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Moon Knight Crash Course

Another character, another crash course, this time with Jordan bringing us the goods on Moon Knight!

With each of the MCU Disney+ shows, there have been new viewers and new fans of certain characters. However, I don’t think I have seen so much interest in a character before like Moon Knight. So this article is for those who enjoyed the show and want to get into the character more, and what a character to get into! Moon Knight has long been one of my favourite superheroes for a lot of reasons. For his incredible design, the number of layers to his character and world, and the unique combination of supernatural heroics and urban vigilantism. But he also just has a great backlog of incredibly underrated and also very ahead of their time stories. There is a LOT to dig into with Moon Knight and the fun lies in just how varied many of them are. So many creators have put their stamp on the character and the beauty of the character is that all of it counts and all of it feels cohesive. But where to start? Well hopefully this article can be a launchpad into the crazy atmospheric world of the Fist of Khonshu. 

The Bread:

Moon Knight Vol 7 #1-6:

By Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire and Chris Elliopulos 

If we’re talking best places to start with Moon Knight then you really can’t go wrong with the run by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. Before discussing why, I think it’s important to mention Warren Ellis’s horrible history of being an abhorrent sexual predator and all-around awful human being. So I fully understand not wanting to read this on those grounds, sometimes you just can’t separate the art from the artist. But if you can, you’ll find a masterful representation of what you can do with the medium. This is a brief 6-issue run with individual and self-contained stories, each with a wildly different aesthetic and style. The real star here is Shalvey who gives Moon Knight a new costume and a dimension to his character with Mr. Knight, a new costumed persona he uses to escape from the law. Shalvey’s Moon Knight is one that can move from a grisly violent struggle through the criminal underworld to a heightened fight against supernatural creatures. It’s sleek, simple, and thematically rich. You don’t really need to know anything going on and it gives you the lowdown on the character while setting up Moon Knight for the next decade. 

Moon Knight Vol 1 #1-34 and various other mini-series:

By Doug Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Springer, Christie Scheele Bob Sharen and others 

Doug Moench created and penned some Moon Knight stories before teaming up with Bill Sienkiewicz, but it’s their classic run in the 80s that defined the character and essentially made him into what he is today. Moench and Sienkiewicz’s run was revolutionary at the time for pushing the boundary of what superheroes look like. The run starts looking and feeling like most Marvel titles but eventually transforms into something that stands totally on its own. Sienkiewicz’s style in particular becomes scratchier and more experimental to reflect the darker and more cerebral stories by Moench. These are the stories that fully fleshed out the character’s several alter-egos and the struggles that came with them balancing various lifestyles. It’s not handled with the taste and knowledge we have today so it is very dated in that light. If you’re looking for a great representation of DID, this isn’t it. But regardless, these are some of my all-time favourite comics that present a hero totally unlike anything that was being published at the time. It’s psychologically complex and tonally distinct. When reading this stuff it’s easy to see why Moon Knight isn’t as popular as Daredevil or Spidey but it’s also clear why he has such a dedicated following. (Note I am also including Moench’s various mini-series here including High Strangers and The Resurrection War)

 West Coast Avengers Vol 2 #21-41: 

By Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, Tom DeFalco, Ralph Macchio, Tom Morgan, Joe Sinnott, Mike Machlan Paul Becton, Bob Sharen, and others

Throughout most of his history, Moon Knight has rarely been a team player. He’s been a part of a few super groups here and there but there aren’t any that he’s tied to, like most superheroes. The closest, however, would be the West Coast Avengers during Steve Englehart’s run in the 80s. Here, Moon Knight is drawn into a smaller team consisting of members like Wonder Man, Iron Man, and Tigra (the latter with which he forms a relationship). What’s great about this run though is just how well Englehart understands the character and builds off of what Moench was doing in his ongoing series. Here, Marc is largely adrift and separate from the rest of the heroes, cementing his status as one of Marvel’s fringe characters. There’s a lot of bickering and arguing with his fellow teammates because of his own reclusive and loner tendencies, but it’s also brilliant in how it uses this tension to develop Marc’s relationship and devotion to Khonshu. It’s a great opportunity to show what Moon Knight looks like to the wider superhero community. It’s also just a blast to read. After all of these darker and more thematically complex stories, hopefully it’ll be a breath of fresh air to just read a good, fun, bombastic superhero comic. 

