Moon Knight is a Marvel character that has never really taken off when compared to other characters in their roster. Since his first appearance in 1975, he’s had a string of short-lived series (the longest being in the ’90s at 60 issues) which have given him a cult status among comic book fans. I personally haven’t read a huge amount of Moon Knight in the past, apart from the most recent series, so I thought it would be dive into one of the more acclaimed runs on the character in the form of the 2011-2012 series by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.
Coming out of a series of relaunches of street-level characters, including Daredevil and The Punisher, back in 2011 the much-celebrated Daredevil creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev took on Moon Knight. They decided to make a handful of interesting changes in an attempt to shake-up the character which at the same makes this a unique character in the character’s life. First off they moved him from New York City to the pretty much superheroless Los Angeles. The other interesting development was that they gave Moon Knight brand new multiple personalities (a defining trait of the character) modelled off Marvel heroes. The result is a 12 issue run which is rather solid – with gritty action and great character moments and analysis.
But before I talk in-depth about the Bendis and Maleev run on the character I should give a brief overview of him for those not familiar with this hero. Mercenary Marc Spector is left for dead when he’s double-crossed while on a mission in Egypt. Dying in front of the statue of the Egyptian god Khonshu he is given a second chance at life as the god’s avatar and fights crime protecting those who travel at night. The most interesting part about the character is that he has multiple personality disorder which means he’s taken up multiple personas throughout the character’s life, some of which reveal a further instability and suggest that he could be crazy.
Below are five reasons I believe you should read Bendis and Maleev’s acclaimed Moon Knight run.
1. A New Take On The Multiple Personalities
In the past Moon Knight has taken up multiple personalities and identities from millionaire to cab driver but in this new series, we see a different approach to the idea. Shelling most of his previously constructed personalities, Moon Knight begins to see Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. This isn’t some kind of telepathic communication, but a new factor of his psychosis. At first, these figmental heroes discuss tactics with Moon Knight, aiding him on his mission and giving him guidance. But further you read the worse this gets as Moon Knight begins taking on facets of Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine’s personalities and fighting styles to the point that he has their weapons made up for himself. As each of these heroes would approach the threat differently these three voices in his head eventually become conflicting and less helpful than they once were.
Even if it’s not really explained why he has these new personalities it’s an interesting take on the character’s state of mind. It’s also one that is easily digestible for new readers as they are familiar with the heroes where they would be less likely to be with the more traditional personalities. This allows Bendis and Maleev to hit the ground running without having to give all the groundwork.
2. Echo Is A Strong Representation Of A Character With a Disability
Although she is best known for her time in David Mack’s Daredevil run, in which she first appeared, Echo features predominantly throughout Moon Knight, aiding title character on his mission. What makes her unique is that she is one of the very few deaf comic book characters, and probably the only deaf hero. While she might be deaf she’s definitely not helpless, being able to take down villains and thugs with ease. Having written her for a time during his tenure on Avengers, Bendis has a strong grasp on the character and never forgets about her disability. He makes sure characters are facer her when talking so that she can lipread. There’s even an amusing sequence when she’s on the phone, using a voice-to-text program, and the person on the other side becomes confused when they click that she can’t hear them. Saying that he doesn’t use her disability as a disadvantage, but instead a way of how capable she is at being a vigilante despite her deafness.
3. Ultron Is An Antagonist In A Brand New Way
While he isn’t the main antagonist, Ultron is used in an unconventional way to be a villain in this Moon Knight story. Instead of being the vengeful rhetoric-ranting killer robot that has been seen in classic Avengers stories he’s used as an object of importance and desire. One that if it fell into the wrong hands would be devastating for the world. Moon Knight acquires the head of Ultron after breaking up a black market deal, which sets off a string of events which sees him take on villains who are well out of his league (more on that soon) who either want the head for their employer or themselves.
This more passive use of Ultron is a fresh use of the character who is generally tied to the idea that ever appearance has to be bigger and more threatening than the last. Having Ultron tied to a street-level character such as Moon Knight allows Ultron to be dialled back but at the same time still, be threatening.
4. Alex Maleev’s Art Is Fantastic
Having partnered with Brian Michael Bendis on their acclaimed run of Daredevil it was only natural that Alex Maleev would be on art for Moon Knight. His art style is tight but scratchy giving it a grimy aesthetic that’s perfect for dark nights in the seedy underworld of Los Angeles. To achieve this he uses plenty of bold blacks and lots of linework to almost cover characters and the world around them in darkness. The way Maleev draws Moon Knight’s is great with it portrayed as expressively long, flowing in the wind in a way that looks menacing. But in a way that that’s how he draws Moon Knight in general, with his face covered in darkness, apart from glowing eyes. You’d definitely wouldn’t want to be caught doing something wrong around him.
It’s also worth noting that Maleev also does all of the covers, all of which are painted. They’re perfect mood setters and while they’re a different style to the interior art are definitely match the tone. My personal favourite of these is undoubtedly issue #2.
A special cheers should also go out to the colourists on this 12 issue run of Matthew Wilson and Matt Hollingsworth who both add a moody atmosphere through their use of colours. From dark and shadowy tones to glowing reds they help set the tone to Maleev’s art.
5. Moon Knight Takes On A Threat Well Above His Handling
As many would have figured out by now, Moon Knight is a street-level hero who has next to no powers. Instead, just like Batman, relies on technology to help him fight crime. In the past Moon Knight would fight common criminals, organised crime and supernatural threats such werewolves but in this one Bendis and Maleev threw him in the deep end with a threat that was well above his handling. While I won’t give away who this threat is let’s just say he is someone who would usually face-up against Thor or The Avengers. As a result, we have a David and Goliath battle which raises the stakes and makes the read far less predictable and more intriguing.