Marvel's Next Big Thing Is... Moon Knight?

So after the big “All the Avengers You’ll Ever Need” tease it seems Marvel’s Next Big Thing will be… to ship the looniest Secret Avenger off to the West Coast. In a conference call yesterday afternoon, writer Brian Michael Bendis and frequent collaborator Alex Maleev (with a guest spot by Sr. VP of Publishing, Tom Brevoort) talked about the new direction for the character, a rethink on stories where the character becomes “mired in self-loathing,” and how life in L.A. inspired some of the upcoming series’ more interesting villains.

Moon Knight has always been a kind of strange middle ground between Daredevil and the Punisher, mixing a disability—in this case multiple personalities—with a brawnier, more aggressive style of vigilantism. Under the character’s most recent relaunch under Charlie Huston with art by David Finch, the book took on almost Max-line levels of violence, with the increasingly unhinged Moon Knight popping pills to stave off pain and carving his symbol into the heads of the criminals he didn’t kill.

The first, double-sized issue bowing in May will introduce readers to Marc Spector’s new status quo as a wildly successful television producer behind “Legends of the Khonshu” which allows him to fund his nocturnal activities as a superhero. From the way Bendis describes it, L.A. will actually need Marc, given that the city has experienced an influx of supervillains fed up with being pounded on by the overabundance of East Coast heroes. The relaunch is part of what’s being described at Marvel—internally at least—as one of three “Big Shots” titles, breathing life into a couple of not-quite-obscure characters.

The idea for Moon Knight, according to Bendis, was to remix the existing formula for a tortured superhero with multiple personalities to one that revels in exploiting his many personas. The writer describes Spector as a “one-man Ocean’s Eleven,” and from this spun out the idea of the hero using allowing his multiple personalities to express themselves in the forms of some of his Avengers teammates including Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. The high concept is that Spector essentially conducts one-man Avengers meetings and decides which of the heroes would be best suited for the mission, with the character donning the costume of, say, Spider-man and acting out his best Spidey impersonation to take out criminals.

The story was also a chance to explore more stories on the West Coast, which has been somewhat underutilized over the years with the recent exceptions of the short-lived The Order and the abruptly cancelled Runaways. For Maleev, the change was a move out his comfort zone, so associated is the artist with the urban grit and grime on display in Alias and Daredevil. Maleev says that he won’t be coloring his own work this time around, and although the new colorist hasn’t been announced, it will be interesting to see a variation on the artist’s usual style in the final product.

As for the character’s supporting cast, Bendis says this is an opportunity to expand the circle of characters around his lead. Bendis is holding off on committing to any immediate appearances by longtime love interest Marlene and friend/confidante Frenchie. “Even poor Peter Parker has had 10 girlfriends while this guy has had the same best friend and girlfriend for 30 years.”

When asked what the first thing was that they thought of when presented with the idea of taking over Moon Knight, Maleev and Bendis had the same single word to say: Sienkiewicz. Both creators were cognizant of the storytelling legacy left behind by Bill Sienkiewicz’s couple dozen or more issue run on the character. Bendis noted that the prolific artist was at the forefront of their minds due his collaboration on the long-delayed Daredevil: End of Days. For his part, Maleev has attempted to avoid exposure to Sienkiewicz’s work, in the hopes of approaching the material with fresh eyes.

It will be interesting to see what Bendis have in store for one of the characters frequently on the fringes of the Marvel U. We’ll have to wait until May to see just what they’ve put together.

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