Moon Knight #35-38
Issue(s): Moon Knight #35, Moon Knight #36, Moon Knight #37, Moon Knight #38
Kavanagh is picking up on a plot that Howard Mackie introduced at the end of the issues that he was finishing as J.M. DeMatteis was leaving (and for your scorecard, we've also had a Chuck Dixon issue since then), bringing back Moon Knight's brother. Way back in the days when Moon Knight had back-up stories in Hulk Magazine, Moon Knight fought a serial killer that turned out to be his brother Randall. He was just a one-off villain at the time, and he died at the end of the story. I can understand that the sibling connection might be appealing, something a writer would want to look at again, but you'd think that after more than a decade it might have been best to just leave that alone.
Randall has been lurking in the bushes for a couple of issues now, but at the beginning of this arc he blows up a portion of Marc Spector's mansion. Marc and Marlene Alraune aren't in the building when it explodes, but Marc enters the resulting fire as Moon Knight to make sure that Frenchie isn't caught inside. While he's investigating, he tries out his "new multi-purpose adamantium truncheon". And in fact we'll see that Moon Knight has a whole array of equipment, a lot of it adamantium based. This is of course the continued un-specializing of adamantium, but in a certain sense it's only fair. If random new characters like Speedfreak get to have adamantium, existing characters should be allowed to upgrade as well. I say we just hand it out to everyone.
While searching for Frenchie, Moon Knight notices that the head of his Khonshu statue has been removed.
Meanwhile, Marlene encounters Randall, who is again wearing his serial killer outfit. The bad news for Randall is that Marlene is a bit of a badass, and in fact she attributes her development into a badass to her early encounter with him.
Moon Knight takes a break from looking for Frenchie to make sure that all his Moon Knight equipment will be hidden when the fire squad arrives. Eventually he does find Frenchie, and uses more new adamantium toys to rescue him.
Sure, put the adamantium into stuff that you will literally throw away. It's as common as aluminum, so that shouldn't be a problem.
Moon Knight comes out of the building to find that Marlene, despite her awesome jump kick, has been knocked out (or otherwise injured in some non specified way). He understandably assumes that someone is impersonating his dead brother.
Meanwhile, this is happening.
If a woman leading a Khonshu cult seems familiar, you may be thinking of the one from Moon Knight #25. I made fun of her costume, but at least she wasn't lounging mostly naked while stroking the pussy in her lap. This one is called Princess Nepthys, and Randall is working with her.
And in case this all isn't causing new readers to flock to the title, this story also happens to feature a Punisher guest appearance. In what i think is i nice little bit of cross-title continuity, Punisher is tracking an AIM weapons shipment that we previously saw him scoping out in Darkhawk's comic. The trail has led him to this new cult of Khonshu. So both Moon Knight and the Punisher wind up at the Khonshu cult. The problem is that Moon Knight doesn't want Punisher killing his brother. So they wind up fighting each other instead of the bad guys.
The conflict is set aside when Moon Knight shows Punisher the weapons he's been chasing.
They then call a truce and go after Nepthys and Randall again.
Nepthys explains that the goal here is to transfer Moon Knight's powers to Randall.
It's later explained in more detail. Randall, also happened to be a mercenary and who also happened to be in Egypt at the same time that Marc Spector became Moon Knight. Nepthys claims that Randall was actually destined to be empowered by Khonshu the way Spector was, but Spector unknowingly got to the tomb first. There is also apparently a myth that there were two Khonshus that fought each other for power, so Nepthys sees that as a sign that Randall should take Moon Knight's power.
The short version is that Randall is now Shadowknight.
Punisher blasts him with an AIM gun, but it turns out that Shadowknight is all super-powered now.
More powerful than Moon Knight, in fact. He's got impenetrable skin.
But i did mention that Moon Knight was upgraded with adamantium.
For a little while, it seemed like Princess Nepthys was genuinely working for Shadowknight, like she was a true believer herself, but it turns out that she's just using him and the cult.
Punisher blasts her with an AIM energy weapon. He's not shooting to kill thanks to his truce with Moon Knight.
From a scroll that Nepthys had, Moon Knight learns that the myth of the two Khonshu's is somewhat accurate, but he's more interested to learn that Khonshu is really a god of justice, not vengeance. This dovetails with something that's been going on in the book for a while, where Moon Knight has been trying to find the right balance of violence for his vigilantism.
For some reason the coloring error on Punisher's hair on this page strikes me as very funny. I don't know why.
