Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3

First Published: February 2009

Contents: Moon Knight #31 (May 1983) to #38 (July 1984); Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu #1 (June 1985) to #6 (December 1985); Moon Knight stories from Marvel Fanfare #30 (January 1987), #38 (June 1988) and #39 (August 1988); the Moon Knight story from Solo Avengers #3 (February 1988); and the Moon Knight story from Marvel Super-Heroes #1 (May 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Alan Zelenetz, Tony Isabella, Kevin Nowlan, Bo Hampton, Chris Warner, Denny O’Neill, and others

Key First Appearances: Joy Mercado

Story Continues From: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

Overview: Marvel’s man of the night is back with Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3. Regardless if the man under the mask is Marc Spector, Steven Grant, or Jake Lockley, Moon Knight is ready to take on any challenge, whether it’s physical, mental or mystical.

Sadly, this volume begins with the end of writer Doug Moench’s run on the title. During this run of issues, the Moon Knight titled transitioned into a direct market title, meaning that fans could only find the book at comic book retailers and not on the spinner rack at your local convenience store. The direct market status came with some benefits to the discerning readers. The comics were ad-free, giving us longer stories, and were eventually upgraded to a better paper quality. In addition, Marvel could start to tell somewhat more mature stories in this format.

The stories run through the various comic book possibilities – maybe Moon Knight is fighting street crime, dealing with a supernatural threat, solving a mystery, or fighting the super villain of the month. Moon Knight is often compared to Batman, and one of those reasons is the flexibility in being able to use the title character in these various stories. (By sheer coincidence, last week’s review of Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 6 featured many stories by Denny O’Neil. Many of the issues in this volume were edited by O’Neil.)

One year after the end of the direct market title, Moon Knight returned to the spinner racks with Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu. Now Marc Spector must act as an agent on Earth for Khonshu, which puts him at odds with the love of his life, Marlene. She leaves Marc, freeing up Marc (and the writer) to move about without having to check in every issue with a supporting cast. Sadly, the book lasts just six issues before it was cancelled.

This collection is rounded out by some solo Moon Knight stories that appeared in other books, such as Marvel Fanfare. Unfortunately, the sporadic nature of these tales makes it hard to have any true character development. You might have to look elsewhere to find a lengthy run with Moon Knight. See below for more details!

What makes this Essential?: Visually, these are some great stories. Sometimes you buy books just for the art, and this may be one of those. That said, Moon Knight as a character loses direction with Doug Moench leaving the character. It’s as if no one at Marvel knew what to do next with Moon Knight. I loved the start of the Fist of Khonshu series, where he had to act as a champion for Khonshu or face physical pain. But that series came to an abrupt end. Given the potential we saw with the character during the Moench/Sienkiewicz era, this volume feels like a let down in comparison.

If you like this volume, try: West Coast Avengers Omnibus Vol 2 from 2013. Shortly after the cancellation of Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu series, Moon Knight relocated to California and started hanging out with the West Coast Avengers, beginning with issue #21 of that title. Moon Knight stayed as a member of the team for almost two years, before leaving the team with issue #41. From there, Moon Knight moved back into his own title once again, named Marc Spector: Moon Knight. That ran for five years, but it doesn’t appear to have been collected yet.

Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

moon_knight_2First Published: October 2007

Contents: Moon Knight #11 (September 1981) to #30 (April 1983)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alan Zelenetz, Greg LaRocque, Steven Grant, and others

Key First Appearances: Morpheus, Detective Flint, Stained Glass Scarlet, Black Spectre

Story Continues From: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 3

Overview: He’s back! Moon Knight returns in his second Essential volume, reprinting the stories from his first ongoing series.

During this run of issues, the Moon Knight titled transitioned into a direct market only title, meaning that fans could only find the book at comic book retailers and not on the spinner rack at your local convenience store. The direct market status came with some benefits to the discerning readers. The comics were ad-free and were eventually upgraded to a better paper quality. In addition, Marvel could start to tell somewhat more mature stories in this format.

Most of the stories are one-and-done, but there are the occasional multi-part stories. We are introduced to a pair of foes that would be regulars in Moon Knight’s rogues’ gallery – Morpheus and Scarlet. I think the development of the supporting characters in the book helps enhance the title character.

The best stories are found towards the end of the book, and the end of artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s run on the title. In particular, issue #26 with the “Hit It” story works on multiple levels, striking a powerful blow at the reader.

What makes this Essential?: These are really good issues, and they translate well into the black & white format. As I mentioned before, I’ve never been a fan of Moon Knight. To me, he seemed to just be Marvel’s version of Batman, albeit with multiple personalities.

