Moon Knight has always been something of an obscure Marvel character. But now that we’re over twenty films deep, he’s also one of the most popular heroes who still has yet to appear in live action. Kevin Feige has teased that there’s a plan for Moon Knight, the Russo Brothers have pointed out that Keanu Reeves would be a great fit for the character, but there’s been no clear indication of what that plan for him might even be or when he might make his first appearance in the MCU, if he ever even does. It certainly feels like more people are aware of Moon Knight than ever before, but for the most part, people’s familiarity with him seems to begin and end with knowing he’s this great character that everyone wants to see make his cinematic debut. That, or they know he’s crazy.
In all honesty, that’s probably a better reputation than he used to have. It wasn’t that long ago that Moon Knight was largely known for being Marvel’s rip off of Batman in the eyes of the fans. He was, after all, a billionaire with no real superpowers who had many gadgets at his disposal and was a dark vigilante who spent a good chunk of time in a cave. It’s not like there were no similarities there. But Moon Knight has always had more than enough going on both in his backstory and inside his own mind to separate him from the dark knight.
Marc Spector was a mercenary who had a job take a bad turn and wound up—according to him—dying in Cairo only to be resurrected by the Egyptian Moon God, Khonshu, to be his avatar on Earth. Becoming Moon Knight, he has no doubts about his certainty that this happened to him and his connection with Khonshu becomes a deeply spiritual one. At the same time, Moon Knight is also a character defined by mental illness. On one level, that could be seen as yet another thing he has in common with Batman. There have been many, many stories that have pointed out that Batman has to be just as unbalanced as his villains to do what he does, that he’s not that different from them and deep down, he knows it.
But Moon Knight is truly on another level to the point that any attempt to compare the two is just moot. Mental illness is always at the forefront of this character, though the treatment of it—and even the diagnosis—vary from writer to writer. The most common diagnosis is Dissociative Identity Disorder, given that Marc’s mental illness almost exclusively presents itself in the form of different personalities, which can certainly be seen as somewhat problematic considering there’s so much debate about DID and whether it truly exists as a real illness. If anything, there’s enough to certainly make the case for schizophrenia, considering how prominent voices and hallucinations are, as Marc often converses with these other personalities for lengthy periods of time.
These are the major aspects of Moon Knight’s character that have defined his place in the Marvel Universe for the bulk of his publication history. But MCU fans, understandably, crave those deeper connections. And Moon Knight, despite his occasional team affiliations, has always been something of an outsider.
The 2010 Moon Knight series, luckily, feels catered to those cravings in a way that couldn’t have possibly been planned at the time. If you love the Marvel Universe as a whole, especially the Avengers and certain plot threads introduced in those films, then this is truly the book for you. Those connections to Marvel’s flagship team are not only made abundantly clear, they’re the driving force of the story, but at the same time, they’re handled in the most Moon Knight way possible.
After all, it’s surprising that a character who is so often depicted as a loner, who is not the most well known or recognizable hero to fans or even to people within his fictional universe, would be re-teaming with the Avengers in his own solo book. He had, of course, served as an Avenger once upon a time, but with how much his mental health and personal issues have come to define his book, it would seem like a weird look for him to be partnering up with the likes of Spider-Man and Captain America long-term. Yet that’s basically the plot of this series. It finds Moon Knight in Los Angeles where Marc Spector is producing a television series based on his own bizarre life as a mercenary. He’s actually working as a Secret Avenger to uncover and take down the Los Angeles Kingpin.
As it turns out, he’s not actually working with the Avengers. Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America are not actually talking to him, they’re voices in his head. This could be seen as another form of his psychosis, as a strange attempt at DID—at times it is certainly portrayed as such. But it’s much less about that than some of the character’s other series in the past. Moon Knight seems to be pretty aware, on one level, that he’s not actually talking to these guys. He is imagining him talking to them and talking to himself in their voice, but all of that seems to be a very Moon Knight brand of hero worship. That’s what makes this series and its depiction of the Avengers so fascinating.
For all his dark and gloominess, Moon Knight loves the other heroes of the Marvel Universe and this series definitely upholds some sense of canon by leaning into that. This is a character who has kind of considered his brief stint as a West Coast Avenger to be one of the more stable times in his life, this is a guy who for all his annoyance often teams up with the likes of Spider-Man or Daredevil and loves it. This is a guy who listens to Dazzler. He worships the Avengers, even when he doesn’t act like it. But it’s also fascinating to take these three characters who of course never actually appear in the book and break them down, boiling them down to a basic essence that doesn’t necessarily say what they represent as a whole, only what they represent to Moon Knight.
