line and not kill everyone you fight? When is it okay to kill? Marc kills two people during the course of this series, and others condemn him for it. But are his actions heroic and is he willing to take a step others are too cowardly to take? All of these themes are present throughout the series, even when Benson takes over from Huston.

The worst arc of the book is, unfortunately, the second one, “Midnight Sun.” Finch draws the first two issues, but then Mico Suayan takes over, and he’s simply not as good as the other artists who worked on this comic. Plus, the main plot meanders a bit, as Huston brings back Jeffrey Wilde, the young man who wanted to be Moon Knight’s sidekick in the 1989 series and was himself the son of Moon Knight villain in the 1980 series. Wilde, an ineffective sidekick, was eventually turned into a cybernetic monster before getting killed (in a story that didn’t even take place in a Moon Knight series). Huston turns him even more psychotic, killing people just to get Marc Spector’s attention, which doesn’t even work that well. While the main plot is fairly dull, Huston was laying the groundwork for the rest of the series, as “Midnight Sun” occurs when Marvel’s Civil War was starting, and the problem of Moon Knight for the authorities would be the running theme for the rest of the series.

Civil War and its aftermath provides the impetus for the second half of the series, as it’s tied into all the themes of the book. Obviously, the most important with regard to the greater Marvel Universe is Marc’s status as a hero, because that’s what every hero in the Marvel Universe was going through at that time. Huston twists things a bit, however – in issue #8, Steve Rogers tells Marc that he (Cap) doesn’t want Moon Knight on his side, because Marc is so unstable. It’s a clever subversion of how Captain America and Iron Man were going around collecting heroes for their sides – there’s one hero that no one wants to touch, even more than Frank Castle, as the Punisher implies in issue #10. Castle might be a killer, but Marc is insane and therefore completely unpredictable. It’s interesting that Huston makes this point right in the middle of a story arc where Marc is not acting like a hero – he’s ignoring the fact that Jeffrey Wilde is cutting up bodies just to get his attention. Detective Flint (another old ally of Moon Knight) makes this point explicit right after Marc meets with Captain America. In issue #12, Tony Stark dogpiles on Marc some more. No one wants Moon Knight on their side. This leads to the brilliant issue #13, when Marc, inexplicably, receives a registration card from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Issue #13 is the foundation for the rest of the series, as Moon Knight’s life becomes tangled up with first Tony Stark and then Norman Osborn. Prior to this issue, his violent tendencies were a bit more focused – he kills Bushman, his long-time nemesis; he dismantles the Committee, who weren’t doing anything to anyone else at the time; and he defeats Jeff Wilde, another long-time foe. In issue #13, we see that he’s started marking perpetrators – he carves a crescent into their foreheads. He also has a psychological evaluation by a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor, one the doctor tells him is unnecessary, as it’s clear he’s crazy. Marc has a way out, though – he plays on the doctor’s knowledge that he’s, as he puts it, “crazy.” He has Profile – who does odd jobs for Marc throughout the series, partly through fear of Moon Knight – find out what he can about the doctor, and during the evaluation, he uses that effectively, as he pretends to be Khonshu speaking through Marc and uncovering all the doctor’s nasty secrets. It’s an astonishing scene – first Marc “brings out” Jake Lockley and Steven Grant, his alter egos from the old original Moon Knight series, to lead the doctor further down the rabbit hole of his insanity. When the doctor is convinced, he breaks out “Khonshu” and terrifies the doctor, who gives him a registration card, which allows Moon Knight to go even harder after the bad guys. What’s brilliant about it is the reader is not completely sure that Marc is “faking.” Huston has already implied that there’s something slightly supernatural about his relationship to Khonshu, so why couldn’t the god enter his avatar so that he can continue the mission? It’s this hint of “truth” about Khonshu that makes Marc’s performance so effective. The issue also brings the other themes of the book into focus. Jean-Paul, who has been resisting getting dragged back into Marc’s orbit, visits Ray in Moon Knight’s underground hanger and the two talk about not being able to let go. Jean-Paul has been able to, but Marc hasn’t. Neither has Marlene, as it turns out. She’s in a relationship that bores her, but she knows that Marc is bad for her. When she and her boyfriend get mugged, she’s the one who fights them off, and the excitement of it drives her back into Marc’s arms, even though they don’t quite rekindle their relationship. The issue is Huston’s last as writer (although he co-plots the next arc), and it’s a good place for a new writer to take over.

