Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Moon Knight #1

Moon Knight is one of those cult favorite characters who reliably draws out readers' wallets whenever he appears.  Albeit, his solo exploits have always been met by quick cancellations.  Frankly, Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight, has kinda been a bitch character in the Marvel Universe like Nova, Quasar, Captain Marvel (take whichever host of the celestial duds you like), Luke Cage, Black Panther and Spiderwoman.  Moon Knight draws readers, but he's been more or less a cash cow character who frustratingly disappears into the outer edges of the very dusk he's sworn to watch over.  The same fate could've been said of Black Widow until Scarlet Johansson made her an overnight icon in the first Avengers flick and Iron Man 2 prior to that. 

Consider me one of those cult fans who's always appreciated Moon Knight.  In the eighties, I used to think he came off like an uncolored Batman, another protective force who rules the dark, but there's not much else to align the two characters other than their mutual prowess in the martial arts.

Mercenary Marc Spector has had about a hundred resurrections to this point and if comic characters were real, he'd no doubt be yelling at the Marvel editors to quit throwing him into the grave and exhuming him every few years since he no doubt must feel like the target of a circle jerk.  At least he's wearing the right color!

To get a little serious, the "All-New Marvel Now!" initiative has found the empire imprint wiping the slate clean upon their cross-signaled universe (or multiverses, if you will) once again.  Some of their existing titles remain intact with # 1's stamped upon them (regardless of actual issue sequencing), while a good handful of titles were bagged altogether.  This has made room for a slew of reboots including our beloved Moon Knight, who gets Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey to usher him into a new era. 

Hopefully this means staying power, since reception to Moon Knight # 1 has widely been strong.  As Marc Spector in recent years has been depicted as a growingly detached pissant nonetheless obligated to his charge of power by the mystical Egyptian god, Khonshu, this series appears to be going the extra mile. 

The last run of Moon Knight saw Spector being tormented by a nihilistic, face-chewed essence to go over the edge and surrender to dark impulse.  Spector's field training has always made him a formidable antihero (since Marvel long abandoned the purer hero attributes from the couple of short-lived Moon Knight series during the eighties), but Spector has been a bit of a dick in recent times, to be honest.  Even Captain America called him out during the last run.  The suggestion that Spector had begun to go insane by the previous series' cutoff had a lot to do with his unlikeable personality.

This time, Warren Ellis takes that insanity angle and suggests Marc Spector is suffering from a dissociative identity disorder.  Appearing in the new launch clad inside a white double-breasted suit and white mask (not far in appearance from The Rose in the Spiderman titles), it's established by Ellis that Spector is well-known in New York City by the police.  Under this quasi-clean-cut image, Spector comes off as a dapper, genteel forensics expert whom a lead detective addresses as "Mr. Knight."  Fully aware the cops are dealing with a split personality victim, it's implied if Spector should appear in his full battle garb as the Moon Knight, he will be treated as a rogue with full intent of arrest and prosecution.

"Mr. Knight" meticulously analyzes a crime scene that leads him stories underground to apprehend a blown-apart former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative who is carving up people for their limbs and muscle tissue.  Given uneasy leeway by the NYPD to take down the butcher, "Mr. Knight" uses ingenuity and only a portion of his considerable stealth to win the day, far less in-your-face than a standard Moon Knight scrum.  A plot exposition toward the end of the debut issue reveals Spector has already been counseled by a psychiatrist with dubious ethics.  In her opinion, he doesn't have "D.I.D." but actual brain damage following his death, resurrection and consciousness assimilation by Khonshu.

Already this is the most interesting and adventurous plot ever conceived for Moon Knight.  The best line in this issue comes as "Mr. Knight" defiantly tells his S.H.I.E.L.D. quarry, "I've died before.  It was boring, so I stood up."

Freakin' A.  Finally, some due for this character.

                         Listenin' to:  Roxy Music - Country Life

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