Moon Knight: High Strangers
(1999 - 4 issues, Marvel Comics)
Script: Doug Moench. Art: Mark Texeira.
This was published in a gap between periods when Moon Knight had his own, regular series. The character had already undergone a revision or two (though this was before Marvel threw him wholly into the "dark n' gritty" waters and had him, for a time, be a largely psychotic, murderous vigilante).
Returning to MK is his original chronicler, Doug Moench, presenting a tale that ignores most revisions for an adventure that feels lifted directly from an earlier era -- with Moon Knight, Marlene, Frenchie -- and even Crawlie and Gena having cameos. And Moench is joined by artist Mark Texeria who by this point has developed a moody, organic style of sinewy bodies evocative of someone like Neal Adams and -- of more relevance to the character -- Bill Sienkiewicz whose run with Moench a few years before helped define the property.
So with Moench back at the helm and joined by Sienkiewicz-like artist, it all feels nicely evocative. The plot even involves Moon Knight getting embroiled with a rogue CIA operation, tying into his background as a former spy.
Moench's pacing is good -- a problem with some of his earlier MK's was maybe a tendency to run towards verbose, text-heavy panels. Unfortunately, despite all these pluses and starting out good, it has some problems.
The plot basically feels like Moench had just finished reading a bunch of books about conspiracy-theories and parapsychology -- or maybe had just binged on a lot of X-Files episodes! So Moon Knight finds himself investigating possibly a CIA plot involving mind control (deliberately echoing a classic Moon Knight tale from the early 1980s -- not to mention the graphic novel, Moon Knight: Divided We Fall). It's a plot that Moench tries to link in with everything from UFO abductions to crop circles, the Loch Ness monster, secret societies, and astral projection. And it just feels like too much of too much. Particularly since early on MK concludes it all has to do with hallucinations and mind control, meaning neither he -- nor we readers -- really feel like any of it's building to an actual revelation...or is anything more than Moench just trying to cram in every idea he's read about (like a creative miser -- hoarding the ideas so no one else can use them). It's fast-paced -- but stretched over four issues, it lacks any strong emotional or character thread to make us care. And without any real logic to much of it (even by the end not really explaining some things). Even Moench's tendency to break the issues down into chapters feels gimmicky more than relevant to the telling. Some "chapters" are only a few panels long -- and some scenes he'll break into multiple chapters, so it's not even like he's using it as demarcations between different scenes.
So in the end: it's fast-paced, attractively -- and evocatively -- illustrated, and with Moench arguably knowing these characters and their world better than anyone. But, as I say, it feels a bit like Moench is just recycling ideas and themes he's seen elsewhere (and some he's used himself before) wasting the very X-Files-like vibe of paranormal phenomenon and conspiracies precisely because he so over does it no one idea really has time to settle in. And with much of it undermined because they all have more-or-less the same solution. And with the whole never really evolving into a proper epic adventures (as befits the "chapters" format); more just a string of weird images and false clues.