Moon Knight, Marvel’s eternal Fist of Khonshu, once allowed his Jake Lockley personality to take over – and the result was an action-packed story.
During the Superhero Registration Act, Moon Knight is framed for murder by Black Spector. On the run from the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark, his civilian identity is now public, and Moon Knight is left with only one option — to fake the death of Marc Spector. This leaves one of his other personalities, Jake Lockley, in charge, who decides to take a trip to Mexico while the dust settles.
In Moon Knight #26, the first issue of the “Down South” story (by Mike Benson and Jefte Palo), Lockley becomes a cage fighter in Mexico and fills his nights with brawling and beer. Gilberto Alcantara, a local cartel crime boss, notices Jake’s skills and propositions him to help recover his daughter, Carmen, who was kidnapped and held for ransom by a corrupt cop. Lockley takes the job but quickly finds himself set up as the scapegoat in a scheme. Meanwhile, the cartel has drawn the attention of several killers, one of which is the Punisher.
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Moon Knight and the Punisher Collide in ‘Down South’
The term “gritty” is often overused when describing many of today’s superhero comics. But “Down South” has true grit and reads as a dust-covered, thrill-per-minute spaghetti western, as Lockley brawls his way from cage fights to killers. The entire point of Lockley retreating to Mexico is to stay off the grid. Benson uses that idea to toy with the character, throwing obstacle after obstacle at Lockley. To further complicate Jake’s effort to stay off the radar, Frank Castle shows up in town hunting the same cartel just as mutilated bodies start turning up. This is a different, more passive and patient take on Frank, and Benson lets the mystery of whether this is the Punisher’s work or someone else’s stew and adds a possible supernatural element to the story.
Alcantara ends up also sending two hilarious muscle-bound assassins, the Zapata Brothers, after his daughter. Benson is able to add lighthearted humor to Palo’s gritty, real-world art with the Zapatas. This version of Moon Knight is far less concerned with superheroics and is more focused on the preservation of life, thus, he makes fast work of the assassins, handing them an embarrassing defeat. Agreeing to continue going after Jake and Carmen, the Zapatas’ second outing takes an unforeseen and comical twist that shows they’re not just worthy adversaries, but also excellent con men.
Moon Knight and the Punisher Team-Up With – A Phantom?!
Having infiltrated the cartel, the Punisher finally reveals himself and decimates their headquarters in a scene that shows Castle having as much fun in his disguise as Lockley does cutting loose in cage fights. Benson does a great job at showing that Lockley is such a captivating and different character who can carry his own storyline. Once inside the cartel compound Moon Knight confronts the Punisher who is admiring his handy work. Moon Knight appears both impressed and vexed by Frank’s attitude, an insecurity rarely seen in Marc Spector’s Moon Knight, but a fun, new adjunct to Lockley’s version of the character. Just as Castle takes credit for taking out some of the men, the real culprit, a phantom killer appears.
Marc Spector would have seen the “phantom” as a supernatural threat and immediately taken the murderer down. But with Alcantara in hand, Jake Lockley simply hands him over and walks away, implying that the phantom killer was merely ridding Mexico’s streets of corruption and gangs, similar to Moon Knight and the Punisher’s mission back home. Benson’s laid back version of the Punisher and his fresh take on Lockley as Moon Knight makes Down South incredibly enjoyable. And looking back on the adventures of Moon Knight throughout his supernatural crime fighting career, it’s hard to top the rollicking fun he had as Jake Lockley running through the streets of Mexico with the Punisher, two wrestlers, and a serial killer in tow.