Anyway, for the final issue, Randall has reverted to his serial killer persona, and you can see that he's been very, er, productive.
You can see that Randall's skin is all cracked.
The Punisher, apparently after watching the Terminator movies too many times, rescues the current victim.
Six weeks have actually passed between the defeat of Princess Nepthys and Randall's escape. In the meantime, Moon Knight has set up a headquarters for himself, with a "shadow cabinet". He's using it now to try to track Randall.
We also learn that due to the explosion in the mansion, Frenchie will never walk again.
(That may be why the Chuck Dixon story was inserted between the build-up of the return of Randall and the actual story, since that issue had Frenchie going one on one against Killer Shrike.)
Moon Knight figures out that Randall's attacks are building up to a renewed assault on Marlene, so he heads to the hospital where she's being held. He is all tricked out in new gear. (Based on the next story, it seems the armor isn't adamantium, at least.)
And wrist blasters that shoot his crescent darts.
Randall has definitely left a body count in his wake.
Punisher shows up again to "help".
Frenchie winds up getting tossed out a window, and while Moon Knight is rescuing him, Punisher blows Randall away, and his body shatters when he hits the pavement.
There's actually something going on with the morgue doctors.
Marlene makes a recovery, but it's said that she's going to stay away for a while (again).
I joked about Terry Kavanagh becoming the latest writer of this series, based on a lot of pretty bad things that he'd written just prior to this. And i don't think this story is great, but it's average, not terrible. Well, i question the judgement of a lot of things, like bringing back a long dead brother and the over use of adamantium and the new status quo generally (we'll also see this new status quo getting increasingly weird, but i'm focusing on what we see so far). But in terms of execution, it's not the hot mess that Kavanagh's Cloak and Dagger run or Spider-Man fill-ins were. Kavanagh has obviously also done research, both in terms of comics continuity (see References) and in real life (i assume the ideas about the two Khonshus and the nature of the god are based on Kavanagh looking into Egyptian mythology). And he's given thought about where he wants to take the series. I can see sidelining Frenchie, who should be a supporting character, not a partner. And Marc Spector using his wealth to build himself up a nice network is interesting; the shadow cabinet, as i understand it, is an innovative way to show that a rich character has resources beyond the ability to build gadgets for himself. All that said, the changes here feel more like the sort of flailing that happens when a book is in trouble instead of a sign of a bold new beginning. The problem, at least from my perspective, is that Moon Knight just isn't that interesting.
While Moon Knight and Punisher have teamed up more times than i can count, it seems that part of the impetus for it this time is new editor Joey Cavalieri, who has come over from DC. In talking with Marvel's marketing people, Cavalieri says that he's learned that the problem with Moon Knight is that "There's a perception on the part of the audience (marketing guys talk this way) that Moon Knight isn't as firmly planted as it could be within the Marvel universe". A look through this current Moon Knight series shows that that really wasn't the case. In addition to Punisher, we've had appearances by Black Cat, Brother Voodoo, Spider-Man, Silver Sable's Wild Pack (including Paladin and Sandman), and Ghost Rider. We had the Acts of Vengeance crossover, and villains like Hobgoblin and the Secret Empire. And Moon Knight has also appeared in other books, most notably in the Round Robin Spider-Man story which basically concluded a Moon Knight plotline. So Moon Knight seems much more firmly planted in the Marvel universe than ever, especially compared to his two previous runs. I wonder if the long J.M. DeMatteis Scarlet Redemption story had a lot to do with that perception, since that story did really isolate Moon Knight for a while. In any event, in addition to the Punisher appearance, Cavalieri's idea is to have Dr. Doom be the villain for the next arc ("a guest appearance by a guy who practically symbolizes Marvel Comics all by himself").
As i said, though, i think the problem is just that Moon Knight isn't very interesting. You could super-glue him to Spider-Man and i think people would still say, "Yeah, he's just not that important to the Marvel universe". Having Moon Knight deal with Dr. Doom just feels like an affront to Doom than a way to validate Moon Knight's importance in the Marvel universe. But more on that next arc.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 94,651. Single issue closest to filing date = 58,910.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Six weeks pass between parts 1-3 and part 4 of this issue, and the MCP actually place another unrelated Punisher appearance in between. I'm going to keep the parts together.
We'll see Moon Knight's Shadow Cabinet defined better in the next arc. One character here is named Sigmund, who will be a recurring character. The other characters that we see in this story don't seem to match up with the recurring cabinet members going forward.
