I never bothered with the last series of Moon Knight after the first few issues; the idea of Marc Spector as a man with deep mental health issues ran out of steam fast. Warren Ellis was apparently unimpressed too, as he's distancing Moon Knight from the schizophrenia business.
He's not just ignoring it, though - he's using the notion as a springboard for his own take. Was our hero mad and if so, is he 'better' now? Ellis puts a different spin on things, but that's the climax of this debut issue. Before that, we see where Moon Knight is today. He's left Los Angeles and is back in New York, on the trail of a serial killer targeting gym bunnies. He's not wearing the cape and cowl, preferring a dapper white suit and 'bag' mask, and showing excellent sleuthing skills as he helps old associate Detective Flint with the case. In Moon Knght's classic run by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz, Flint was no fan of Moon Knight, but now he appreciates his talents, offering the masked vigilante the respect needed to ease his passage.
And Moon Knight is all about easing passages these days, as he channels the aspect of Khonshu - the Egyptian god who gave murdered mercenary Marc Spector new life and a mission - concerned with the protection of travellers. And that includes the slasher's victims, 'people who only wanted to travel at night'.
There's another passage, as the earthly avatar of an ancient god descends into the underworld of New York, in a page from artists Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire which finds majesty in the mundane.
The showdown with the slasher mainly involves conversation, but an Ellis conversation is more compelling than most people's fight scenes. And while catching the bad guy at first seems like the A plot, by the end of the book there's no doubt that the true A plot is the mystery of who this man in white is, to others and to himself.
Hoping to unravel the enigma is another old supporting character, Joy Mercado, dogged Daily Bugle reporter working 'the freak beat'. We don't see much of her this time, but what we get has me wanting more - with DC downplaying the Daily Planet staff these days, I'll take heroic hacks wherever they're to be found.
Ellis's sharply plotted, pithy script, which references 'real mythology', gives this book its own feel, and illustrator Declan Shalvey takes things to the next level. There's a rough-hewn quality to the people in this book, one that suits the scratchy streets of Shalvey's Big Apple. The traditional Moon Knight, basically a Batman clone, stood out for his supposedly silver, in practice white, tones. Here the 'fist of Khonshu' is unambiguously white, as much supermodel as superhero in his spotless, stylish suit. And ensuring the backgrounds make Moon Knight pop even more is colour artist Jordie Bellaire, whose moody hues control the temperature of each scene.
Chris Eliopoulos handles the lettering and turns in the professional job you'd expect from this talented veteran, though I hope he forsakes the lower case font, which makes everyone 'sound' terribly meek.
The combination of Ellis and Shalvey on Moon Knight reminds me Marvel UK's Night Raven strips and text stories by the likes of Steve Parkhouse, Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, John Bolton and David Lloyd, little pulp gems which never found the audience they deserved. And Bellaire's colouring calls to mind the late Steve Whitaker's superb V for Vendetta work, full of surprising pastels and little blasts of richness. A dash of Night Raven, a bit of V and a huge great dollop of Moon Knight's own dense mythology ... it's not a bad combination, and one that makes this book stand out.
He's had a few relaunches over the years, with none matching the quality of the original run. With this do-over - one of the last commissions of departing Marvel editor Steve Wacker - Moon Knight may finally regain his place in the sun.