An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.
As you doubtless noticed, Marvel is faking a DC-like start-over, numbering several of its titles “No.1" (whether they’re first issues or not). One of them, Moon Knight, seems promising. Written by Warren Ellis, no slouch at weirdness, it seems to resume the tale of the Moon Knight, mercenary Mark Spector, who “died in Egypt under the statue of the ancient deity Khonshu, but he returned to life under the shadow of the moon god, and wore his aspect to fight crime for his own redemption.”
In this inaugural issue, the Moon Knight shows up to help the police solve a “slasher” murder. The victim, slashed to death by a sharp instrument, is missing a body part or two, and “Mr. Knight” (as the Moon Knight is called by the cops so as to preclude their having to report the presence of a “dangerous vigilante”), by examining the crime scene minutely, determines that the perpetrator lives nearby, below the city’s sewer system.
He goes down there, has a long talk with the villain, who is actually a beyond-repair former agent of SHIELD who was blown apart by an IED so badly that doctors couldn’t fix him up. So he rummages on his own, wandering the streets at night and killing solitary souls and stealing the body parts he needs to rejuvenate himself . He attacks the Moon Knight, who defends himself with an amulet in the shape of a quarter moon—flinging it at his attacker and sticking him in the midsection. Presumably, the bad guy dies; he was on his last legs anyhow. That’s the complete episode of the issue, and it reveals the Moon Knight to be a restrained but effective vigilante.
Declan Shalvey is a good visual storyteller, varying a routine grid layout with various special effects.
And he and Ellis have determined that the character is at his effective best when he appears all white — all his clothing and hood. (With his hood off, his face is gray — gray as death, I assume, since he’s not, really, alive. Is he?)
On the issue’s concluding pages, a doctor tells Spector that he’s not, really, suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, as he’d supposed; he merely assumes at intervals various of Khonshu’s four aspects — “Pathfinder, Embracer, Defender and Watcher of overnight travelers.” He is seemingly alive because after dying, he was rescued by an “outerterrestrial entity,” who remade him to serve the purpose Khonshu has in mind.
“You’re not insane,” the doctor assures him. “Your brain has been colonized by an ancient consciousness from beyond space-time. Smile.” Typical Ellis mordant wit.
On the last page, Spector meets the Egyptian god with the head of a bird, who says: “You are my son.”
Presumably, we’re to return to find out more in this mode. The spooky, other-worldly stuff won’t bring me back. But Moon Knight’s efficient low-key vigilantism will.