One of my simple pleasures has always been reaching into the old box o’ comics to revisit the classic comic stories of my youth. I was fortunate to live in an era when the classic Marvel runs of Daredevil, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor were in full swing, but waiting another month for the next issue was a combination of excitement and torture. Even though I’m now able to buy the trades or even pull out several of my own back issues from a classic run, I have to admit that being able to reread three or four consecutive issues in one sitting is a little less satisfying to me. And more than once I found myself reading one issue in a trade only to put it down and let a little time pass before reading the next issue in the book.
By 1980 we were several years into our comic book collecting. Looking back at the early 80s it was great to buy eventual classic issues of Daredevil #181 and Thor #337 right off the rack. But we were always envious of any comic book collectors that had a first issue of any Marvel title from the Silver Age, especially X-Men #1 which to this day is still my grail comic.
So when Moon Knight #1 hit the stands in 1980, we jumped at the opportunity to add a first issue to our collection. Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover depicting Moon Knight’s white costume popped on the spinner rack, as did “Premiere Issue!” and the “1” in that beautiful corner box. That sealed the deal and this issue quickly became a favorite in our collection. But that cherished #1 did not lead to more careful treatment, and like many other comics in our collection it can now be classified as “well read.” The character of Moon Knight was created by writer Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin and debuted in Werewolf By Night #32 in 1975. He’s made several appearances in other comic titles through the late 70’s before getting his own book, which officially delivered on August 19, 1980. But it was Moench and Sienkiewicz’s Moon Knight #1 that was my personal introduction to the character and my favorite of all of Moon Knight’s volumes.
Moon Knight #1 begins with a splash page by Sienkiewicz that takes no prisoners. A squad of mercenaries led by Bushman rides into a rebel camp in Sudan at dawn, shooting every rebel in sight. Bushman’s second in command is Marc Spector, who disapproves of Bushman’s blood thirsty methods. Helicopter pilot Frenchy drops in and lets Marc in on his feelings that working for Bushman may not be in their best interests. Bushman plans an attack on Selina, a village that poses no threat but has a recently excavated pharaoh’s tomb for him to loot. Marc and Frenchy make the decision to desert that night.
During the raid on Selina, an old archeologist attempts to kill Bushman, but is stopped by Marc. Rather than taking the old man prisoner, Bushman kills him on sight. With his dying breath, the archaeologist tells Marc to find and protect his daughter. Despite her fear and anger towards the mercenaries, she heeds Marc’s threat and escapes. Bushman witnesses Spector’s “indescretion” but lets it slide and orders Marc to collect the gold artifacts and round up the remaining men in the town square. Frenchy arrives to helicopter Marc out, but Marc breaks away to unsuccessfully stop the firing squad from killing the prisoners. Marc tries to kill Bushman but is knocked out and left to die a slow death in the desert.
He wakes up and barely musters the energy to wander through the desert for the next day and night. The following night his near lifeless body is found by the locals. They pull him in to the tomb of Pharaoh Seti as they and the slain archaeologist’s daughter Missy attempt to pack up the remaining artifacts. Her initial anger gives way to mercy, as she refuses to give in to anger and hate. Under the statue of Khonshu the moon god Marc’s body shoots back to life. He inexplicably recognizes Khonshu as “the taker of vengeance” and takes the white cloak off the statue before taking off in a jeep for his revenge on Bushman.
Back at Selina, Marc takes out two of Bushman’s guards and sets a decoy to draw out Bushman and his men. After knocking the men out with an ammo dump blast, it’s just Marc and Bushman. Missy (her real name Marlene) shows up behind him, held back by a mysterious figure in the shadows. Marc turns to help her only to find that it’s Frenchy keeping her at a safe distance. Bushman escapes and Marc’s opportunity for revenge is lost.
Marc returns to New York with Frenchy and Marlene and establishes a new life in Long Island with two additional identities: Wall Street mogul Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley. But Marc’s triple personality in addition to Moon Knight begins to take a toll on Marlene. “Lockley” tracks down Bushman to a club in Harlem, and once he’s in full Moon Knight costume, Frenchy rides in on their crescent shaped aircraft to drop him into Bushman’s club for a showdown.
No spoilers here. Moon Knight #1 is a great read and sets the tone for a great run on the title by Moench and Sienkiewicz. Moench’s script and Sienkiewicz’s dynamic art pack a lot of action and drama (with a higher than normal body count for a comic book of that era) into 24 pages. You definitely got your money’s worth with the 50 cent cover price back then, just as you would if you paid $3.99 for the issue today. Comixology is currently offering the digital version of Moon Knight #1 for free. It’s a great introduction to Moon Knight’s initial 80’s run that still holds up almost 40 years later.