Moon Knight #26-31
Issue(s): Moon Knight #26, Moon Knight #27, Moon Knight #28, Moon Knight #29, Moon Knight #30, Moon Knight #31
The Avatar Meher Baba quote that kicks off the story is:
Saints are God's assets and sinners His liabilities. God, the infinite source of wisdom and patience, goes on eternally turning His assets into His liabilities.
Hilariously, that quote is bungled, as is indicated in the lettercol for issue #28. God's patience of course turns his liabilities into his assets, not vice versa. DeMatteis offers his "deepest apologies to Avatar Meher Baba and His mandali for misrepresenting the words of India's great spiritual leader". I mention all of this not just because the mix-up is funny but because this is the sort of thing we're dealing with; the kind of themes DeMatteis wants to explore. Normally i just skip over quotes at the beginning of issues, but the apology called my attention to it. It also turns out that the villain of the story has an interest in poetry. And the religious symbolism in the book is unavoidable. This is all in stark contrast to Chuck Dixon's simple but fun action stories (often team-ups) preceding this run. Sales on Moon Knight were not super-awful (a little under 100,000 in the last Statement of Ownership), so the sudden change in direction is surprising and must have given subscribers whiplash.
It's also notable that DeMatteis hits the reset button on the series in a big way. Gena Landers, last seen having left New York to manage her brother's restaurant in Texas, is now re-established at her old diner with a brush-off line explaining that New York never lets you go. And Betrand Crawley is back, making his first appearance since the original Moon Knight series. It makes me wonder if this is something DeMatteis plotted some time ago. The villain of the series, Stained Glass Scarlet, is also from Moon Knight's original series (Moon Knight #14, which i don't have). DeMatteis also starts playing up Moon Knight's relationship to the Egyptian god Khonshu, something that has been explicitly de-emphasized with the current series prior to this. On top of that, Bill Sienkiewicz is doing covers for the book and Ron Garney's interior art brings to mind Sienkiewicz's early Neal Adams-ish work on the character.
Plotwise, Scarlet attacks Crawley and busts in on Gena's diner, destroying it. Scarlet then sits around in a church waiting for Moon Knight to come find her.
When they do have their confrontation, it goes like this.
And so it goes throughout the issues. They're in each others dreams, they're standing around sulking, they're having visions. The book is extremely over-narrated and i could bring myself to read less and less of it as the story went on.
Scarlet kidnaps Frenchie, and Moon Knight confronts her again, and this time she stabs him and he falls into the water. And drowns for an entire issue.
While he's drowning Moon Knight has a vision of his rabbi father.
I'm not sure (having not read all of Moon Knight's earlier issues) if it's a revelation that Moon Knight is Jewish. But Moon Knight has definitely been more defined as an avatar of Khonshu.
After an agonizing 20 some pages, Moon Knight is rescued by Marlene and Frenchie (who was let go almost immediately after being captured). But the agony doesn't end there. The next issue has Moon Knight laying in a hospital bed for most if it, with more dreams and visions and the like.
As i understand it, we learn that Scarlet was sexually abused as a child, and so she killed her father in a fire, and that's why she is the way she is. There's also talk of her having a son, who she also killed (this seems to come from her first appearance, but of course there is nothing like a footnote or a flashback or exposition from a non-crazy person).
After, of course, something about Native Americans...
...there's a final confrontation between Moon Knight and Scarlet. Who, by the way, somehow manages to have a cult of followers, despite literally never making any sense or doing anything that i can see that would attract people to come work with her. I guess they are all religious fanatics, but mainly they are faceless grunts.
In the end, Scarlet falls in the water and drowns (she will appear again in a Doug Moench written Moon Knight series in 1998, but since that is called the Resurrection War it still may be the case that she actually dies here).
The epilogue issue is a huge improvement over the rest of this. It shows Moon Knight, shaken by his experience, devoting himself to regular street level super-hero stuff. And doing it in a way that is essentially non-violent (as far as that is possible).
The idea is that in the drowning issue he actually died again, and Khonshu raised him from the dead again, and this time he's not supposed to be a "Fist of Khonshu" (which, by the way, was the title of the second series, again making me think that this whole story was intended for an earlier period) anymore. "It's not about vengeance, it's about something deeper. More... sacred".
It's a great bunch of scenes. If the epilogue followed one or two issues of the Scarlet style part of the story, instead of five, i'd be saying it was well worth it to set up the new philosophy for Moon Knight and the change of pace. But after five issues of surreal symbolism, i'm too burnt out to do more than feel relief.
I also feel like the appearance of the Hobgoblin at the end, with a promise of a team-up with Spider-Man, is Marvel's way of saying, "Ok, we know you're tired of all of this, it's time for some super-villains.".