Dr. Doom is really appearing as a hologram at the end of this story, and the MCP only count it as a behind-the-scenes appearance, but i'm tagging him. At the beginning of next issue it'll be said that Dr. Doom has been waiting for "two hours", although when we first see Moon Knight it seems like more than two hours has passed (unless Moon Knight immediately goes from an ordeal like this to testing out new equipment; you'd think the guy would at least take a nap).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showDr. Doom, Frenchie, Marlene Alraune, Microchip, Moon Knight, Psycho, Punisher, Shadowknight, Sheriff, Sigmund
Despite those anemic numbers, this book goes on for another two years. It really took a lot for Marvel to cancel anything back then. I remember the book started getting more attention for a minute when Stephen Platt started drawing it but I don't know how much that translated to increased sales.
Posted by: Robert | February 9, 2016 1:20 PM
You're right, fnord. Moon Knight is an uninteresting character. In the 1990s I didn't get the appeal, and I still don't. By the way, I just realized you might get to the Clone Saga this year. Ready for that?
Posted by: Matt Posner | February 9, 2016 8:27 PM
I admit to liking Moon Knight for more than I should because I think his potential is up there. He has good pulp roots, and the essential core of his revised origin is awesome.
However, I gave up on MK with this. Kavanaugh was just awful, and after reading Moon Knight had adamantium weapons, I remember throwing down the book. "Adamantium" was a hot property for its time, but it has no place in Moon Knight. His weapons don't need it, and it's not explained how he got any of it. It's just lazy writing.
The quality of the Marvel Comics at this time was just heading downhill. If I remember correctly, Liefeld had come out with Youngblood, but Image Comics hadn't come out yet. But Valiant Comics were being produced, and I think most of my dwindling number of monthly comics was now going to that.
Posted by: Chris | February 9, 2016 9:03 PM
@Matt - not in the slightest. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | February 9, 2016 9:46 PM
Moon Knight has always suffered from a lack of focus. I'm sure you should be able to get good stories out of
A) A superhero who is haunted by his mercenary past
But Moon Knight fluctuates wildly between all four, leaving all underdeveloped.
Posted by: Berend | February 9, 2016 9:54 PM
I'm more excited for Fnord tackling Maximum Carnage than Clone Saga down the road.
Posted by: david banes | February 9, 2016 10:35 PM
Ron Garney's art is good on its own but those Palmer inks really elevate it to great. I'm particularly fond of that Doctor Doom entrance, he looks properly imposing. Even if Doom doesn't belong in MK, I hope these guys draw the next arc, looking forward to those scans.
Posted by: PeterA | February 10, 2016 2:07 AM
This is coming from someone who still owns every issue of X-Man, someone who began seriously collecting comics with the Kavanagh/Davis X-Men run and someone whose first comic ever was Web of Spider-Man #125...
I would like to offer up Terry Kavanagh as a candidate for "Worst Writer in Comics".
Posted by: AF | February 10, 2016 4:23 AM
And anyone worried about my well being for owning every issue of X-Man... what can I say, I fancy Nate. Total guilty pleasure. Awful writer attached but sexy character is sexy.
Posted by: AF | February 10, 2016 4:27 AM
'I would like to offer up Terry Kavanagh as a candidate for "Worst Writer in Comics".'
I'd happily put him on the shortlist for his Starjammers story alone.
Posted by: Oliver_C | February 10, 2016 5:46 AM
@AF: Oh damn, you ain't kidding. When I was growing up, I loved Nate. I spent far too much time re-reaading that issue where he showers with the Fantastic Four. I honestly think he helped me realize I was bi.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 10, 2016 5:57 AM
@PeterA, prepare to be at least half disappointed.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 10, 2016 7:16 AM
Remember, Terry Kavanagh was responsible for BOTH the Clone Saga and the Crossing. As Reverend Meteor on comicboard put it put it "Criminal charges should be filed!"
Posted by: Michael | February 10, 2016 7:54 AM
Since Nephthys' boob cones appear to have stubbly nipples in her first panel, I'm guessing Garney drew her completely naked and just added the accessories later.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 12, 2016 5:04 PM
Even though Marc's not used his various identities in a while, it seems a bit wrong to have Marc Spector and "Spectorcorp" when one of his past identities was millionaire entrepreneur Steven Grant...
Posted by: AF | April 23, 2016 4:08 PM
Comments are now closed.
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