Moon Knight Annual #1
WEREWOLF BY MOON KNIGHT! In the Darkhold, there is a prophecy of how a god might die. Jack Russell, more familiar with that cursed tome than most, would like very much to kill a god and save his people, the people bound in servitude to the moon. But to fulfill that prophecy requires the blood of the Fist of Khonshu, and Moon Knight doesn’t bleed easily.
Moon Knight Annual #1 – written by Jed Mackay, with art from Federico Sabbatini, colors from Rachelle Rosenberg, and letters from VC’s Cory Petit – breaks from the ongoing story in the main Moon Knight title to focus on the machinations of werewolves instead of vampires. The story takes place at some point in the current run due to the inclusion of characters like Reese and Hunter’s Moon. The annual sees Jack Russell, aka Werewolf by Night, reappear after an unseen cross-country journey, learning information from the Darkhold about the nature and origin of werewolves. To make good on the prophecy and kill Khonshu, the werewolf kidnaps Diatrice, Moon Knight, and Marlene’s daughter (who first appeared during the Max Bemis run).
Like any good Moon Knight story, Khonshu is at the core of the book’s tension, with MacKay revealing that the curse of werewolves stems from the deity, who planned to use them as shock troopers in instances where the Fists of Khonshu could not succeed. It’s an excellent retcon that binds the characters of Moon Knight and Werewolf by Night in lore, just as much as canonical appearances. MacKay also expands on the lore of Khonshu that has waxed and waned in this run, specifically the notions of what a Fist can and can’t do. This explains why Marc’s fighting style is so rough compared to Hunter Moon’s, and why he doesn’t have knowledge anywhere close to what the doctor has about the role of avatar.
According to Hunter’s Moon, Marc should have never been able to have a child, but it aligns with the other inconsistencies of his time as an avatar to the moon god. It’s an excellent bit of scripting that conjoins the annual with the main series and begins to click more pieces of Moon Knight’s inconsistent and scattered continuity. The annual is a fascinating backdoor for what could be a great monster-filled Mortal Kombat miniseries from Marvel, detailing the fights Russell references, including one with a Wendigo. Sabbatini would also be a perfect fit to draw a book like that, with his pencils working at their best with non-human entities locked in bombastic, speeding action.
Sabbatini’s art is spectacular in this issue, thriving in an issue full of action sequences and unique creatures. The wolf forms of Russell and his fellow lycanthropes are a great bit of design work, hulking in form but still believably fast. Everything from the wolves to the glimpses of Khonsu and even the Fists in costume sing in this issue, striking a consistency and awe that Sabbatini’s art has lacked in other issues of the run. The standout bits are the moments that flash while Russell explains the new information about the werewolves to Diatrice, in which he gives the images a haunting quality, thanks in part to Rosenberg’s shift in palette. These panels, like shots of Khonshu in the moonlight or the tale of Tier from X-Factor, play like images out of folklore, with an ethereal thrall that comes from the muted colors and use of even heavier shadows to obfuscate certain detail.
Rosenberg’s colors, much like in the main title, are the glue that holds the book together and elevates it to a whole other level. Not only do they provide a throughline between the ongoing Moon Knight title and this annual, but they work to bridge the styles of Sabbatini and Alessandro Cappuccio. The two have similar linework styles that live in the shadow and construct pages through sharp panel compositions, but still, feel distinct enough that the wrong color would make them like oil and water when compared.
Rosenberg’s color takes down any issues of readability when moving between styles, and it’s clear in this annual that her palette gives a texture to the world both artists are creating. The glowing white of Moon Knight and Hunter Moon, the deep blues and pinks of the city, and the glowing red eyes of the werewolves (or vampires in the current arc) immediately show that cohesion across the various artistic stylings.
The Moon Knight Annual is a great self-contained story focused on the horrors that Khonshu has wrought against history, and functions as a great reminder of the deity’s complex motives. It’s also an opportunity for MacKay to address more elements of Moon Knight’s continuity, in the form of his loved ones and an old enemy. MacKay scripts an excellent tale of tragedy and complex heroes, sitting multiple new, engaging status quos that hopefully will be realized going forward.
The annual is also a chance for Sabbatini’s art to get an extra polish with some additional pages and show an interesting change in style for the internal story aspects of the issue. The art is consistently great and feels like a step in the right direction for the artist. Paired with Rosenberg’s excellent as-ever colors that give this issue and the main title their distinct flair, it’s not hard to recommend checking out this annual. If it strikes a chord for new readers, including those interested in certain characters after a recent Disney+ Special Presentation or monster themed anthology from Marvel, then it's a great litmus test for the regular Moon Knight title.
Moon Knight Annual #1: Operation Kill the Moon (God)
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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