Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight

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Within six issues, Warren Ellis decided to bring Moon Knight back to something that reflected the original vision of Doug Moench. In particular, Ellis wanted to shift Moon Knight away from the awful multiple personality that had predominated much of Moon Knight’s character of recent years.
These six cerebral issues haunt the existence between the land of the dead and the living.
In issue four, Ellis commentary on death begins to take form and cast its macabre shadow beyond the comic book boarders and into our world. The surreal and psychedelic depictions in this issue question the setting of Moon Knight and whether or not any of the events taking place are actually happening.
Each antagonist Moon Knight faces is a twisted reflection of Mr. Knight. In the first issue, the first piece of new information Ellis gives is Moon Knight having an imaginary argument with Wolverine and Daredevil. Not only does this establish Moon Knight as an unreliable narrator, but also he believes he’s at odds with Marvel’s superhero community. This issue progresses to Moon Knight tracking down an ex Shield agent who had also been casted out of the organization. The antagonist tracks down and medically cannibalize his victims in hopes to make himself stronger and worthy of being an agent again. Who can better understand this morbid logic than the insane antihero who seeks redemption through his own insane acts?
Each issue begins with a piece of prose depicting the origin of Moon Knight. Marc Spector was a mercenary who did horrible things until one day he found himself left for dead at the feet of a Khonshu statue. Since the night Spector died, he has vowed to redeem his past transgressions. In issue two we are introduced to six seemingly unconnected people finishing up their business day. However, when each person falls victim to a sniper’s bullet, the story begins stitch itself into a single narrative. When Moon Knight begins the chase, the story collapses into a single narrative about a mercenary who took revenge on his former employers who left him for dead. Ellis bring this chapter to a poetic close. Although the distant projection of death is power, these weapons are never suppose to come back to punish their owners.
These parallels don’t become as blatant until issue three where Marc Spector fights specters haunting the streets of New York, or in issue six when Black Specter wants to become Moon Knights mirrored reflection. In order to defeat the specters, Mr Knight had to fully embrace the personification of death. In a brilliant and well paced fight, issue five is a Game of Death style plot showcasing Moon Knight defeating five floors of gangsters. By the issue’s conclusion, we see every action of Moon Knight’s has a cold and unstoppable finality.
In this series, we have drifted away from the multiple personality disorder. Instead Ellis had taken an eloquent and gothic approach to crafting a story about a man who was traumatized by his own actions. In order to cope and survive, he killed off Marc Spector and became Moon Knight or the personification of death itself. Like his ex lover said Marc Spector rather didn’t exist or never came back from the dead. Now, Because Mr Night still carries massive amounts of guilt and trauma, he views every villain as his own personal antagonist. Ellis’ has rooted Moon Knight once again and gave Brian Wood and other future writers plenty to work with.

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Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters (Review)

