Essential #MoonKnight Vol. 1: So 70’s it Hurts

We’re about 19 days from the release of Disney and Marvel’s Moon Knight live action TV show, and I’ve been on a bit of a comics binge trying to get ready for the premier. After watching the initial Moon Knight trailer in February, I was pretty much the living embodiment of that heart-eyes emoji for several reasons, the least of which being that it just looks awesome, and the most of which being that I’m pretty much obsessed with anything even remotely relating to Ancient Egypt.

Since seeing that first glimpse, I’ve written about nine Ancient Egyptian things I hope we see in the show, and was intrigued but confused by Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight Vol. 1: Lunatic.

On the day I’m writing this, a new Moon Knight featurette trailer dropped and we got a couple more awesome looking movie posters of Moon Knight, Mr. Knight, and Steven Grant. I got chills during the featurette when Ethan Hawke says “Every aspect of this show has a duality”, not only for it’s implications for the main character, but because duality was a central part of Ancient Egyptian epistemology and worldview. Hopefully that’s a clue that they’re considering at least one thing from my list!

Anyway, I’ve digressed. This post is a review of Essential Moon Knight Volume 1, not a gush about the newest Marvel trailer (although it is a bit that too).

Essentially, this book is exactly what I should have read before jumping into Lunatic (mentioned above). It gives the reader a ‘greatest hits’ of Moon Knight comics, starting with the character’s first appearance in Werewolf-By-Night back in 1975, and moving up through MK’s own premiere run starting in November of 1980 (the last of this run we see in this book is #10 Too Many Midnights in August of 1981).

I suppose there are two ways to review this book (speaking of duality), one being to review its merits as a “greatest hits” type publication, and the other, to review the stories within.

As a Greatest Hits?

Since I don’t have much history with this character, I can’t really review its merits as an encapsulation of Moon Knight the comic since I’m not sure which issues I would have included as I’ve only read the few displayed here. I’ll say that I was sad that each of the issues were in black-and-white. It made the lettering hard to read in many places and some of the artwork was pretty difficult to make out with only two colors.

The second bummer was that without any kind of forward, or afterword, there was no context for these issues, historically or culturally (within Marvel comics history, and the larger world). One issue of Hulk magazine, printed just before Moon Knight was about to get his own run, had a letter from Ralph Macchio about his work on issues featuring MK up to that point. Even though it was a wall of nearly unreadable text (and this was a comic book after all), I found myself wishing this kind of commentary had been sprinkled throughout.

But this book did what it said it would do, and gave the reader 26 Moon Knight comics to read and enjoy and so I can’t really knock it too much.

And the Stories Themselves?

In all honesty, they were not the droids I was looking for, and I think I would not have read them had I not been so intrigued by the upcoming show. Very little of what I had seen in the trailers, and limited Wikipedia pages I’ve read (trying to avoid spoilers) seemed apparent at first in the comics shown here.

For instance, Moon Knight’s “origin story” in Werewolf-By-Night is to be given a suitcase containing his iconic costume by a committee of nefarious financiers and told to hunt a werewolf (who’s name is Jack Russell lol). It isn’t until the 1980 Moon Knight issue #1 that we even get the connection to Khonshu (based off the Ancient Egyptian god Khonsu) and when it does arrive, it is relatively shallow and maybe a bit appropriative. Up until that point, MK’s moon powers were thought to stem from a werewolf bite he supposedly sustained during his first appearance (which I totally missed). Seeing them finagle the Khonshu storyline in later on but keep the werewolf fight and several other pieces of MK’s past was interesting in its own right.

The other issues read more like a spy story (thank you 70’s) with the MC being a caped crusader instead of a tuxedoed agent (although MK’s alt Steven Grant wears plenty of tuxedos throughout). They’re focused on mystery and intrigue, cool gadgets (a glider cape, cowl mic and a truncheon that, when doubling as “nunchaku”, a grappling hook, and billy-club, seems to have as many personas as the Moon Knight), and exotic looking vehicles (crescent moon shaped helicopter?).

And lastly, the always beautiful Marlene, who never seems to be wearing much, and always puts up with the MC’s shit no matter how rude or self-centered it comes off (the MC’s alt Jake Lockley in particular seems to have it out for her).

Now I think it is important to point out that 47 years have passed since the first iteration of this character (woah) and so clearly a lot has changed since then. It will be interesting to see which changes the show will make (one big one already is Steven Grant being a low level museum employee, and not a millionaire), and which elements (particularly the villains) they’ll keep.

Some things I hope they do keep are Moon Knight’s supporting cast. Crawley and Gena in particular were always a welcome presence. And obviously any crossovers with other MCU characters will also be a delight. In this volume MK and SPIDERMAN!! face off against each other, and then team up to take on Cyclone. I would LOVE to see that team up sometime in the future.

Read this one then?

If you’re interested in the history of Moon Knight in general and don’t mind some outdated cultural mores then I would say go for it. Despite the seemingly negative review I’ve given, I actually did enjoy getting to know the infancy (and growing pains) of this character. It certainly has expanded my horizons.

I don’t think that I’ll be able to procure Volume 2 before the show premieres on Disney Plus, but I will probably still give it a shot as I’m curious how the Moon Knight I’ve seen in this volume progressed to the Moon Knight we’ll be watching on March 30th.

Has anyone else read this book? What are your thoughts? Any Moon Knight fans out there who’ve been with the comic this long? What are you most excited for in the new show?

Leave your answers in the comments, and I’ll see you all next time!

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