There’s a new dawn coming for Marvel’s Moon Knight this March. That might be mixing terms, but the Fist of Khonshu has always been a bit mixed up himself. But in the new series Moon Knight written by Warren Ellis, the titular hero has seemingly sorted out some of his earlier issues and is back in New York City in investigate the most exotic and unusual crimes in comics history.
“Moon Knight’s been away, and he's since discovered something new about himself which has re-evaluated the approach to the character,” series artist Declan Shalvey tells Newsarama. “As a result we're seeing a very different Moon Knight than we've seen before.”
In this new Moon Knight series, the well-off white-clad vigilante will be peeling back the curtain on weird crimes happening in the multi-faceted world of the Marvel Universe. Marvel Senior Editor Stephen Wacker, who oversees Moon Knight, describes the upcoming ongoing as “tight, sophisticated New York action yarns about a twisted guy stumbling into doing the right thing.”
The first issue’s story, titled “Slasher,” sees the one-time Avenger investigating a string of bodies found hacked up in downtown New York.
“Then things get weird,” Shalvey both warns and promises.
Weird would also be a word to describe Moon Knight’s complicated back-story and pathology. In an interviewwith The Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex, Ellis says that Marc Spector’s received medical treatment for his mental health issues that have been a focus of the character’s last series. The English writer says he’s also worked to streamline the character’s sometimes-convoluted relationship with the Egyptian god Khonshu who gave him a second life.
“I’ve tried to clean that up and bring more logic to it — as much logic as you can bring to a Marvel book involving someone brought back from the dead by an Egyptian god,” Ellis told Hero Complex’s Blake Hennon.
One thing that has been lost to the sands of time is Moon Knight’s traditional superhero outfit. In the previews released last month, it showcased a new look for Moon Knight – one with a three-piece suit with a mask. Shalvey says that this will be the predominant look for Moon Knight in the series, and actually first appeared in Warren Ellis’ brief run on Secret Avengers in an issue illustrated by Michael Lark.
The look was already established; I just fine-tuned it somewhat. Tailored the suit somewhat,” Shalvey explains. “You'll probably notice I've incorporated the crescent moon motif where appropriate; it's in the interior design of his limo, it's in the buttons of his suit, etc. Saying that, I've done some other design work, but you'll have to follow the series to see what I'm talking about....”
Ellis and Shalvey are following in a long pantheon of comics creators who have worked on earlier Moon Knight series, and this rarefied list of talent is something that’s weighed and inspired Shalvey for this new 2014 relaunch.
“Yeah, no pressure there, huh?” Shalvey says. “A lot of the artists on previous Moon Knight stories are some of my favorite artists, so I've already studied a lot of them. You can never go wrong with Bill Sienkiewicz, of course. I've also looked a lot at Alex Maleev's run on the series; I think he did some gorgeous work on Moon Knight and played with design a lot; something I'm very much trying to do. I quite like Tommy Lee Edwards' Moon Knight mini-series from back in the 90s too. I recently tracked down all those issues and they're great. What helps me is that we have a very different look for Moon Knight in this series, so it's stopped me from becoming too influenced on what's come before. Saying that, I've looked a lot of it up and am trying to use it all to help form my take on the character. It's certainly helped reinforce some ideas I've had on how the book should look.”
Shalvey’s influences for his work on Moon Knight go far beyond comics, however. The Irish comics artist says filmmakers such as Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick have heavily influenced his own storytelling sensibilities for this series.
“I've been trying to incorporate these elements into my storytelling more and Warren's scripts have given me plenty of opportunity to do so,” Shalvey reveals. “Since I've decided to use greywash techniques on this series, I've also been looking at how some other artists have been using that technique. Gabriel Hernandez Walta, J.H. Williams III and Duncan Fegredo have been using washes of late, and I've been trying to figure out the best way the technique works for me. I definitely think I've worked out my approach, and anyone who has seen the pages seems to genuinely like them.”
Although Shalvey’s been a familiar name on the comics shelve sin recent years with work on Thunderbolts, Dark Avengers and Deadpool, this new Moon Knight series is the first time he’s been in charge of establishing the visual identity of a book. And it’s not something he’s taking lightly.
“I've generally been the guy who follows acclaimed runs on books, never the guy who gets to establish them,” the artist points out. “Now that I finally have that opportunity I want to take full advantage and try to create a distinct visual identity to the series. I've been wanting to do a signature piece of work at Marvel for quite a while now, and I'm very happy to finally have that opportunity, and with the creative team involved...? I'm clearly spoiled.”
The creative team of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire isn’t a team-up that comes around every day. Since 2011, Ellis has shifted most of his attention to prose fiction, doing only the occasional comics project. Series editor Stephen Wacker says this team fell into place after years of approaching Ellis for a project.
“About once a year I ask Warren to do a project...and he always turns me down. It's sort of a running joke at this point,” Wacker admits. “But this time I dropped him an e-mail and he inexplicably said yes. It was as easy as that. I was pretty gobsmacked and assume he just thought I was somebody else.”
According to Wacker, Shalvey and Bellaire were “the first and only” name brought up to work on Moon Knight with Ellis. Bellaire has come into popularity with a string of standout coloring work on books such as Pretty Deadly, The Manhattan Projects and Captain Marvel, and has worked with Shalvey on Deadpool and in some recent covers.
“I'm incredibly excited to see what Jordie does on the book,” says Shalvey. “She did some amazing work on our recent Deadpool arc, but I've decided to do something different with Moon Knight, so I can't wait to see what she brings to these pages (I think it's safe to assume she'll make them look amazing). In a short space of time I think Jordie's become one of the best colorists in the industry and I'm delighted to have her on this series.”
When asked about her plans for coloring Moon Knight, Bellaire describes her intent as it being her “David Fincher piece,” evoking the blues, oranges and subtle greens of movies such as Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac. The color artist notes that Moon Knight will be kept a solid white “against these lush backgrounds,” emphasizing the contrasts between the hero and the world around him.
Bellaire, who shares a studio with Shalvey, describes the process of creating Moon Knight as extremely collaborative. The colorist specifically points to the covers, which will be simplistic, monochromatic and “feel a lot like old crime covers.”
“We're all excited because we're all in the same groove--we're all into the same beats. So tonally I think we just wanted to be sure we're all the same page,” the color artist explains. “This should be dark and urban, a real crime story.”
“Come March,” Shalvey adds,” I hope that Moon Knight will be one of the best looking books on the stands. At the very least, I hope it stands out as being a book with a bold visual identity.”