I think there is something very important to get out of the way before we begin. At every juncture when I talk about Warren Ellis, I want you to say the phrase, “who wrote ‘Nextwave’ the underappreciated, seminal graphic novel which is a work of tremendous genius.” Got that? Not that I’m going to say anything disparaging about Warren Ellis… Yeah, you got it. But my dubious outlook on the character of Moon Knight might color this review in a certain negative light. So let’s get started and review “Moon Knight” by Warren Ellis.
If you want to look for a woefully misunderstood character, look no further than Moon Knight. He has been fighting alongside the likes of the Avengers since 1975 and yet everyone still mistakes him for a Batman rip off. Go down the check list and see: expert in hand to hand combat, employs stealth and night fighting to instill terror in his foes, is oddly obsessed with a nonsense theme, crazier than three cows in a Toyota Carolla. And yet he has enjoyed none of the popularity of the Dark Knight—Jeez, even their names spell trouble. That’s why when Marvel announced a “Moon Knight” relaunch written by Warren Ellis, I was very concerned. Moon Knight has had several solo titles and they usually fizzle faster than a firework made of Jaffa cake including a run written by Brian Michael Bendis. His take was imaginative and original and helped distinguish the character from the depths of obscurity that plagued Moon Knight for so long. Yet in the end, his series folded up with all the others. So what makes this new run of “Moon Knight” written by Warren Ellis stand any chance?
Well first off, he doesn’t discount any of Moon Knight’s crazy experiences. Remember that time that Moon Knight got shot in Egypt and got possessed by a weird safe travel deity like an omnipotent On*Star? How about that time he went out to Los Angeles with an imaginary Avengers team in his head that he occasionally shouted at? The trouble is that it’s introduced so ham handedly in the beginning, the first two pages is some news blogger sitting down and talking about it to random friend #17. It was unfortunate because it’s brought up later in the book in a much more organic fashion. In fact the rest of the book is a smooth wave of witty repartee and knee buckling violence and it is incredible and I loved it and I want more of it yes thank you Warren Ellis. The book is absolutely designed to make Moon Knight cool and it succeeds largely because it’s making Moon Knight not Moon Knight.
What do you do if you have a character that is a Batman clone? I’ll tell you what; you change him to a Bruce Wayne clone. Visually, the change is apparent immediately. Instead of the tights and cape, Moon Knight now dons a white suit. He now has all the flashiest and expensive toys to fight crime and his swagger is now a weapon he wields against the criminals he’s apprehending. It was an absolute delight to see Moon Knight dispatch his villain with a cold remark and a moon blade he had discreetly thrown two minutes earlier. This is the start of Moon Knight as the cool hero, the suave rogue with as much style as tenacity. It’s a refreshing change from the languishing hero, the crazed loner that battled his demons as much as he fought crime. His mental problems are still very much present but it’s less a constant burden than a trait that colors the story telling.
Moon Knight is not the only one to suffer from being a carbon copy of another character. One look at “Invincible” and it’s obvious that Mark Grayson is a send up of Superboy. But how do you distinguish the character enough from the original to make a worthwhile story? Well, that’s not really a problem with “Invincible,” Mark Grayson uses all of the same troupes but takes advantage of things that Super Boy can’t really address. When Mark was able to take a look at the bigger picture, he saw that his constant intervention wasn’t making things better. Everything was a perpetual cycle of violence and destruction. Moon Knight has the unique advantage that killing isn’t forbidden for him. This may not seem like a big distinction but it’s already been put to use in this run when he dispatched the killer he was chasing permanently. Because this book was written by Warren Ellis… and he did a phenomenal job on the first issue, I’m ready to read an ongoing “Moon Knight” again, but let’s see how long this run lasts.