Normally this is where Sam inserts that ridiculously self-important byline he wrote for himself for this column. However, since this is the special edition, here's a new one: Sam loves the hell out of Moon Knight. Seriously, it's the same level of devotion other people have for The Silver Age, or their favorite movie genre, or...pastries. He enjoys the character of Marc Spector, he loves his rogues gallery, and he loves the mythos and motivations of the Fist of Khonshu. And, in celebration of the new Moon Knight series starting soon, he's doing a rundown of almost every starring appearance of the character.
I honestly couldn't tell you why I love the character of Moon Knight so damn much. It might be because of the split personalities, it might be because of the Egyptian mythology tie-ins, it might be the really excellent hard boiled-ness about the character. Hell, it could even be some sort of deep psychological connection I share with a character willing to take hits we don't need to just to prove that we can while everyone else wonders what the hell is wrong with us. Though that last one is getting a bit more personal than I'm willing to with a group of strangers.
Whatever the case may be, he holds a special place in my heart. I discovered him in the Huston/Finch relaunch of his series; at least, that was my first major interaction with him beyond some sort of marginal awareness of someone I considered a cheap Batman dressed in white with a moon on his chest. I absolutely fell in love with him in that series, though. Case in point, Moon Knight volume 4 number 1 was the first issue I cared enough to bring to a con with me to have signed. I made it a point to by as much of the volume 4 series in hardback as possible, something I don't do often with my collected edition shopping. And it was the Huston/Finch series that really explored some of the darker aspects of the Marc Spector character.
That, however, prompted me to pick up the Essential volumes of Moon Knight, with 3 being the total so far, hopefully with more to come. And it's on the first volume, specifically the first 4 or so issues in it, that we begin to explore Spector.
This entry, and most likely the next few, will be relatively short, because when he was first introduced, Marc Spector was a very straightforward, and very 70s, Marvel character. In the vein of the Punisher and Ghost Rider, he was little more than a tough guy with a harsher attitude on crime than the longer established counterparts. Moench throws us into the heat of battle between Moon Knight and Jack Russel, the Werewolf by Night, and he is trying his absolute damndest to bring us Stan Lee via Mickey Spillane. The panel composition and page layouts are themselves fairly straightforward, with Don Perlin serving up some decent fight scenes, and laying the shadows on thick, just noir-ing the hell out of the book. I mean, granted, it's taking place at night because of the whole werewolf angle, but he's letting us know at the same time that there's grit in them thar alleys. We're not at the levels of Frank Miller or David Mazzucchelli that would come later, though, with Perlin showing that's he's entrenched in that 70s house style of Marvel's. You know the style I mean (and it's definitely not meant as an insult towards Mr. Perlin at all, because it's still very entertaining and good quality art on its own): he's got sort of this halfway point between the grim darkness of Born Again and the post-Ditko/Kirby era where Romita Sr. was in charge.
As far as storytelling chores, like I said above, it's fairly brutal and to the point. I personally enjoy it, but I can absolutely see where I'd be one of a select few. Moench is giving us some quality pulp here, with agonized, melodramatic anger and dismay from the Werewolf by Night, and hard-hittin', gut kickin', face rearrangin' tough guy talk from the freshly minted Spector. At this point, he's strictly a gun for hire that, in his recollections mid-fight, was given a doofy set of tights to take down this dork of a kid for the kingly sum of 10...thousand...dollars. He's constantly spouting in-your-face gravelly tough talk, and for even me it gets a bit grating after awhile, but between that or reading yet another Roy Thomas wall-o-text from this era of Marvel, I'll take Moench. Not to say I didn't love the hell out of The Eternals Saga, but I have a fairly short attention span for Mr. Thomas' older work.
After Werewolf by Night jobs for the new guy, and Spector has his face turn in the second issue of the arc, we get to his appearances in Marvel Spotlight. The most jarring thing about this is we've gone from LA in WbN to New York, Spector himself introduces his other 2 identities out of nowhere, and the whole thing is portrayed as the Moon Knight persona being his brainchild, and not a reluctant identity he took to appease his employers. In fact, the most bizarre part of all of it is they try to throw some moon related strength and whatnot in by saying he was bitten by the werewolf, with no mention yet of Khonshu or that ill-fated mercenary mission in Egypt. The plot is fairly straightforward again, with the added twists of the aformentioned personalities, and some kickass 70s fashion for Moon Knights new squeeze, Marlene.
You can see in these two solo issues that editorial is still sort of figuring out what exactly to do with the character, and right now, it unfortunately happens to provide the perfect cannon fodder for people claiming he's a ripoff Batman. There's no real disassociative identity disorder on display here, just a rich guy with some toys punching evil rat enthusiasts in the mug. That aside, there's also the ray of hope that something is being done with him besides one-off throwaway character, since he now has a network of informants, a girlfriend, friends, a job, and a permanent location and base of operations. These things are being said with complete knowledge of where the character will eventually end up, though, so for me it's more about a ride through the process of hammering out these ideas for Marc that would eventually make him into what he is now. And he still doesn't have any motivation explained beyond "I have fists and a hatred of crime" but whatever, I can roll with that.
Finally in this portion, we get to his appearances in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. At this point, much of what was introduced in the Marvel Spotlight adventures is still in effect. The introduction from the Werewolf by Night issues is made even more obsolete by making the villains themselves from that small arc into nothing more than a macguffin here, and even then, it's just some ill-described "files" on Spector that he needs recovered. And because it's one of Spider-Man's books, we get the much expected hero fight/team up that surprised all of zero people. As it stands, we can see evidence that editorial is still very much in the "world building" phase of the character, so nothing huge or plot-twisty has been thrown at us yet. And that is a place as good as any to stop.
So far, class, we've seen that Moon Knight's earliest escapades weren't exactly jump off the rack great, but they were, for me anyway, highly enjoyable reads that were the foundations of one of comics' most interesting vigilantes. Be sure to be ready for more, hopefully later this week, as we get through the last of Moon Knight's early guest appearances and team-ups and dig in to volume one of his first solo series. See you then!