Over the past few weeks, Noah Hawley’s X-Men TV show Legion has been taking television by storm – a superhero show only in the most ostensible sense of the term, Legion was a comic book property that gave audiences something entirely unlike anything they’d ever seen before.
What Legion represented, of course, is a step forward for the superhero genre; at a point when “comic book fatigue” is the phrase on everyone’s lips, Legion came at exactly the right time to show everyone where to go next. Indeed, it’s an example that Marvel Netflix would be well placed to follow, given the recent critical failure of Iron Fist – notably the first Marvel property to ever, properly, receive negative reviews on that scale. It was in part (though certainly not solely) due to how generic and derivative Iron Fist felt – in many respects, it was simply a rehash of a story we’d seen before, the same beats being played out once again. Really, Iron Fist served primarily as a justification for the existence of Legion, and of the need for more programmes to follow in its wake.
No doubt, then, there’s already a conference room that’s hard at work trying to figure out how Marvel can make its first properly post-Legion show, learning from its techniques and its innovations, and bringing a programme that can be just as popular. It’s not impossible – in fact, there’s one character in the Marvel wheelhouse who presents an obvious answer.
That’s Moon Knight.
Moon Knight is often criticised as being an “ersatz Batman”, which gives you some idea of the more surface level attributes of the character, but in fact it’s rather more complicated than that; a character who maintains a series of different personas (Moon Knight, Marc Spector, Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, etc) to help him fight crime, Moon Knight is a superhero with a dissociative identity disorder.
On one level, there’s scope to maintain much of what made the Marvel Netflix shows distinct in their own right, as part of the watershed moment that Daredevil once represented; Moon Knight’s mercenary past, his focus on vengeance and dealing with street crime allow for the same brutal physicality that has characterised the Netflix shows so far. And yet by the same stroke, the dissociative identity disorder inherent to the character would allow the show to play in the same sandbox as Legion, dealing with a deeper psychological drama and playing with the narrative in such a way we’ve never seen before. Indeed, a blend of these two approaches – the gritty realism and the subversive psychology – could help a prospective Moon Knight programme stand in its own right.
Of course, it’d be facile for Moon Knight to simply be “Legion, but with more punching”; if the show is to exist, Marvel Netflix would have to learn another lesson from Legion, and hire a genuine auteur with the passion and talent to bring the programme to life. But at the same time, the Moon Knight concept should be acknowledged for what it is – an idea that has potential to be the next step for superhero TV. It won’t be a transformative leap in the same way that Legion was, but it could absolutely position itself as the first meaningful response to Legion.
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