He’s been called Marvel’s Batman or better yet, what would happen if Batman suffered from a multiple personality disorder. His name is Moon Knight, and this is his first run-in with Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Moon Knight was invented by Doug Moench within the pages of Werewolf by Night back in 1975. Initially introduced as a villain, he eventually became the persona-rich hero we know today when he resurfaced in Marvel Spotlight a year later. After making a brief appearance with the Defenders in ’77, Mooney’s next appearance was this team-up with Spidey. Still a couple years away from getting his own book, Moon Knight was probably largely unfamiliar to most Spider-Man readers in the late ‘70s. Bill Mantlo made the most of this unexpected team-up though. He would use Moon Knight’s burgeoning street level heroics to continue to tie Spider-Man into the organized crime of the Maggia.
|Essential Moon Knight #1
|Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1
From an unseen vantage point, Moon Knight watches a typical gangland slaying unfolding in front of him. A stool pigeon is penned against a dead end wall and a whole slew of Maggia goons are prepared to teach him a valuable lesson in keeping his mouth shut. As expected, Moon Knight swoops in just in the nick of time and begins taking out the gang members one by one. The stoolie is the gang’s target though, and while Moon Knight is dealing with the collective muscle of the horde, a single gunman tags the helpless target with the spray of a machine gun. As Moon Knight comes to the aid of the fallen victim, the man says with his dieing breath that the Maggia is on to Moon Knight’s cab driver persona. With a call to his French sidekick (who is aptly called Frenchy), a helicopter and a rope ladder whisk the mysterious hero away.
Our first sight of the web-head happens to be within the walls of Peter Parker’s uptown apartment. Swooping in through the skylight, Pete recalls his struggles with Whiplash and the Maggia that took place within the pages of the Bill Mantlo written Marvel Team-Up #72. As he attempts to take a warm shower, Peter gets an unexpected visit from the extremely married Betty Leeds. Betty has been majorly flirtatious with our hero ever since she was shown to be Pete’s mystery guest back in Amazing Spider-Man #184. After spending an evening out on the town with Betty, and thinking about Mary Jane the whole time, a restless Pete decides to throw on his red and blues and take to the skylines.
Meanwhile, Jake Lockley (one of Moon Knight’s alter egos) is out on the street searching for clues about the Maggia and their new leader known as the Big M. As mentioned earlier, The Maggia has found out about the connection between cab driver Jack Lockley and Moon Knight and has sent a couple masked thugs to wait for the cabbie at his favorite downtown diner. As Lockley confronts the gunmen, Spider-Man comes swinging into the fray and begins beating up the thugs. Spider-Man’s good intentioned interference completely ruins Moon Knight’s plan of being captured and led to the Maggia’s base of operations though. With one of the gunman fleeing on foot, Lockley resorts to plan B and dons his white hooded costume.
After quickly tracking him down, Moon Knight begins beating the helpless hood until he gets the information he wants. This type of undiplomatic approach doesn’t set well with our friendly neighborhood wall crawler though. Spider-Man confronts this new hero and the inevitable “first meeting fight” commences.
As the two heroes continue to duke it out in the streets, they are eventually knocked to the ground by a high speed wind. As both Moon Knight and Spider-Man lay on the ground, we are greeted with the ludicrous sight of a masked Frenchman with a giant yellow swirl on his chest standing over the two heroes. The worst villain that Gerry Conway ever created has made his inevitable return.
For the most part, this is pretty typical ‘70s team-up action. With the story focusing as much on Moon Knight as it does Spidey, it actually feels as if this issue was probably originally planned for the Marvel Team-Up title. Once you get past the superfluous fight scenes and the awful surprise ending though, you’ll find a few things that make this issue stand out.
First of all, Mantlo continues his “resurgence of the Maggia” plot line that he started in a fill-in issue of Marvel Team-Up. The Maggia plot thread, and their mysterious leader the Big M, will carry on not only into the next issue but into the following arc as well. This is also the first meeting ever between Moon Knight and Spider-Man, which (despite the clichés that it falls back on) is still a fun little romp.
I’ve always thought that the all-white garbed Moon Knight had a really cool costume design, and fill-in artist Mike Zeck takes advantage of the interesting outfit in his artwork. Bruce Patterson’s inking is not to be ignored either. The shading on MK’s duds really adds a dark and mysterious quality to the character. I personally wish that Zeck and Patterson would have at least stayed on to do the second part of the story. Instead, the not-too-shabby but not all that spectacular artistic duo of Jim Mooney and Mike Esposito return next issue.
While the first ever meeting between these two Marvel stalwarts makes this comic a solid addition to anyone’s collection, the fact that they are going to be fighting Cyclone in the next issue doesn’t exactly get my pulse racing. Oh well, C'est la vie.