Wolverine is the most obvious. He’s that part of Marc that’s telling him to take the shot, to win by any means necessary, to kill if he has to. He’s that primal, base instinct, one that definitely comes out and becomes dominant later on in the story. Captain America, meanwhile, represents that sense of justice. He could be seen as Moon Knight’s morality, but it’s not quite that. Cap’s not spending too much time in this series telling him what’s right and wrong, he’s mostly just laying things out in terms of the law. Both Cap and Wolverine represent a tactical side of Moon Knight, but they go about it in fundamentally different ways.
Spider-Man is the wild card. There are a couple of different things he represents. First, there’s the fact that he clearly loves Spidey considering he gets the hero’s sarcastic banter down so easily. But through that banter, Spidey also represents both Moon Knight’s fear as well as his common sense. He’s the one that usually stands in the background and says “we’ll probably die if we do it like this.” He could also represent a sense of morality in a way that Moon Knight’s version of Cap really doesn’t. More than anything, though, he seems to represent Moon Knight’s heart. His humanity. Sides of the character that he doesn’t often show and doesn’t even always seem to be aware of.
To act upon these supposed personalities, Moon Knight turns his admiration for gadgets into ways to try and emulate the skills of these other heroes. He makes himself a working web shooter, a Captain America shield and a set of Wolverine claws, and it’s kind of hilarious to see a character like Moon Knight using all of these things. That’s likely the point. These new gadgets only accentuate his idolization of the Avengers. This is a big mission with the world potentially at stake and he does not have faith in himself to get it done just as Moon Knight, but if he can channel and in essence become these heroes that he admires so much, that might be enough to get the job done.
That job, so to speak, involves a stolen Ultron head. And that’s another thing that will no doubt appeal to MCU fans. The central villain of this series is Count Nefaria, who might be a little hard to swallow for some, but everybody knows Ultron and they understand the stakes of what could happen if this robot ever gets brought back online. Everyone saw how close he came to destroying the world with, um, a very big crater in Age of Ultron.
The true bonus of having Nefaria as the villain is that we also get to see his daughter pop up. An assassin for hire, Madame Masque is (to me) one of the most underutilized villains in the Marvel Universe. She’s great. She has a need to prove herself to her father that is constantly at war with her need to distance herself from him. This series even takes the bold move of removing her mask, which is something that almost never happens, only to show that she looked perfectly normal (beautiful, even) without it.
That also only strengthens her relationship with her father and need to be good enough for him, that she doesn’t even believe she’s attractive enough to so much as let the world see her face. What she lacks in confidence, though, she makes up for in skill. While she doesn’t appear as much as she should in this series, it’s great to see her make an appearance regardless.
Moon Knight’s main relationship in the book, though, is with another kind of ostracized and forgotten former Avenger, Echo. The deaf superhero never really got the moment in the sun that she should have and, to be honest, this series doesn’t do anything to fix that. Echo is great in the book and she plays off Moon Knight in some really interesting ways, but it would be impossible to discuss this short-lived series without talking about the fact that it kills off a great character well before it felt like she had come close to reaching her full potential.
Echo had a great run in Daredevil, briefly joined the New Avengers and got to help kick off Secret Invasion and just when she’s picking up steam, she gets killed off for shock value by Count Goddamn Nefaria. It’s less than a terrific standoff for a character who should have become a Marvel mainstay. When Marc “sees” her in his mind after it happens, she calls it a sacrifice, which it truly isn’t. There’s no moment of her claiming her death for herself or taking it into her own hands, it happens so quickly that she doesn’t even get a chance to realize it’s happening.
The fact that she calls it a sacrifice at all, when she’s just appearing as another vision in Moon Knight’s mind at that point, only means that he himself has terrible guilt over the death and is trying to justify, which is on some level understandable. There’s still no reason for it and if it was done for emotional stakes, that’s kind of moot as it feels fairly forgotten. At the very least, small comfort as it might be, it doesn’t quite feel like fridging (a term largely used to describe a female character being killed off to further a male character’s development) because Marc learns absolutely nothing from her death and it really doesn’t seem to impact his arc at all. So there’s that.
Even with that in mind, this is a fun, witty and often deeply weird series that gives a great sense of who Moon Knight is as a character while also providing a sense of his place within the Marvel Universe as a whole. It’s not quite the best Moon Knight run ever written, but it’s a strong one that’s relatively recent and is immediately accessible for new readers. Plus, old readers get to have fun with the meta of it all, seeing Marc poke fun at his own weird past with his new terrible television show. Which, in and of itself is something of a meta joke, considering the fact that this came only a few years after an actual failed attempt at a Moon Knight television series.
Now that there’s talk of a potential cinematic life for the character, there’s no better time to jump in and embrace one of Marvel’s weirder heroes. And even if that big screen debut never comes to pass (and with this guy’s luck, it very probably won’t) then at least there will be more eyes on the character regardless, because that’s ultimately what matters. The more Moon Knight fans, the better.