Comic book review: Moon Knight #1

Moon_Knight_Vol_8_1Moon Knight (aka Marc Spector) is a mysterious mercenary turned vigilante and Marvel comics character I got turned onto because of how different and weird he was. The art and story during Warren Ellis’s run made me realize how truly underrated and underappreciated Moon Knight was. He’s dark, complex, troubled, and lonely, but dispenses out a badass beat down in a way that feels different than many other comics I’ve read. That’s why I’ve chosen to review Lemire’s run of Moon Knight, an impressive comic released back in April 13 2016.

I was introduced to past issues where Moon Knight fought off cryptic biker ghosts, murderous psychopaths, and issues where he dealt with his dissociative identity disorder as he fights crime and other evil in the name of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu. I still don’t know a great deal about Moon Knight as a whole or his history, but you can absolutely say I’m a fan. He’s a hard character to get right, but I love seeing his name on the stands. I love Moon Knight as a comic since it tackles horror aspects, mental illness, and otherworldly influences building up the Marvel universe.

To quote the inside page: “Mercenary Marc Spector died in Egypt under a statue of the moon god Khonshu. In the shadow of the ancient deity, Marc returned to life and took on Khonshu’s aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane and disappeared for a time, but returned to protect those that travelled by night.”

So, let’s tackle this issue! It’s a part of a five-issue arc (Welcome to New Egypt) that calls into question Moon Knight’s backstory. Spector’s stuck in a mental institution that is trying to convince him that his life as Moon Knight were delusions, that he’s been in an asylum writing down his imagined life as the caped crusader since he was 12. But is the institution even real? Reality is slipping in and out, and Spector can’t really tell what’s real in the passing moments.

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Spector before the Khonsu’s temple, with artist Smallwood’s beautiful crosshatch style.
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Spector remembering everything suddenly from his past.

This helps him and hurts him, as he figures out what everything means to him anew, trying make sense of his abusive relationship with his God. Instead of fighting criminals and the criminally insane, he’s facing abusive orderlies that may or may not be humanoid pharaoh hounds. The moon god is really screwing with Spector for his own agenda, but it’s still not 100% clear what’s real and what’s not. This issue is a good way to start out on the character of Moon Knight because Spector himself doesn’t remember all that much about himself, just bits and pieces. We, as the reader, are discovering who he is along with him, and that flows naturally.

This new Spector isn’t all that new, however. It clearly is conscious of the previous Spectors before this run, respecting its foundation of past arcs with while clearly standing out. It’s a refreshing look at the character, for sure, but the trope of being stuck in an asylum where a character doesn’t belong is a little edgy and done before. However, what this actually knocks out of the park is convincing us that Spector probably does need professional help, and his slipping in and out of reality with dissociation shows that. Not that he deserves to be in an institution, since it’s understood he is definitely Moon Knight and that Khonshu is real. It’s a fictional comic book story. It is generally impossible for any serial series to write out a main character by making us believe a character is really just cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Get real.

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“This is mine? This is who I am?”      “You are nothing. Not anymore.”

The art makes this script shine, and worth a purchase. Greg Smallwood’s beautiful sketchy crosshatch style mixed with Jordie Bellaire’s minimalistic flat coloring makes for an incredible combo. The team creating this comic is top notch, and it shows. The creative page layouts really highlight our perspective into Spector’s mind. Their large panels go from filling the page to proportionally shrinking to black as the background remains a distinct white as he fades out of consciousness from the abuse of the orderlies. As he communes with Khonshu, we see his hand touch a wall outside of the panel frame, as if stepping into his dimension. Also, to highlight this, the background is starkly white and so are the clothes that Spector and Khonshu wear. Details are lush and colors symbolically connect the panels in indirect ways. Those who are violating and hurting Spector all have some kind of red on them (orderly’s afro pick, red pen, red hair, red skirt, red book on a desk in a doctor’s room) and the blue represents a connection to Khonshu (patches on an outfit one patient wears, Spector’s face as he communes with his god). If the story didn’t sell you, the art surely will.

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It’s always Bobby this, Billy that. They’re bro orderlies that beat the shit out of every inmate for fun, duh!

There are minor complaints with this issue, though. The awful treatment Spector receives in the institution really demonizes the staff, and the orderlies are also just so evil they’re almost cartoonish. Towards the end, Khonshu saying “it’s time to kick some ass” is hilarious and a bit cheesy. It removes a bit of the mysterious atmosphere surrounding Khonshu because it feels out of character, at least in my understanding of the moon god. I would expect him to tell him to use “elevated” speech with more vocabulary, like “decimate these vermin” instead of kicking ass. Perhaps this god was trying to appeal to a man he knows so well? It’s worth a small giggle and minor cringe, so no real harm or foul occurs but feels off. This is supported by Khonshu’s immediate disappointment of Spectors’ failure to fight off his orderly captors and capture. Other than that, pretty solid.

The reveal at the end leaves us with many questions, and is quite surprising. The world, whatever state it’s in, looks very different for Spector…and makes me wonder what’s to come. New York is perhaps the New Egypt. This is eerie, supernatural, and from another dimension. Moon Knight is reborn in this #1 in a great way for new and old fans to enjoy, and this issue has mysteries to solve. Now, in the limelight are his personal demons in the way. As Khonshu says to Spector, “if you are to be reborn, you must suffer through pain”.

I would rate this as an 8.5. It’s more than enough to maintain interest and to grab readers. Guaranteed for anyone’s pull list. Grab it off the shelves if it’s still there.

8.5/10

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