Benson’s take on the character is not that much different from Huston’s, to the point where one wonders how much input Huston had even after his name is off the credits. Like Huston, Benson brings back an old foe of Moon Knight’s in his first arc – in this case, Black Spectre, the bad guy who wanted to be a dark reflection of Moon Knight and who almost won the mayoralty in the original series. Carson Knowles is a good person to bring back, as he deliberately set himself up as Moon Knight’s polar opposite, so he provides an interesting contrast to Marc. Knowles is out of prison, and although he tells Marlene (to whom he became close when he ran for mayor) that he’s trying to be a better person, he can’t do it, and he becomes an even more brutal version of Moon Knight, killing people and then carving Moon Knight’s crescent shape in their foreheads. Marc knows he’s being framed, but he can’t prove it. Knowles’s scheme involves infecting a crowd of people with nanites (developed by Tony Stark, a nice touch) and then injecting a different compound into his body that will allow him to command those people. To stop him, Moon Knight has to kill him – it’s a nice juxtaposition of images, as Black Spectre infects a crowd of people at a pro-registration rally, and while everyone is cheering these shiny, clean heroes, Moon Knight throws Carson Knowles off a building to his death. Not only does it contrast with the tone of the rally, but Benson and Huston also comment subtly on the fact that someone like Tony Stark would probably have the technology to stop Carson Knowles without killing him, but he and his more clean-cut heroes are too busy congratulating themselves to do so. Only Marc Spector can do anything about it, and all he can do is kill Knowles. This leads to the next arc, in issues #21-25 (after a standalone issue #20), where Norman Osborn sends the Thunderbolts after him and Marc fakes his death to escape to Mexico – he knows that he can’t fight against the superpowered people who are coming after him, and as Osborn isn’t above threatening the people close to him (Osborn gets a felon out of jail specifically to trash Jean-Paul’s restaurant), Marc flees. He really has no other options.

While the plot of this year-long arc (March ’08 – February ’09) is interesting, Benson’s details in pushing the characters to darker places is even better. He builds on what Huston did very nicely. Marc and Marlene are having sex, but she doesn’t want to be a couple again. Jean-Paul and Rob (his partner) get harassed on the street, and Jean-Paul shows that he’s as bad-ass as ever, which thrills Rob. Rob is an interesting character – he’s Marc’s physical therapist, and it’s obvious that he’s fascinated by tough guys and wants to live vicariously through Marc and Jean-Paul, neither of whom is all that interested in sharing. Marc accidentally injures him while they’re working out, and Jean-Paul explains that this is what Marc does – hurts those closest to him. Rob doesn’t understand, but he acquiesces when Jean-Paul wants him to stop training Marc. In a brutally honest exchange in issue #16, Jean-Paul tells Marc, “When I’m near you, I break out in misery and pain. People I care about get hurt and die. … The things you are doing. They remind me of Raul [Bushman]. They are things from the jungle.” It’s not an irrevocable break, but it’s significant that only the destruction of Jean-Paul’s bistro and the traumatic injury to Rob in issue #23 can bring the two back together. This is another important issue, because we see that Jean-Paul is still a man of violence – he fights back when the thugs attack his restaurant, biting one on the cheek. Later in the issue, he strikes at the gang’s headquarters using only a baseball bat, and he does all right for himself before Moon Knight comes in and helps him. In issue #24, when Marc tells him that the Thunderbolts and Osborn were behind the attack, Jean-Paul demands that he helps with the revenge, crumbling before Marc’s eyes and telling him, “Men like us don’t change, Marc. We get distracted. We do whatever it takes not to look in the mirror. We hide inside the bottle … the needle. And if we don’t put the gun in our mouth — we end up here.” It’s a tragic admission of failure on Jean-Paul’s part, and although we see him briefly after Marc’s “death” – he gets the last line of the arc – this speech shows that he has finally realized that Marc’s brutal way is sometimes the only way.

