Friday, 8 August 2014

Moon Knight, Volume 1: From the Dead Review (Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey)

“I’ve died before. It was boring, so I stood up.” - Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight

Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight, has always been a complicated character. He was this scavenger/mercenary type who finally found a conscience and was murdered for it. Dying in front of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu, he was resurrected as Khonshu’s avatar of justice: Moon Knight. But he’s also had severe mental problems, often sharing his head with multiple personalities, like in Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s recent two-volume MK run where Marc believed he was also Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man! 

For this new series, Warren Ellis has done a bit of a clear-up for the character, jettisoning a lot of extraneous material and putting in place a solid definition of Moon Knight. Firstly, he takes the character back to the East coast, away from LA, and puts a pin in the mental problems. They’re still there but not so pronounced and there are no tedious sequences where a “tortured” Moon Knight looks up at the moon and whines “Whyyyyyyy meeeeee?” over and over. 

He’s still got the multiple personalities though. Here he’s Moon Knight, the traditional Egyptian-themed superhero, and Mr Knight, a more street level character who looks like Elijah Snow from Planetary (stylish white suit), who consults with police on homicides. Who also has an automated white car with personalised number plates and a drone/glider. In this series, he investigates a series of supernatural-themed crimes in New York City. 

Ellis applies his tried and true method of the one-shot series that he’s used before in Global Frequency and Secret Avengers (where Moon Knight was also a member) with each issue being its own self-contained story. And, to be honest, the stories aren’t that original. Some ghost punks terrorise the city, another ghost haunts a building, one issue is basically the movies The Raid/Dredd where MK makes his way up a building, level by level, taking out gangsters, and another issue, Sniper, mirrors a similar story from Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, Volume 8: Dirge, where a sniper wreaks havoc on an office block. 

But it’s the way Ellis and his art team of artist Declan Shalvey and colourist Jordie Bellaire (who recently walked away with the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Colourist), that turns these pretty decent stories into incredible comics. It’s worth mentioning that in previous incarnations, MK has always been chatty, not least because of the many personalities in his head, whereas Ellis’ MK rarely speaks. Large chunks of these issues are wordless leaving it up to Shalvey to carry the story forward on his art alone. And Shalvey does so remarkably well. 

The Sniper issue in particular is brilliant for the way it’s presented. A number of people are being picked off by the sniper, each person getting their own panel on the page. As the people get killed, one by one, the panels start disappearing leaving blank space on the page until you’ve got a blank page with just one panel. The Sleep issue is also amazing for the dream sequences MK enters into: a lurid Lovecraftian landscape of trippy images that consumes him and which is breathtaking to look at. 

The Scarlet issue (which is one similar to The Raid/Dredd movies) where MK makes his way through a building taking out bad guy after bad guy sounds like the stupidest, dullest thing on paper until you see it and it turns out to be so entertaining thanks to the way the action flows seamlessly.

Jordie Bellaire’s colours - and lack of them - are fantastic too. I say lack of because she makes the inspired choice to not colour in MK - he’s not coloured white, he’s just uncoloured - making him really stand out on the page sharply. Well, that’s hardly stealthy is it? you say. Yup. He WANTS them to know he’s coming. Pretty badass, eh? Also, a lot of the issues are themed around certain colours - #3 is mostly green, #4 is blue, #5 is copper - while #1 and #6, that bookend this run, are mirrors of each other. The effects are so cool, it’s no wonder she won an award for her work! 

Unfortunately these six issues are all we’re getting from this creative team - Ellis and Shalvey are moving on to other projects and Brian Wood and Gary Smallwood are taking over Moon Knight. So Marvel’s coolest series probably won’t be as great going forward - I don’t think Wood’s superhero stuff is very good and I’m not as taken with Smallwood’s art in the four page preview at the back of #6. 

But, wonder of wonders, Moon Knight finally has an amazing book of his own! Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire have created the best Moon Knight ever in this volume and it’s terrific. It’s so much fun to read with truly awesome art throughout. Read this as soon as you can!

Moon Knight Volume 1: From the Dead


  1. Yep, I'm sold. Last time I read a book that had art of the quality you're pointing out, it was in Hawkeye, so It'd be awesome to read a book with art that distinctive again.

    1. This Moon Knight really is worth your time. Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire created something special in this book.