Moon Knight review: Oscar Isaac has drawn the short straw

The best thing about it is Ethan Hawke, as Moon Knight’s nemesis Dr Arthur Harrow

Say "superhero" and it's fair to assume Marvel's Moon Knight (Disney +, Wednesday) is not the first name that pops to mind. Or even third, fourth or fifth.

But, having emptied its bench of A-list caped crusaders, the comic book powerhouse has now arrived at the “deep cuts” phase of its mission to conquer cinema, television and the rest of the known universe.

Hence, Moon Knight, a character many would fail to recognise were he to run around central London in a white cape and mask that makes him look like Batman after a nasty encounter with a lifetime supply of Tipp-Ex.

Moon Knight does in fact run around central London resplendent in Tipp-Ex white in his new six part series. However, he takes his time getting there and for most of the first episode the focus is on the emotional traumas suffered by his alter-ego, portrayed with bracing solemnity by Oscar Isaac.

Isaac is a Hollywood leading man who radiates a lightly-worn charisma. He also has that under-appreciated ability to put weight on hokey dialogue (as we know from his Star Wars films).

But goodness has he drawn the short straw with Moon Knight. It requires him to not only get under the skin of Marvel’s answer to Batman but to play Stephen Grant, a nebbish Londoner who is surprised to learn that, in a previous life, he forged a pact with all-powerful, all-nagging Egyptian god Khonshu (voiced by F Murray Abraham) to rid the world of evil-doers.

It’s a toss-up as to which is harder to take seriously. Isaac as a guy who goes out in public wearing white sheets over this head. Or as Stephen, an everyman Brit whom the actor seems to have modelled on Ricky Gervais circa The Office.

Isaac’s flailing Estuary burr provoked mirth and outrage in the UK when the first Moon Knight trailer dropped – a grand irony considering Britain gave us such linguistic horror shows as Matthew Goode in Leap Year and Mummy Zebra in Peppa Pig. Yet, setting to one side the amusing vista of the London chattering classes up in arms about iffy accents, Isaac truly is all at sea as the supine Stephen.

He fares better when the plot lurches forward and he is allowed to speak in his natural American twang. And Moon Knight itself improves hugely once it moves past its obsession with portraying Stephen as psychologically damaged and turns into just another Marvel show – which is obviously what fans want and what Marvel excels at.

The best thing about Moon Knight is Ethan Hawke, as Moon Knight's nemesis Dr Arthur Harrow. He has the rumpled Messiah tendencies of a grouchy Jesus. And, as with all great antagonists, Harrow believes he's on the side of right and is reconciled to a few inconsequential plebs suffering so that he can bring about Utopia on earth (insert your own joke about the Dublin cycling lobby etc etc).

There are echoes, here, of the Avengers’ purple-headed baddie Thanos. Which is a reminder there are only so many ways to tell a familiar story. Moon Knight finds that groove eventually – by which time Isaac’s Gervais impersonation is just a mercifully fading memory.