Marlene’s relationship with Marc is shredded during this arc as well. It’s a dysfunctional relationship – they fuck, they argue, she storms out – but in issue #15, she sees his psychosis in all its glory when she walks in on him as he puts Bushman’s skinned face on his like a mask. It’s a horrifying moment, and it shows once again that Marc’s religious mania is far deeper than we might think – even though he sees visions of Bushman/Khonshu, this is even beyond that. Marlene is horrified by his actions, but she does see him again, not only to tell him that she saw Carson Knowles, but because, as she puts it, she’s a “masochist. Or a sadist.” Marlene has experienced so much pain because of her association with Marc, but she’s also thrilled by the relationship, in a deep and not necessarily healthy way. The last time she sees Marc, in fact, is in issue #17, when she meets him to tell him about Knowles. Marc says that Knowles is killing people in his name, and she says, “Do you hear yourself? Do you hear the delusions?” She finally realizes that his wounds are far deeper than just the physical ones. She has seen that he keeps a trophy of his kill and wears it, and now he’s speaking more and more like a god, or at least an avatar. Marlene, of course, doesn’t leave the series, but she never sees Marc again.

“The Death of Marc Spector” in issues #21-25 doesn’t end the series, as Benson follows Marc to Mexico for the final arc, in which he gets involved with a gangster whose daughter has been kidnapped and who offers him a great deal of money for her safe return. It’s an interesting story with a fair amount of violence, two luchador brothers who double as hitmen, the Punisher, and Jefte Palo’s gritty and noirish art. The biggest disappointment about this left turn to Mexico is that Benson “heals” Marc Spector without much effort – he flushes Khonshu down the drain (literally) and claims, at the end of the series, that he’s returning to New York to start over, but without his god. After turning Marc Spector into a possibly unbalanced religious psychopath, it feels like a cheat (and indeed, he hasn’t completely ditched Khonshu, as the next series shows). It’s an entertaining arc and deserves to be read, but it’s not quite as brutally incisive as the previous 25 issues.

This iteration of Moon Knight isn’t perfect, of course. Its flaws are most apparent to fans of the character who read his previous series, because Huston, especially, isn’t terribly concerned with continuity. The appearance of Bushman is a bit off, because while Profile explains who Bushman is in issue #3, long-time readers might be put off by the fact that he seems to be a thug-for-hire by the Committee, which clashes with his prior characterization. Jeffrey Wilde’s back story isn’t handled too well, although we get a little bit about him. His nurse is also left unexplained, which is a bit more vexing. The most egregious example of ignoring continuity is Jean-Paul’s legs. Huston and Benson thankfully ignore most of the second half of the late 1980s/early 1990s Moon Knight, which are truly awful comics, but they follow through on the crippling of Jean-Paul in that series. However, when Doug Moench brought Moon Knight back to life in the late 1990s, Frenchie had both his legs. So Huston ignored the two mini-series that Moench wrote in 1997/1998, which is fine, but a bit odd. He didn’t ignore the ill-fated Fist of Khonshu series that followed the original Moench/Sienkiewicz series, after all.