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: A lot of time must pass during this story. Moon Knight takes time to recover after drowning, and the epilogue takes place a month after the end of the previous issue. For placement purposes i'm assuming the entire Marvel universe fell asleep while trying to read this story and so the whole thing can be grouped together with no concerns for other books. The Hobgoblin appears on the final page of this story; it's really a conceptual panel advertising next issue, but i'm including "him" (two character tags) as appearing in this story since he is just floating through the city, which could be happening at any time. Moon Knight refers to the events of this story in Infinity Gauntlet #3, so this must take place prior to that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBetrand Crawley, Chloe Tran, Demogoblin, Frenchie, Gena Landers, Jason Macendale, Marlene Alraune, Moon Knight, Stained Glass Scarlet
Yay Ron Garney!
Posted by: Robert | September 28, 2015 3:17 PM
fnord, I believe you haven't yet covered Moon Knight, first series, #s 14-28. I wonder if you're ever going to get around to those issues. You mention above that you don't have #14, which is indeed the first appearance of the leggy Scarlet Fasinera, and she does kill her son in the climax of that issue. It's actually, IMHO, a pretty darn good and worthwhile issue (unlike this stuff), with a strong Eisner/Spirit influence and an anti-gun theme including a little homage to John Lennon. And of course it has excellent artwork by Sienkiewicz.
Posted by: Instantiation | September 28, 2015 7:06 PM
One day i will do an M, M, & M backissue add filling in the Moon Knight, Micronauts, and Master of Kung Fu issues that are missing from this project and that will close out the biggest remaining gaps. But for now i want to focus on getting through the 90s, or at least the DeFalco era.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 28, 2015 7:27 PM
Moon Knight's father was shown to be a rabbi in Moon Knight 37. (Interestingly, Chuck Dixon thought this made no sense, since the Exodus was unquestionably real in the Marvel Universe as shown in the Sphinx's origin, so Spector's devotion to an Egyptian deity was odd.)
Posted by: Michael | September 28, 2015 7:55 PM
I ditched the title in real time after this crappy story.
Posted by: Grom | September 28, 2015 8:39 PM
1981's Moon Knight #14 was actually very much in stylistic harmony with Scarlet's reappearance here, particularly the direct confrontation between the two. It is almost like DeMatteis is channelling Doug Moench (or more likely, got advice from him) for that cemetery scene.
And yes, #14 was over-narrated. Very much so.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 28, 2015 9:08 PM
I was hoping with this arc that Moon Knight was going to be revitalized as a title. Dixon's run had some good stories, but he failed to connect with the most interesting aspects of Moon Knight's first run - the semi-occult angle, pulp concepts, and quasi-mysticism of the connection with Khonshu. Despite DeMatteis' indulgence of certain quirks, I thought he would make a good fit. But he was soon off the title, and then it descended into 90s madness.
Posted by: Chris | September 28, 2015 9:50 PM
Moon Knight's father was a rabbi from Czechoslovakia (with the extremely un-czech surname of Spector.)
Posted by: kveto | September 29, 2015 5:43 PM
There's a VERY annoying mistake on Page 18 of #26, Moon Knight refers to Crawley as "Lockley". The last thing you need in a story like this is mistakes like that...
Posted by: AF | March 5, 2016 3:48 PM
As explained in an interview between Doug Moench and Charlie Huston, here is how Moon Knight accidentally turned out to be Jewish...
MOENCH: Getting back to how much was accidental and incremental, the other thing is, I had a habit of naming characters in stories after friends, and it started spreading. And soon I had people coming to me saying, “When are you going to name a character after me?” So I used to go to Ed Summer’s comic shop, I think it was called Comic Snipe? Something Snipe. It was the best comic shop in Manhattan at the time. And one of the guys that worked there was Marc Spector.
HUSTON: Great name.
MOENCH: And he was saying, “When are you going to name a character after me?” So then I was trying to figure out this villain for “Werewolf by Night.” What am I going to call him? I’ll name him after Marc Spector. Then it turned out Marc Spector was Jewish. Ah, I guess this is a Jewish name. Well, I guess I just made up the first Jewish costumed hero. So maybe I should research some Judaism and stuff about the Mideast and Mossad and all this other stuff, and that’s where all that stuff came from.
HUSTON: Oh, wow.
MOENCH: It was all an accident. I didn’t say, “I’m going to sit down and create a Jewish character.”
The entire interview is online at http://comicfoundry.com/?p=1461
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 20, 2016 9:05 PM
Thanks Ben. I'd always assumed "Marc Spector" was a completely made up name as it ranks up there with Otto Octavius in terms of credulity. But Szpector is Yiddish for a rabbi's assistant or "inspector" (who had a favoured status collecting taxes for a government and were resented by other jews) .
(Although it is clearly Russian and not Czech. The "sz" consonant cluster does not exist in Czech)
learn something new every day.
Posted by: kveto | December 21, 2016 8:40 AM
Interesting information, Kveto. Maybe the father or grandfather of the real-life Marc Spector had the last name Szpector and it became Anglicized when he emigrated to America.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 21, 2016 1:21 PM
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