The Meat: 

Moon Knight Vol 8 #1-14:

By Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe,Cory Petit, 

Jeff Lemire is one of the biggest and most renowned voices in comics from the last decade with a LOT of strong titles under his belt. To me though he’ll always be the guy to write my favourite run of Moon Knight. Lemire is often very focused on mental health and the psychology of his characters so his taking over of Moon Knight is a match made in heaven. His Moon Knight run takes place largely in the head of our hero examining his various personalities and personas in explicit and heightened depth. Lemire is paired with the outstanding Greg Smallwood who creates some of the most beautifully atmospheric pages ever put into a comic book. It’s a trippy, mind-melting read that wants to understand who Moon Knight is at his very core. It’s a perfect comic but it’s in The Meat section because I think it benefits from understanding the character’s wider history. You can read it without reading everything but I think understanding what Moench, Sienkiewicz, Ellis, and Shalvey did with the character just makes it even better. If you know Batman then I think the best thing I can compare this to is Grant Morrison’s run. Both try to understand the characters’ many forms and validate all of them; it’s a celebration of the character as a whole and a wonderful standalone story too. If you have to read one Moon Knight comic, I would choose this one. 

Moon Knight Vol 5 #1-13:

For many, Charlie Huston was their introduction to Moon Knight. His run is one of the most iconic and is instantly recognisable thanks to the dark and violent art of David Finch. This series brought Moon Knight back into the spotlight with his first ongoing solo series since the 90s. Moon Knight as presented by Huston and Finch is dark, vengeful, and out for blood. This is a gruesome and often graphic series depicting one of the lowest points in the character’s life. The reason that I don’t think this is the best place to start is because of how it builds on what Moench had built previously by playing up his Dissociative Identity Disorder even further. These comics are a lot darker and grislier than the character usually presents, which can be a turnoff for some people. This is focused very much on deconstructing the character to build him back up. But if you want something with some more edge, Huston’s your best bet. After finishing this run, I highly recommend continuing with the following run by Mike Benson which is also great and well worth the read. 

Moon Knight Vol 1 #1-current:

By Jed Mackay, Alessandro Cappuccio, Federico Sabbatini, Rachelle Rosenberg, Cory Petit, 

If at this point you’ve enjoyed all of the various works from the distant or not too distant past, you may want to see what’s fresh and new. Thankfully what’s new is the current run by Jed MacKay. MacKay has become one of Marvel’s top writers and his Moon Knight run is one of my personal favourite comics right now. Much like Lemire and Huston, it is approachable for new readers but is vastly enhanced by the decades of stories as context. MacKay is one of the writers who can pull way back into a character’s past, take a few elements and revive and recontextualise them into something exciting and fresh. His Moon Knight does this perfectly, playing off the character’s long history and forging an exciting new future. That future leans harder into the character’s supernatural roots. Marc now runs his ‘Midnight Mission’ which seeks to carry on Khonshu’s will, even when Steven has been separated from him. It’s a really great premise that takes Moon Knight in some fascinating directions that I won’t spoil here. This premise helps to expand Moon Knight’s supporting cast, giving him new friends and enemies to play off of. This cast also helps to illuminate more of his character and this run might be the best dive into the character yet. It delves into his Jewisih heritage, trauma, dissociative identity disorder, relationship to Khonsu, all of it. It’s one of the best Moon Knight runs ever in my eyes and it seems like it’s just getting started. And I haven’t even mentioned the absolutely stunning art by Alessandro Cappuccio who crafts yet another breathtaking style for the character. It’s just top to bottom a stellar superhero comic, so if you want to read along with us other Moon Knight fans, check this one out. 