The lack of a regular artist might seem to be a flaw, but it’s not as annoying as one might think. Mico Suayan is really the only one who isn’t really up to snuff – he seems to be trying to ape Finch’s layouts but he doesn’t have Finch’s ridiculous attention to detail or clarity. Yes, I just wrote that Finch’s layouts have clarity, something people often do not accuse Finch of possessing. But Finch’s hyper-detailed art works very well on this title, because Huston wants the reader to see every single drop of blood to drive the point home that Moon Knight’s world is particularly violent. Finch’s eight issues are very uncomfortable visually, which they are meant to be, because we’re seeing how horrific the violent side of superheroics can be. He has his issues, of course – Moon Knight and Taskmaster’s capes are kind of ridiculous, and Marc Spector and Steve Rogers could be twins because Finch doesn’t have a lot of faces in his repertoire – but for the most part, Huston’s scripts are a perfect fit for Finch. After Suayan, Tomm Coker’s marvelous work on issue #13 blends strong pencil work with photo-referencing that doesn’t overwhelm the page, and then Texeira takes the art in a different direction. Benson’s scripts rely a bit more on the characters interacting with each other without necessarily saying anything, and Texeira’s smoother lines and less detail help bring that aspect of the art to the fore more than Finch could. As I wrote above, Palo’s gritty art is suited well for the seediness of “Down South,” the Mexican arc. Each artist brings something different to the table, and it’s interesting how the artists fit what the writers are doing at that particular time.

Ultimately, this volume of Moon Knight is one of the more mature superhero comics of the last decade. Huston and Benson raise uncomfortable questions that most superhero comics won’t even touch, much less attempt to answer. First and foremost, of course, is whether Marc is a hero or not. Does he actually help anyone? Of course he helps the random people on the street, but almost everyone in his life is negatively affected by his heroics. Jean-Paul, of course, has lost his legs and was unable to tell the man he loved about his true life. Marlene lost her father and brother and appears incapable of having a healthy relationship. Gena lost one son to the war because he wanted to emulate Marc and another son to Marc’s latest adventures. Only Crawley, who was at the bottom of the barrel when Marc met him, has improved. Crawley, as Benson makes clear, is the court jester who can speak frankly to the king, as he does in issue #18, when Marc has fallen once again into self-pity after Carson Knowles defeats him. In the original series, Marc pulled himself out of despair when Knowles appeared to have won. Now, it takes Crawley slapping him around to get him out of his funk. Crawley says, “Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are! … You are my hero, damn you. Without you, what am I? What value am I? I will not be lost again, I will not bury myself. And I will not watch you sink into your fetid morass.” After Marc kills Knowles and goes on the run, Crawley tries to get Jean-Paul and Marlene to come to his aid, to no avail. Marlene and Jean-Paul’s lives have become worse because of their involvement with Moon Knight, while Crawley’s has become better. So Crawley believes Marc is deserving of redemption. It’s Crawley who “proves” that Marc is a hero, even if others in his life would disagree.

Huston and Benson also ask other uncomfortable questions. Is Marc truly insane? Fifteen hundred years ago respectable men and women saw visions and no one thought differently of them – it was a part of life. Had Marc lived back then, Europeans would have called him a holy man. In today’s cynical world, we call him insane. But does his religion mitigate his insanity at all? Is he more or less heroic than other superheroes in the Marvel Universe because of his visions? The writers also want us to consider the horrible effects of superhero violence. Jean-Paul loses his legs, his lover is beaten almost to death, Marc’s knees are shredded during his battle with Bushman, and everyone suffers deep psychological wounds. Marc tries to placate his visions by coming as close to the edge of murder as possible but pulling back – as he points out during a fight, killing is easy, but what he does is very difficult. He is tormented because he knows he owes “Khonshu” but he doesn’t want to lose his personality by subsuming it to the god, and this makes his journey far more interesting. That Huston and Benson are able to frame this entire story within the context of what’s going on in the Marvel Universe at the time is impressive – it might date the book a bit, but these concerns over abuse of power and reining in the more extreme fringes of society is always topical, so even though this particular flashpoint in Marvel history is past, the book remains relevant.

Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz gave us a Moon Knight in the early 1980s that was ahead of its time and still feels fresh today. Charlie Huston and Mike Benson take their character to its logical extreme – Marc’s use of “aliases” and belief that an Egyptian god brought him back to life has metastasized into full-blown delusion or true divine visions, depending on your point of view. Moench’s violent scripts and Sienkiewicz’s brutal rendering of them has spawned a comic that goes further both in the violence and showing the effects of that violence. Where Moon Knight by Moench/Sienkiewicz was visionary and often breathtaking, this series is far more disturbing, coming after the revolution in “grim-’n’-gritty” in comics and examining how that would really work and what it would mean for the bodies and souls of the participants. Marc, Marlene, and Jean-Paul have all grown older (another nice touch of the book; both Marc and Marlene are pushing 40) and more complicated, yet they can’t escape their pasts, just like none of us can. If Marvel wanted to keep publishing a comic with Moon Knight in it, they had to pull back on what happened in this series, and they did, as Moon Knight returned to New York and became a much more standard superhero, joined Steve Rogers’s Secret Avengers (ironic considering that Rogers told him in this series how unfit for duty he was), showed up as a Hero for Hire, and will soon get the Bendis/Maleev treatment. Whatever they do with the character and wherever they take him, they can’t obscure the fact that the Huston/Benson/Finch/Texeira Moon Knight is a tremendous comic, one that can stand with some of the best series of the past decade.

Marvel has released the entire series in trade in five handy volumes. It’s definitely something that works better as a whole, as it’s really a 25-issue arc with a 5-issue epilogue. The way Huston structures some of the issues makes it much better to read all at once rather than waiting for each installment, especially considering how decompressed they are. Benson is more straightforward, but he’s still writing for the trade, so it’s just easier to read these in that format. As I have stressed, these aren’t necessarily “fun” to read, but they are very powerful comics. I just hope Bendis and Maleev come even close to the quality of this run. We shall see. So that’s Moon Knight volume 6 (the original series, Fist of Khonshu, Marc Spector: Moon Knight, and the two Moench mini-series are the first five, by my reckoning). Read it! And be sure to check out the archives for other Comics You Should Own!

[I will still defend this series, despite the slings and arrows of those who simply don’t appreciate the best hero in comics. I mean, what’s up with those people? This remains one of the better series from Marvel in this century, as it really does examine violence far better than most mainstream superhero books, and it really wants to figure these things out within the weird context of post-Civil War Marvel. It was a strange time for all of us! I suppose I could have written a bit more about the art, but I don’t do a terrible job, I don’t think. I also didn’t write much at all about issue #20, which is Moon Knight’s reunion with Jack Russell and features pretty keen Deodato art. Such is life. Anyway, I’ve linked to the first trade below, which is out of print for some strange reason – Marvel is doing a Moon Knight series pretty soon, so you’d think they’d want all his adventures in print – but which is cheap on Comixology, so there you go. I know this might be a tougher sell than some of my CYSO posts, but you should still give this a try!]


  1. tomfitz1


    I seem to remember reading the first issue of the Huston-Finch arc, I don’t remember the rest of it.

    Funny thing is, all these iterations of Moon Knight, keep reminding me of DC’s Hawkman. The character along with Hawkwoman (or is it Hawkgirl?) had so many iterations and their origins retconned every time it was hard to keep the Hawkman continuity straight.

    I think the Geoff/Goyer’s iteration is the most current one.

    The last time I had a MK read, the writer was Bendis, so I don’t know who’s doing the current MK now.

    1. Greg Burgas

      The new Moon Knight series dropped TODAY, so that works. It’s by Jed Mackay and Alessandro Cappuccio and it looks pretty keen.

      I don’t think his origin is as convoluted as Hawkman’s, because it’s still pretty consistent. Some writers emphasize the religious aspect or the “I’m crazy” aspect more than others, but it’s still the same-ish origin. Hawkman’s is just a mess.

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