He didn't know it at the time, but when Marc Spector - the Marvel Comics anti-hero known as Moon Knight -- threw his old foe the Black Spectre off a building in issue #19 of his self-titled series, the unhinged vigilante was setting off a chain reaction that might get him killed. First, the Black Spectre's very public execution ended any hope of Moon Knight salvaging his career as one of the Marvel U's registered heroes. Indeed, this action made him a target of law enforcement. Then, in the current arc, "The Death of Marc Spector," Moon Knight suddenly found himself hunted by the Thunderbolts, a team of ruthless ex-villains turned Federal Marshals who've been tasked with "apprehending" rogue heroes.
Marc Spector managed to humiliate the Thunderbolts in his first battle with them, but he barely survived the ordeal. In "Moon Knight" #24, in stores now, the hero hunters are back and out for blood. Can Moon Knight survive his second clash with the Thunderbolts, and where does the series go after an arc with an ominous title like "The Death of Marc Spector?" CBR News spoke with series writer Mike Benson to get some answers.
As Moon Knight, one of Spector's guiding principles has been faith in the fact that he's the avatar of Khonshu, the Egyptian God of Vengeance - however, it's still unclear whether it's Spector's fractured psyche that causes Khonshu to appear and urge his avatar to mete out bloody and brutal justice.
Recently, Khonshu's blood lust resulted in a falling out between god and avatar. When Moon Knight executed the Black Spectre, Khonshu was delighted and urged him to continue wracking up a body count in his name. But Marc Spector was horrified and ended his association with Khonshu; even going so far as to stop wearing his Moon Knight costume, an outfit he once referred to as Khonshu's priestly vestments. Spector's anger at Khonshu didn't last long, though. In last month's "Moon Knight" #23, after being badly wounded in his initial encounter with the Thunderbolts, Spector once again donned his Moon Knight costume and called on his god for help.
"Marc's been put through the ringer. He's running on fumes and is beginning to realize he won't be able to come out of this without any assistance," Mike Benson told CBR News. "When he calls upon Khonshu, he's clearly in an extremely vulnerable state. His world has collapsed around him and the one consistent thing he had was his God. It's like an addict, having a relapse. He just wants that quick fix, only he's not thinking about how much pain and anguish the drugs brought him."
Moon Knight hasn't been the only one enduing physical and emotional traumas. Spector's former friend and confidant, Jean-Paul "Frenchie" DuChamp, sought some vengeance of his own after his lover Rob was brutally beaten by a vicious street gang. "Frenchie and Rob have the most normal, healthy relationship among all the character's in Spector's universe," Benson said. "Only, once Marc stepped back into the picture everything was turned upside down for his old running buddy. Frenchie is struggling with so many different emotions. The least being a gay man. When Rob was hospitalized, Frenchie just lost it. The one joy in his life was taken from him and now he is once again left alone. When Moon Knight saved him, I think there were mixed emotions. I'm not sure Frenchie wanted to be saved at that point. But once he got a little clarity, I think he realized he couldn't run away from his past."
The targets of Frenchie's vengeance were a street thug named Finn and his gang The WHYOS, who've run afoul on Moon Knight before in a move reminiscent of a classic film. "One of my favorite cult movies is hands down; 'The Warriors.' I love everything about that film," Benson confessed. "I love the simple story line. The tone. The look. And even though the movie was shot in the late '70s it has this futuristic quality to it. I've always wanted Moon Knight's world to have those same qualities and so I created the WHYOS. And, yes, I have some plans for Finn. Stick around. More to come."
The WHYOS' assault on Frenchie's lover was more than an act of revenge; it was bait for a trap. In the opening pages of "Moon Knight" #23, Finn is seen cutting a deal with the Thunderbolts leader, Norman Osborn, and at the end of the issue, when Moon Knight chases Finn onto the top of the WHYOS headquarters, he finds Osborn's operatives waiting for him. This week's issue #24 picks up right from that moment.
Benson was especially eager to write the second round of the Moon Knight/Thunderbolts battle, because this time he gets to pit his protagonist against the Thunderbolts' most wily member, the psychotic killer known as Bullseye, one of the writer's all time favorite villains. "He's as crazy as they come and so is Spector, so the idea of them teeing off is just fantastic," Benson remarked. "These are two of the big loose canons in the Marvel Universe. And when I say big, I don't mean the strongest but the most out there. Is it about trying to 'out crazy' the other guy, or is it about fighting skill and abilities? In many ways they are evenly matched. Maybe Bullseye has a slight advantage but there is something to be said about being the underdog. You'll have to wait for this one.
"The whole time I was writing this arc I was carefully plotting out how I wanted that interaction to go down," Benson continued. "I'm really excited for the fans to check it out. I don't think they'll be disappointed. Well, I hope not."
It's still unclear whether Moon Knight's fight with Bullseye will indeed lead to the actual death of Mark Spector, but one thing is for certain: the ending of the storyline will have big repercussions for the series. "This is not a hoax," Benson stated. "It will have real impact on the Moon Knight character moving forward. Whoever that shall be."
"The Death of Marc Spector" concludes in December's "Moon Knight" #25. January kicks off a new arc titled "Down South," which sends Moon Knight -- whoever that may be -- to Mexico where he runs into The Punisher. "These are two guys who have some history. They're both loners and they both deliver a serious smack down. I think there is a mutual respect going on between the two of them. Well, as much respect as the two can muster up," Benson explained. "They don't team up as much as they find themselves together, with a common enemy. That's all I'll say about this for now."
Moon Knight and The Punisher's common enemy in "Down South" is a new character whose details Benson is holding close to the vest. "I really wish I could divulge more information but it's someone [editor] Axel Alonso and I are both extremely excited about and have spent a lot of time coming up with and designing with the artist," Benson reveaeled. "He's going to be someone that will have a great impact in this particular story and hopefully will be around for a long time to come."
"The Death of Marc Spector" features art by Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares, but for "Gone South," Benson will collaborate with new "Moon Knight" artist Jefte Paolo. "Jefte Paolo is such an amazing talent. The first time I actually saw his work was in Jason Aaron's 'Black Panther' run and I was blown away by how distinct and cool he made everyone look," Benson said. "I actually begged Axel to put him on the book and I got real lucky. Sometimes it's all about timing. I am so excited to be working with him."
The end of "The Death of Marc Spector" promises to rock the status quo of "Moon Knight" to the core, and the shake-ups will continue well into 2009, when the series ties into the upcoming Marvel Universe-wide **Dark Reign** event. "Yes, for the first time Moon Knight will be playing inside the Marvel sandbox. Not that he still won't be a fringe character but he'll get to interact with the big boys a lot more," Benson said. "It will be an opportunity for those comic fans who may not be all too familiar with the character to get a little taste."