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Writer: Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis once wrote a haunting Thunderbolt’s story arc called Faith in Monsters. This story tied directly into the Marvel’s Civil War era. Marvel’s United States had been rocked by the Superhuman registration act. This law required all vigilantes to “unmask” themselves and register their identities with the government. Because this paralleled with similar laws of Nazi Germany, a schism formed between Captain America and Iron Man which lead to Captain America’s assassination by Bucky Barnes. During this time, Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn has been given the chance by Tony Stark to form a new team of Thunderbolts. They are given the task of enforcing the mutant registration act. This is the context Warren Ellis’ new incarnation of Thunderbolts takes place. The Thunderbolts are a team unlike other Marvel Teams because its ranks only include B-list villains. Ellis version is no different. This team is comprised of Venom, Songbird, Penance, Moonstone, Radioactive Man, Swordman, and Bullseye while having Green Goblin as its director. However, unlike other incarnations of this team or other antihero mashups, Warren Ellis’ team is brutal and uncompromising. Warren Ellis style of writing often incorporates real world psychological profiles for his characters, and that style adds an extra element of horror to this story arc. Each member has their own unique sociopathic identity which are all revealed over the course of interviews with each member of the team. Bullseye achieves a rush of euphoric emotions whenever he kills no matter who it is or the reason why he does it. This creates a perverse and godlike affinity which is also void of any sense of morality. Then there’s the Swordsman who crafted a fetish by wrapping the hilt of his sword with his dead sister’s flesh. With this incestuous tinged belief that this bond grants him power, the sword is used to slay his victims. Moonstone is a psychologist who is a master of manipulation and had made several of her patients commit suicide for her own sadistic enjoyment. The masochist Penance wears a suit similar to an iron maiden and believes his power stems from the pain he inflicts upon himself. Venom’s description of his relationship with his symbiotic alien sounds similar to a burnt out junkie describing their need for angel dust, complete with the homicidal rampages balanced with feelings of inadequacies and paranoia. Then there’s Songbird who would be simple B-list superhero if it wasn’t for her attraction towards genocidal psychopaths like Baron Zemo. What’s interesting is how Ellis is able to pull the reader into the morbid and oppressive world of these killers. These are all psychological profiles pulled from real life serial killers, which have been featured on countless news programs. What is worse is Norman Osborn is the puppetmaster of these sociopaths. It’s a what if tale about someone like Hemler having control over an elite military unit comprised of people like Ted Bundy, Albert Fish, and Charles Manson. So why does the U.S. Government allow such a situation to happen in the first place? It’s the old fallacy of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. After all, who would know how to challenge the Masks better than the villains? As the story progresses Ellis uses his FIX news broadcast to make satirical comments about the governments morally questionable decisions and how its laws affect the citizens it claims to protect. One section highlights how S.H.I.E.L.D. renamed Superheroes as Unregistered Combatants. This is similar to the real world example of the C.I.A. arbitrary use of Freedom Fighters versus Terrorists. This sounds like a hard pill to swallow for millions of Americans who have been saved countless times over the years by people like Captain America and Spider Man. However, Ellis rips a page from Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, and he employs the use of news sensationalism and marketing as weapons against the Superhero community. For example, interspersed among the news segments are toy commercials promoting the Thunderbolts. This along with the government’s bias spin in their public statements assures the public that these unregistered combatants are a threat to American citizens. Now, it’s quite natural for the readers to feel the dissonance between themselves and the oppressive and villainous regime. In order to make this story connect, Warren Ellis also employs C-list superheroes such as American Eagle, Jack Flag, Steel Spider and ShadoWoman. These are the if you blink you may miss them heroes of Marvel’s continuity. Why use these heroes instead of the VIPs we’re all use to? While Captain America and company carry an aura of fame, C list heroes are everyday nobodies from Main Street. This allows us to see how the moral weight of such laws like the Registration Act would burden everyday people. American Eagle is a retired hero who is lured into stopping his community forming a lynch mob, ShadoWoman is a heartbroken metahuman simply trying to find a source of income, and Steel Spider is a lonely but disturbed individual with an answering machine full of messages from worried loved ones and obsessive bill collectors. Not only does each one have relatable personalities, but also each one is morally challenged with doing what is right versus breaking the law. For example, Jack Flag and his wife Lucy are a lower class couple struggling to survive in their urban neighborhood. Jack and Lucy witness a gang harassing a female victim, and we’re lead to believe this isn’t the first time they’ve witnessed this gang commit such atrocities on women. If someone was to call the cops, they wouldn’t reach this part of the ghetto in time, even if they did bother to show up. Although Jack Flag’s glory days are long gone, Jack Flag isn’t going to stand idly by in fear of the consequences and watch another innocent become victimized. After all, everyone probably is or knows someone who has reached out or intervened in a situation in hopes of stopping a violent escalation. Therefore, Jack is no different than any of the readers, and this is when Ellis finally humanizes the story. Before Ellis could reveal the first heroic moment of the series, the readers had to understand that the consequence is being hunted down by government sanctioned sociopaths. Jack Flag is no different. After witnessing a well paced and beautifully illustrated stand off between Jack Flag and the Thunderbolts, Jack Flag is left paralyzed and sent to a Guantanamo Bay for masks. Although this is a traumatizing moment, Ellis goes on to sprinkle some dashes of hope on top of the bleak nihilism. Remember no matter how much the readers want to cheer for the underdog superhero, the chilling fact remains this is a Thunderbolts series. By incorporating different writing styles and capitalizing on the medium, Warren Ellis crafted an ageless political commentary.

 

Moon Knight #1 (2014) Review

moonknight1preview1jpg-dc37b5_960wWarren Ellis just began a new on going series over at Marvel, Moon Knight. This seems sort of an odd choice considering many of his works deal with Trans-humanism whereas Moon Knight is a Marvel take on Batman with one unique twist. Instead of the Rogues Gallery living in Arkham Asylum, they’re living inside Batman’s head and came out in the form of split personalities. When Ellis was asked why he chose Moon Knight, he said he knows people with Dissociative Identity Disorders, and its portrayal in the previous incarnations of Moon Knight was grossly inaccurate. Therefore, Warren Ellis aims to give Moon Knight and its readers a reality check which will inevitably give us a fresh take. This is also interesting to remember because we have to assume Moon Knight is an unreliable narrator, and this could and probably will lead to many different twists. The story begins shortly after an event where witnesses saw Moon Knight standing in the middle of the street having a loud argument with Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America although none of these Avengers were anywhere to be seen, and it was because he was having an argument with them in his head. This sets the tone for Moon Knight’s unstable mind. For the rest of the issue, Moon Knight has many one sided conversations which roll into the next one. These are often full of self-analysis and psychological profiling. This helps establish Moon Knight as a man who sees the world and everyone in it as one large puzzle waiting for somebody like him to put all the pieces back together. Furthermore, Moon Knight’s detached state of mind will also push him into dangerous and violent situations which put his cunning and conditioning to the test.

Artistically, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire have chosen a chiaroscuro dominated style. Although there’s a lot of inky shadows and the details aren’t elaborate, Moon Knight and his white suit really pop-out from the darkness. This is really appropriate because it brings to mind the full moon against the night sky, and each page feels like it is glowing in your hands.

The worst part of this issue was its introduction. Usually, Ellis will use the first page of his comic runs as a mini essay which establishes the characters, world and era. Instead his heavy exposition and thick dialogues explaining Moon Knight’s backstory choked up most of the panels for the first few pages. The pacing wouldn’t have been bogged down if it rather A) used his usual introduction or B) allowed his artists to re-imagine Moon Knight’s backstory. It would have been fair to take option B that way the readers and the artists can show us the stylistic changes and direction this reboot was going to take. Regardless, by the time it reaches its conclusion they have found their footing and pacing, so the next issue is sure to fly more smoothly.