Three issues into “Moon Knight” and it feels fairly clear why Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey would be interested in a character who was a b-lister at best. With a character who’s been ignored at best and made into everything from a Batman-clone to a raving lunatic at worse, the slate is in many ways much easier to wipe clean and start over. And in “Moon Knight” #3, that process continues.
“Moon Knight” #3 pits our hero against a gang of punk ghosts raging across the city and assaulting people. It’s in many ways a low-level fight, but one that lets Ellis delve into Moon Knight’s abilities, his strange connection with the Egyptian godsphere, and in general the missing gaps in Moon Knight’s head. The idea that he’s done all sorts of things that he can’t or won’t remember is full of story possibilities, and I like the first glimpse of what might reside in that blank space.
The pacing in “Moon Knight” certainly isn’t quite like any other superhero book being published. Ellis’ beats and starting/stopping points remind me much more of his work on titles like “Fell,” where the closing scene comes to a halt about a page before most writers would choose. There’s no epilogue, no slow winding down. The final revelation hits and boom, that’s it, end of issue. It’s an interesting technique, but one that works well for the scrambled, mixed-up head of Moon Knight himself. Instead Ellis seems more interested in getting into the head of his title character, as well as helping paint a picture of the world around him. It’s nice, letting us see a little bit of the people and situations that Moon Knight plunges into.
Shalvey’s art along with Jordie Bellaire’s colors, though — wow. Just look at that opening page, with the top half an image of a snowy New York street. The fire escapes, the business signs, people walking through the slush, the gentle haze around the skyline in the night air. It’s gorgeous, even as it sets the scene perfectly. The rest of the page builds beautifully from that too; the narrowing focus on first a group of people, and then finally on the couple that encounters the ghost gang. As we zoom in on them and the coloring shifts from normal to a monochromatic green, you start to get the first hint that something’s not right. Bellaire’s color choices are perfect here, meshing well with Shalvey’s beautiful, delicate art. Just look at how the half of the couple in the glasses grins at his partner as the teasing commences; the affection just pours off of the page. And then, when we start getting to the meat of the issue with moments like Moon Knight’s Egyptian artifacts being used in action? Well now, that’s truly something else. The detail is intricate and expertly done — it almost reminds me of Geof Darrow’s work — and really puts you in the mindset that this is something special.
“Moon Knight” #3 is surprisingly enjoyable, even as it’s a reminder that there aren’t bad characters, just bad takes on characters. Ellis and Shalvey’s rendition of Moon Knight is different and gripping, and hopefully sales will reflect that uniqueness. For a character who hasn’t felt important ever since Bill Sienkiewicz stopped drawing him, I’m hooked. Nicely done.