All Said And Done...
There was such sense of energy and openness to Jerome Opeña’s art, almost a year back now in the premier issue of Vengeance of the Moon Knight. There was an ecstasy, an elevated sense as the issue’s White Knight came crashing in. And like a backbeat, there was Gregg Hurwitz’s sharply written monologue. “I’m sick of hiding. In a fifth of bourbon. In a pill bottle. South of the border with fugitives and deadbeats… Screw the B-list… Forget Mexico, forget hiding. New York is where it’s at… I wanna be on Broadway”.
As Moon Knight entered the fray, this was more than a very conspicuous riff on Christopher Nolan’s opening of The Dark Knight from one year prior. This was more than a homage. Moon Knight interdicting an Obama-masked cadre of armed men, intent robbing a bank and taking down a hospital to cover their getaway, was really an opening salvo. It was a the first shot across the bow of the character’s resurrection, his rejoining the mainstream of Marvel’s Earth-616. It was a brave and honest reimagining of the character that would see the reconstitution of Moon Knight’s attraction to vengeance, without the life-taking violence of the 80s era.
If Charlie Huston’s contribution, the former writer on the erstwhile series Moon Knight, would be to re-envision the character as a broken athlete (think of Darren Aronofsky’s surprisingly linear The Wrestler), replete with the gaunt violence that the 80s-era title only hinted at, then Gregg Hurwitz’s contribution would be to recast the character’s story in the sunshine noir genre like Rand Ravich’s Life or the Ed Burns produced Confidence.
Here was “filth and mayhem, hot alleys and crowded streets, the beating heart of the universe” (as Hurwitz himself writes), all in the bright light of day. Here was Moon Knight striding into NYC on a outdoor screen 20 stories tall. Here was Moon Knight surfing a toppled getaway van and escaping via air support. Here was a Moon Knight that did not kill.
This Moon Knight’s reboot, just about a year ago, was the story of vengeance as messianic calling. This vengeance would be directed as much against the conspiracy headed by Norman Osborn (Marvel’s “Dark Reign” event), as it would be against the God of Vengeance that ostensibly empowered Moon Knight himself, both physically and spiritually. And in processing this new kind of vengeance, Moon Knight would cleansed enough to rejoin society. Like a Zulu warrior or a Greek soldier prayed for by a shaman after the battle, ready to once again become a farmer and a father. The new messianism would be the redemption of the self.
But behind Moon Knight’s character arc, there was a deeper story being told. This was the victory over zealotry. This was the grand and sweeping story of the religious fanatic who grew disillusioned with the Truth of His God. This was the story of the rise of technology, of the rise of intellect, and the lionizing of humanism.
So for all the visual complexity offered by Vengeance of the Moon Knight finale artist Juan Jose Ryp, a complexity that both fits with and extends the style of the phenomenal Geoff Darrow, it is good to know that Hurwitz has lost none of his creative punch. The book’s core is still a vibrant expression of the titular character’s new direction. Even with the character visually being drowned out by the Secret Avengers, his new teammates, who make an appearance this issue.
But like “One”, the 2009 series finale to Life, it feels like this character has been evolved as much as it can, it feels like the new vengeance has run its course, and what’s needed now, is an end. Overshadowed, visually and in the narrative itself, this is the best kind of Moon Knight. This is a Moon Knight that’s once again disenfranchised, marginalized. This is a Moon Knight ready for a new kind of gig, an immersion into writer Andy Diggle’s “Shadowland”, and Daredevil’s Handmade Hell On The Streets Of New York.