For much of the time while reading Moon Knight, Vol. 1: From the Dead I had an irrepressible grin on my face. At one point, while reading issue #5 contained in this collection, “Scarlet,” I was even chuckling with pure delight. Not because anything was funny but just because I was having so much fun.
In fact, this is the purest, most unadulterated fun I’ve had with a mainstream superhero comic in a long time.
I guess it helps that this is a character that I just happen to have always liked. It also helps that it’s written by Warren Ellis, one of my favorite comic writers. And further yet, it helps that it also features the art of Declan Shalvey, as of now one of my favorite artists to depict this character.
Moon Knight Vol. 1 collects issues #1-6 and collectively these issues bring back the art of the one-shot. Though there are a few recurring and linked elements, each issue in this collection is a complete tale unto itself, each one titled with a single word starting with “s” (“Slasher,” “Sniper,” etc.). If you’re a busy comic fan, for instance, you could read one issue a day and still get a complete and satisfying story. And for the most part they don’t feel rushed or incomplete. Each issue has a logical beginning, middle and end, which, when you consider how short a single comic issue is, amounts to an impressive display of virtuosity on Ellis’s part.
Where Ellis really manages to accomplish the remarkable here is that these are good old-fashioned, action-packed superhero stories on one hand, but they are also imbued with ambitions of profundity and grandiosity on the other. Witness the grim bank executive who waxes poetic about how it is not the guns of the world that constitute true power but the banks. Or the hallucination that asks Marc Spector why he has all manner of weaponry for fighting the living but none for fighting the dead. Or the young girl who touches Moon Knight’s mask and realizes its true nature and function.
In Ellis’ hands, Moon Knight is a character every bit as compelling as the Batman and even more of an enigma. We know, for instance, what many of Bruce Wayne’s psychological issues are and what drives him. The current incarnation of Marc Spector is more undecipherable in that it’s hard to know how much of who he is and what he’s doing comes from himself or the influence of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu or even just from plain insanity.
Not every installment here is a master stroke. A couple of them, like “Sniper” and “Spectre,” didn’t work quite as well for me as the others, but even these contain moments of either staggeringly beautiful art or thoughtful intrigue.
Before reading this volume I had not been exposed to much of Declan Shalvey’s art, but now I plan on seeking out his previous work, particularly on Deadpool. There are panels and splash pages here that will have you just gaping in admiration. Often the sequencing and layout of panels, as in “Sleep” and “Scarlet,” are a joy to behold, and the action scenes are smooth and seamless, almost cinematic (especially in “Scarlet”). The stark contrast of Moon Knight’s white outfits against his environment also provide Shalvey with plenty of opportunities for some gorgeous imagery creation.
Alas, Ellis and Shalvey were planning from the get-go to only do six issues, and the current run of Moon Knight will from henceforth will be taken over by Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood. But Wood and Smallwood are no pushovers either and I’ll be sticking around to see where they take one of my favorite characters.
Hell, yeah, Marvel. If you keep this up, then I am back for good.