Good (K)night Moon? Benson talks "Moon Knight"

Marc Spector signed the Marvel Universe's Superhero Registration Act so he could continue crippling and maiming criminals without government interference. Unfortunately for the costumed hero known as Moon Knight, Khonshu had other plans.

Khonshu claims to be the Egyptian God of Vengeance and that Moon Knight is his Avatar, and must therefore do Khonshu's bidding. It's still uncertain whether or not Khonshu is indeed a god or a figment of Spector's deluded imagination, but Khonshu's plans called for his newly registered avatar to go big and show the public why he should be feared. This lead Moon Knight's increasingly brutal activities to come under intense scrutiny by the media and heroes like Tony Stark, and in June's "Moon Knight" #19, the hero did the unthinkable. In order to prevent the Black Spectre from using stolen technology to harm a crowd of innocents, Moon Knight threw the villain off a roof on live television. The action will have grave consequences for Marc Spector in August's "Moon Knight" #21, which kicks of the six-part arc "The Death of Marc Spector," but not before a special issue #20, on sale this week. CBR News spoke with "Moon Knight" writer Mike Benson about the forthcoming storyline.

"Moon Knight" #20 unfolds just days after Moon Knight's execution of the Black Spectre, and finds the hero a fugitive from the law. Additionally, flashback sequences chronicle an encounter between Moon Knight and the Marvel Universe's most famous werewolf, Jack Russell. "Issue #20 really shows Marc's current condition, both mentally and physically," Benson told CBR News. "Moon Knight is running on fumes and as a result flashes back to a story involving Jack Russell. Even though part of the issue takes place in the past, it's an untold story and I think a very cool one at that."

"Moon Knight" #20 is also special in that it features the art of celebrated "Thunderbolts" penciller and new "Wolverine: Origins" artist Mike Deodato. "Mike Deodato is one of my favorite artists. The guy is insanely talented and 'The Thunderbolts' is one of my top three favorite titles right now," Benson said. "When [co-plotter] Charlie [Huston] and I learned Mike was going to be doing an issue we were giddy. I mean just look at his pages. Jack Russell is a legitimate force to be reckoned with. And I love the way Moon Knight looks with his long flowing cape. Mike and I have been corresponding through emails and he's a class act. I'd love to work with him again."

Regular "Moon Knight" artist Mark Texeira returns for August's issue #21, but he'll be bringing to life only Mike Benson's scripts and plots, as issue #20 marks Charlie Huston's last issue as Benson's co-plotter. "Charlie is out for now but I wouldn't say forever," Benson said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he came back, at the very least for an arc in the future. We had a good working relationship and got to be buds. And through our collaboration I got my sea legs. So moving forward, I feel very confident about the direction I'm taking the character in. Not to mention, I work very closely with [editor] Axel Alonso, so it's all good."

The direction Benson appears to be taking "Moon Knight" in is away from Khonshu. Moon Knight had no compunctions about seriously harming criminals, but he did have a strong code against killing them. But at the end of issue #19, when Khonshu stepped forward to praise his avatar for the killing of Black Spectre, Moon Knight told the "god" their relationship was over. "I try and look at Spector's relationship with Khonshu like that of a married couple. Sometimes it's good, other times it's not," Benson said. "They've had such a cantankerous relationship that they needed a little distance."

In the past, Spector has referred to his Moon Knight costume as priestly vestments that he wore in his role as Khonshu's avatar. In upcoming issues, Benson will show just what Spector's break with Khonshu means for his identity as Moon Knight. "Marc is going to have to take a good look at himself in the mirror and reach the conclusion of who is he without Khonshu," Benson said. "And who needs who more. You'll have to wait and see where he comes out at."

In the just wrapped "God and Country" storyline, Initiative head Tony Stark did his best to reign in Moon Knight. But Moon Knight's execution of the Black Spectre means his registration card has been suspended and he's now a fugitive hero, which puts Moon Knight's apprehension under the jurisdiction of Norman Osborn and his Thunderbolts. "The Death of Marc Spector" storyline kicks off in "Moon Knight" #21 with Osborn's team unleashed upon Spector. "Stark does not want to see Norman Osborn getting to MK first. He thinks of the Thunderbolts as a bunch of psychopaths and remember, he knows that the Black Spectre some how got his hands on some old Stark technology," Benson explained. "Stark can't look the other way considering how BS was killed on TV, but at the same time he feels the Thunderbolts is overkill -- a threat to the fugitive and the public."

The Thunderbolts ranks include not only Norman Osborn, but also Venom, Songbird, Swordsmen, Radioactive Man, Moonstone, Penance, and Bullseye. This may seem like overwhelming odds for the beleaguered Moon Knight, but readers shouldn't automatically count Marc Spector out. "I think everyone underestimates Moon Knight," Benson remarked. "I mean, he just took an old Rockford-style beating from the Black Spectre, how could he possibly go head to head with the Thunderbolts, right? Sometimes being the underdog is enough. I think Moon Knight might surprise a few people in how he handles himself."

Playing cat-and-mouse with dangerous psychos like the Thunderbolts means Moon Knight is going to find out who his friends really are. "We will get to see his supporting cast really put through the test and see who will rise to the occasion and who will not," Benson said. "Everyone is either going to need to step up or not and show their true colors. Brining in the Thunderbolts puts MK in much higher risk and those around him. Not everyone is going to welcome that and someone is going to get hurt pretty bad."

With the Thunderbolts chasing the title character, "Moon Knight" has moved from the dark fringes to the deep end of the Marvel U, where the book will remain for the immediate future. "We would very much like to give MK the ability to pop in and out of the mainstream Marvel Universe, but still be able to fight the more fringe villains," Benson said. "We have a lot of good stuff planned ahead."

Fans don't need to worry about Moon Knight's increased profile in the Marvel Universe changing the ongoing title. The tone of "The Death of Marc Spector" will be just as dark as previous arcs -- if not more so. "Tone is really important to me. I love the dark, gritty, urban feel of the book and don't really want to tinker with that too much," Benson said. "I'd much rather focus on small hairy little moments than the huge blockbuster ones. That said, when the Thunderbolts come into the scene, it opens up the playing field by their very involvement. So what I've tried to do is not shy away from those bigger moments but still have the smaller eerie scenarios too."

While Benson obviously cannot confirm whether or not "The Death of Marc Spector" would end with the character's literal death, he could reveal the six-part arc will have significant ramifications for the comic. "It's not a gimmick," he said. "Something really does happen that changes the dynamic a little, but that's all I can say about this right now."

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