The Special Sauce: 

Moon Knight Silent Knight #1:

By Peter Milligan, Laurence Campbell, Lee Lougrdige, Rus Wooton

This story is a weird one to recommend, but hey that’s why it’s the special sauce. This is a one-issue story set during the holidays yet it does anything but bring Christmas cheer. This was released during Huston’s run so it shares a lot of the DNA of that era of Moon Knight. This is a grisly, nasty, and violent comic. In this story, Marc fails to prevent a Mall Santa from being murdered and chases down the killers. It’s a super simple set up but its reflection on Marc’s violent nature are super poignant and incredibly well-explored. Moon Knight is kept company throughout the night by a festive-looking Khonshu who taunts him and mocks him over his inability to save others. The issue is written by Peter Milligan, known for this kind of methodical storytelling, and for such a short story, he gives such a great little study of his character. Milligan is matched by the stunning and incredibly moody art of Laurence Campbell. He gives it an appropriate level of grit akin to Alex Maleev’s Daredevil. It’s a really well put together little story. Can Marc truly move on from his violent past? Does Khonshu bring out his worst tendencies? Does his role as Moon Knight prevent him from having a normal life? It’s a story with a lot of questions but the answers you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Marvel Fanfare Vol 1 #30:

By Ann Nocenti, Brent Eric Anderson, Al Williamson, Steve Oliff and Jim Novak. 

Ann Nocenti is known for a lot of great comics, what first comes to mind for many I’m sure is her stint on Daredevil. There, she thrust the character into a more political sphere and although she never had a run with Moonie, she did write an underrated short story in Marvel Fanfare with art by Brent Eric Anderson. Here, Moon Knight and Marlene decide to head away on a vacation. Marc/Steven seems to be drawing closer and closer to Khonshu as the moon starts fritzing out because all the planets are aligning. They decide to head to a small rural town but soon learn that it is being terrorized by a film crew and a tyrannical director who slaughters deer on camera for his work. The town is soon haunted by an elemental creature who represents nature herself. It’s obviously quite a different setting and style to most Moon Knight stories, but it works really well because it throws the characters on the back foot. This is a great and strange little short story that really challenges Moon Knight. It’s about the push and pull between what he wants and what the world wants him to be. It’s a great exploration of Marc’s commitment to being the Fist of Khonshu and the toll that can take on his life. For a weird off-kilter story, I recommend this one for sure. 

Marc Spector: Moon Knight #26-32

By J.M DeMatteis, Ron Garney, Tom Palmer, Christie Scheele, Nelson Yomtov and Ken Lopez

Last on the list is the wild little story lodged in Marc Spector Moon Knight, an often forgotten series from the 90s. Before Chuck Dixon became popular on Batman he was doing an extended run with Moonie, but I’m not here to recommend that stuff. Instead, I’m here to recommend the wonderful 7-issue run by writer J.M DeMatteis and artist Ron Garney. Their 5 issue story together titled ‘Scarlet Redemption’ in particular is one of my personal favourite stories for the character. It’s an absolute trip and one of the wildest and most absurd superhero comics I’ve read. While it is certainly problematic that much of Moon Knight’s early stories are characterised as “he’s insane” this story does genuinely capture a manic insane energy. The story centers on Stained Glass Scarlet who was one of the standout characters in the original Moench run. Her return throws Marc into disarray as every notion of his life and reality is called into question. It sounds like a usual Moon Knight set up but what makes it sing is just how hard it commits to it. DeMatteis and Garney meltdown and mess around with the very form of comics in an incredibly ambitious story that for some might bite off a bit more than it can chew. However, if you’re like me and you love crazy gambles and wild experiments, you’ll love it. It’s a gothic and moody fever dream, so it’s not one for newbies. But if you’ve found you love this character and want to eat up all there is, this right here is well worth the read. 

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