But I read an interesting theory in the preparation of this review that made me rethink my position. As seen in this volume, some cover art is done by Frank Miller, who was bringing his legendary run on Daredevil to a conclusion in this time frame. Soon after, Miller started doing some work for DC, including Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Now, the Batman that most people think of when we hear the character’s name most often is the Frank Miller-influenced Batman that came out of those two stories. And since Miller worked on Moon Knight before he worked on Batman, you could (maybe) make the case that Batman is actually DC’s version of Moon Knight. It may be a stretch, but it’s an idea I want to think some more about.

Anyway, buy this book, whether it is for the character, the Doug Moench stories, or the beautiful Bill Sienkiewicz artwork.

If you like this volume, try: Daredevil: Love and War from the 1980s Marvel Graphic Novel line. This is an incredible Daredevil story from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz that often gets overlooked. The Kingpin has kidnapped a psychiatrist in hopes of helping his wife Vanessa recover. Daredevil must stop the Kingpin and rescue the psychiatrist, as well as the psychiatrist’s wife, who is being held by a psychotic killer on behalf of the Kingpin. This is a beautiful book that is best viewed as the Marvel Graphic Novel, in order to get the proper scaling for the pages. I’ve been on record that I was NOT a Sienkiewicz fan when he took over the art on New Mutants. I hated his work and only stayed with the book because I actually had a mail subscription to the title. But Love and War was a 180-degree turn for me in my opinions of Sienkiewicz. I suddenly got his art and thought it was incredible. Please check out this story however you can find it.

Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

moonknight1First Published: February 2006

Contents: Werewolf by Night #32 (August 1975) and #33 (September 1975); Marvel Spotlight #28 (June 1976) and #29 (August 1976); Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #22 (September 1978) and #23 (October 1978); Marvel Two-In-One #52 (June 1979); Moon Knight stories from The Hulk! #11 (October 1978) to #15 (June 1979), #17 (October 1979), #18 (December 1979), and #20 (April 1980); Marvel Preview #21 (May 1980); and Moon Knight #1 (November 1980) to #10 (August 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Don Perlin, Bill Sienkiewicz, and others

Key First Appearances: Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Jake Lockley/Moon Knight, Frenchie, Marlene Alraune, Gena Landers, Bertrand Crawley, Samuels, Hatchet-Man/Shadowknight, Crossfire, Bushman, Khonshu, Ray Landers, Ricky Landers

Story Continues In: Essential Moon Knight Vol. 2

Overview: Introduced as the latest villain-of-the-month, mercenary Marc Spector has been hired to bring in Jack Russell, a.k.a. the Werewolf By Night. Given an armor covered in silver (the one element that’s deadly to werewolves) and armed with throwing crescents and other weapons, the Moon Knight works to bring in his prey to the Committee. From this humble beginnings, a new modern Marvel hero was born.

Following his initial appearance, Moon Knight made some scattered appearances in other titles before finally earning a regular backup feature in The Hulk magazine. With the ongoing story, writer Doug Moench was able to start fleshing out the character’s origin, tying it in with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, as well as creating a supporting cast around Moon Knight.

As we learn more about Marc Spector, we find out that he has multiple personalities. Initially, the various identities seem to just be costumes that Moon Knight uses to solve his missions. As the stories develop more, we see that these various personalities (mercenary Marc Spector, millionaire Steven Grant, cab driver Jake Lockley) all seem to struggle for control of the body along with Moon Knight.

In response to his ever-growing popularity, Moon Knight finally graduates to his own ongoing title in 1980. The longer format allows for more detailed stories, as we get the all-new revised origin for Moon Knight. These issues also showcase the development of artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s art, as he progresses to the look that he would most be known for in the future.

What makes this Essential?: For years, I have resisted diving into the Moon Knight universe. My only interaction with the character was his brief stint with the West Coast Avengers. Add in that much of the series was as a direct market title, which made it unavailable on the spinner racks at convenience stores.

So reading this collection was truly a proper introduction to the character. I was fascinated to see the character, first introduced as a foe for the Jack Russell werewolf, go through a transformation to become a hero. Rather than just being a hired hand wearing a fancy suit, we find out in the main series that Marc Spector was “destined” to become Moon Knight by the Khonshu.

I’m going to keep moving forward with the Moon Knight volumes to see where this story goes and to marvel over the Sienkiewicz artwork.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #32 and #33 were also reprinted in Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #22 and #23 were also reprinted in Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #52 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 2.

The Hulk & Moon Knight stories from Hulk! #15 are also reprinted in Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the current ongoing Moon Knight series from Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood. The two creators really “get” the Moon Knight concept, and the output is pure comic goodness. Lemire’s initial story arc plays with the multiple identities of the man wearing the Moon Knight costume, placing Marc Spector in an insane ward. But the patients around him is his familiar group of friends in Frenchie, Marlene, Bertrand and Gena. Greg’s art has gone up a level or two with this book. He is presenting creative layouts, where the design of the panels contributes to the story. His art feels like an extension of the legendary work that Bill Sienkiewicz crafted on the original run of the Moon Knight title. The first story arc just completed, and a trade paperback of it will be released in December.