The One You See Coming – Saying Goodbye to Warren Ellis' Moon Knight

By Joseph Kyle Schmidt

I'm not the world's biggest Warren Ellis fan. It's not that I'm critical of any of his work, because that's not true. I've pretty much loved everything I've read that he's written, but not to the point that I've had to devour everything he's ever done (I imagine this might change sooner than later).

Ellis collaboration with Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire on Marvel's relaunch of Moon Knight will be ending with issue 6. And though the title will continue with Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, the first six issues are meant to serve as a reintroduction of sorts to the character, not quite a reinvention.

mk1Ok, it's time to just come out and say it: Warren Ellis could work his way down the list and reinvent every single superhero comic for 6 issue arcs and then move onto the next one, for the rest of his career, and I'd probably buy it all.

If you ask any avid comic reader to name their favorite stories, an Ellis epic will probably be on it. From the revered Transmetropolitan, the cinematic spectacle of Stormwatch and the Authority, or the genre-deconstructing Planetary, there are lots to love. But even just a quick glance at his Marvel catalogue of the past decade might be among his most exciting entries to date.

Ellis and artist Adi Granov created the cinematic blueprint for Iron Man with the Extremis storyline in 2005, kicking off a new Iron Man comic in the process and providing an avenue for new stories that exists to this day.

In 2007 he teamed with Salvador Larroca to breathe new life into the beloved New Universe concept with newuniversal, a series especially relevant to the current Avengers titles by Jonathan Hickman.

And in 2011 Ellis took over the Secret Avengers title and wrote what many consider to be the best chunk of issues, a series of done-in-one clandestine adventures illustrated by some of the industry's best artists, including Stuart Immonen, Alex Maleev, Kev Walker, Jamie McKelvie, David Aja and Michael Lark.

For Moon Knight, the creative team are trying the done-in-one formula once again and this time it is executed near perfection. That's not to say the issues don't have their faults, shortened page counts not lending any favors. But oftentimes the sudden endings work well. There's no time for resolution, only the next adventure. Like a bleached fist in the night, knocking your teeth out as your eyes stay wide open, left wondering "What the hell just happened?"

mk2

You don't need to know much about Moon Knight to read the series. The premise can be simple or complex, depending how you look at it. On one end Moon Knight is crazy, dressing up in stark contrast to the night, taking on all comers head-on. On the other, he is possessed by the spirit of Khonshu, his mind divided into three distinct personalities that constantly push him to his limits, driven in his duty to protect innocent travelers from the evils of night.

Marc Spector's raison d'être is explored with subtlety in the issues. And though Khonshu, Jake Lockley and Steven Grant all linger in the background, the complexities of his continuity aren't pushed to the forefront. Instead we get a Moon Knight clearly defined by what we see on the panels. The adventures may be succinct, but they pack plenty into 20 pages.

The artistic chemistry between Shalvey and Bellaire is always dynamic, but Moon Knight is a visual feat for the pair. The titular character always pops off the page, seemingly out of his element in every panel he's depicted in, especially in the 'procedural' parts where Moon Knight is investigating crime scenes. It's a useful effect that adds a touch of the surreal to the mundane and ordinary.

The action scenes are choreographed to near perfection and the ending of issue 4 might be my favorite. During his investigation into research and experiments on sleep and dreaming, Moon Knight breaks free of a psychosis that has hospitalized the test subjects of the study. What follows is not one of the epic fights you'll find in issues 2 or 5, but it's just as effective. Moon Knight bursts into the office of the doctor performing the studies and, guided by revelation, rushes to the desk where he promptly slams the doc's face down. He flips him over, throws him to the ground while the doc attempts to reason with Moon Knight. Ha! Reason with Moon Knight.

mk3

Some might say the amount of pages combined with price of purchase are the only things holding this book back. While production costs have certainly increased and published content suffers as a result, that is not the case with Moon Knight.

The abrupt endings work for this series, as each issue is a tour de force until you're smacked with either a revelation or conclusion that's wholly satisfying while still leaving you wanting. And though the first issue's closing scene could be the start of an intricate storyline about this new status quo, Moon Knight just goes with it and does what he's always done. It doesn't contain the all to familiar trope defined by capes, tune in next month, dear reader, to find out more! No. This book requires no such cop-out. Moon Knight is the one you see coming. What else do you need to know?

Moon Knight will continue, Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire are moving on. The modus operandi has been stripped down, retooled and reestablished. Whatever they do, I will definitely be interested in following along. Especially if Ellis happens to have another stint redefining a great character, which seems like a good bet as of late. As a writer who is constantly inventing, he can really cut to the core idea of what makes them work. Moon Knight is just the latest insight into Ellis' creative mind.

If you're one of the readers who doesn't like Moon Knight, didn't understand it, or didn't enjoy Ellis particular take on the character, I can only point you to that ending of issue 4 once again.

When Moon Knight reveals the source of the psychosis—a forgotten corpse left in a dank cellar, imbued with DMT and other chemicals—he offers the only solution you need to know.

"You've been breathing in his dreams," he says to the doctor in the issue's final panel, bringing the story to a close without a whiff of resolution or closure. And really, do you even need it? A man's dreams should be enough.

Joseph Schmidt is @woeisjoe on Twitter.

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.