Review by Karl Verhoven
This enormous hardback covers Moon-Knight’s every appearance between 1975 and 1982 in oversized full colour pages. Most of the material has previously been collected over the Epic Collections Bad Moon Rising and Shadows of the Moon, or Essential Moon Knight in black and white.
Moon Knight was created by Doug Moench when writing Werewolf by Night, who thought it’d be neat to have the Werewolf battle Batman. He wasn’t available for use in a Marvel comic, so Moench provided a doppelganger, differentiating him just enough that readers would still get the joke while avoiding legal correspondence from DC. Something about Don Perlin’s design for the mercenary in white caught the attention of other creators, and he went on to guest star with the likes of Spider-Man and the Defenders. Most of these stories are of their 1970s era, and not anything anyone in the their right mind would consider paying up to £100 for in this format.
The star attraction is Bill Sienkiewicz, who takes over the art when Moench returns to launch Moon Knight in his own series. This requires pulling the character away from being Batman’s mirror image, which Moench does by establishing Moon Knight maintains three separate civilian identities with distinct personalities, only one of which has a mansion. The suggestion is made early that this involves a form of mental illness, and Moench eventually deals with that. Moon Knight is deliberately kept away from costumed criminals, Moench populating the plots with villains who’re more in line with the people James Bond would face, and for colour he supplies an eccentric supporting cast.
Sienkiewicz begins as an extremely talented newcomer able to approximate the graphic style and flowing grace of Neal Adams pages, a look many attempted, yet almost no-one else pulled off as successfully as Sienkiewicz managed when just out of his teens. It’ll be the work reprinted in any second Omnibus where Sienkiewicz took the leap into his own style, but the pointers are here, with the storytelling progressing throughout the book until the final few issues. These have slightly awkward art with Sienkiewicz letting go of his old methods without having developed the style that would define him. The sample spread combines pages from his first story and the last reprinted here. The second page especially shows the primitive colour in 1982 doing the art no favours.
An ambition also characterises Moench’s writing, but it remains hit and miss. For every memorably quirky story, such as that of a bigoted assassin controlling rats, there’s something just ordinary, or over-extended, but when he hits the sweet spot, Moench is very good. The writing also veers between the almost poetic and lines causing a shudder, but Moench also excels at first page narrative captions that instantly grab the attention. “Life is seldom easy for the mysterious man called Moon Knight and it’s about to get a whole lot harder” is standard sensationalist waffle, but “five seasoned hit men are out for his blood” sure grabs the attention. And of course, there’s the bonus of those five hit men being defined by Sienkiewicz.
Ignore the early superhero outings and for the most part these are thoughtful crime stories, most of which still read well, and which are elevated by some amazing art. A choice of covers is provided, one by David Finch featuring just Moon Knight and the other Sienkiewicz’s cover for the first issue of Moon Knight’s solo series.