Warning! Spoilers ahead for What If…? Dark: Moon Knight!In an alternate world where Moon Knight died at the hands of his longtime nemesis, his replacement Luminary sets herself apart with some astonishing solar powers. Since 1977 Marvel Comics has been exploring an endless sea of diverging possibilities through its various What If…? series. What if Spider-Man saved Gwen Stacy? What if it was Jane Foster that first found, and lifted, Thor’s hammer when it fell to Earth? The latest look at what could have been revisits a seemingly routine showdown between Marc Spector and his oldest foe, General Raoul Bushman. What if Moon Knight was slain by Bushman’s hand? What if his longtime girlfriend Marlene Alraune’s pleas for vengeance were answered by the Sun God Amon Ra?
What If…? Dark: Moon Knight by Erica Schultz and Edgar Salazar answers these questions. This latest entry into Marvel’s What If…? Dark series takes a look back at a conflict depicted in 1989’s Marc Spector: Moon Knight #3 from Chuck Dixon and Sal Velluto. In the original tale, Moon Knight travels to fictional southern African nation of Burunda to save Marlene from General Bushman, who has installed himself as the small nation’s dictator. It is a routine triumph: Spector beats the bad guy and saves the girl. In What If…? Dark, however, Bushman exploits a momentary lapse in Spector’s focus to fatally impale him with his sword. Marlene denounces the Egyptian Moon God Khonshu for failing Marc, and in doing so she is contacted by Ra – the Sun God offers to make her his avatar, Luminary, granting her the powers needed to seek her vengeance.
The Fist of Ra Has Powers the Fist of Khonshu Doesn’t
With rare exceptions, Moon Knight has operated with few (if any) explicit superpowers – it’s often questioned whether he has any supernatural ability at all or if he’s just clinically insane. Marlene’s Luminary is far more blunt in this matter: as Ra’s avatar, she openly wields bursts of blinding light and flaming fists. Perhaps most impressively, Luminary can summon daggers made of tangible flame from her heart. Marlene returns to Burunda to duel Bushman as Spector once did and, before Bushman can finish her off, she summons forth another flame-dagger directly from her heart into Bushman’s chest.
It grievously wounds Bushman, allowing her to finish him off with one of Marc’s old crescent darts. Ra’s power comes with a price, however: the Sun God’s light is a purifying flame, purging all it touches… including Marlene herself. Marlene’s consciousness is cleansed from Luminary’s body, leaving only Ra.
Luminary is Very Different From Ra’s Other Avatars
This isn’t Moon Knight’s first brush with Amon Ra. Max Bemis’s 2017 Moon Knight series introduced the Sun King, another avatar of the Egyptian Sun God. As Ra sought to destroy his errant son, Khonshu, so had Sun King sought to destroy his solar opposite, Moon Knight. In fact, since the dawn of human civilization, there have been Sun Kings empowered by Ra to impose his will over the Earth, only to be cast down by that era’s Moon Knight. Where Khonshu abstractly represents the freedom of human self-determination, Ra possesses a more domineering worldview and would enslave the world to bring it order. He is a “loathsome fascist” in the words of Khonshu, a point punctuated by the fact that the Sun King of World War II was a servant of Nazi Germany. Marlene’s Luminary is notably the first we’ve seen. Perhaps, much as Hunter’s Moon is a second Fist of Khonshu, Luminary is the second Fist of Ra. With the modern Sun King interred in a psychiatric clinic, a Luminary may be set to rise in Marvel’s primary timeline.
Luminary, like Sun King, boasts awesome powers to contrast the subtleties of Moon Knight’s strength (much to Bushman’s despair). Had Marlene realized Ra’s domineering nature, perhaps she would not have submitted herself to be his vessel. While Marlene may not be destined to be Ra’s avatar, this story establishes the mantle of Luminary as very real. Someday, Moon Knight may have to face the brilliant wrath of Ra’s new Luminary.
What If…? Dark: Moon Knight is on sale now from Marvel Comics.