By Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire, VC’s Corey Petit
Once one of Marvel’s strongest titles (thanks to an inspired revamp by Warren Ellis), the current volume of Moon Knight has sort of faded into the mass of books that’s being produced by the publisher without having any reason to stand out. It’s reached 13 issues, which is unusual since this is when most series are relaunched with a new #1. Yet, the story is still going on and that may be the key problem…
One of the key aspects of the Ellis run (which only lasted 6 issues), was its compressed pacing. It moved at a breakneck beat every issue, constantly leaving fans wanting more but still being satisfied with what was delivered. Lemire has given us 13 issues since he came on as writer, and he’s done exactly two things in that time: firmly established mysticism to Marc Spector, and put him in the crazy house. Now, we can argue whether magic has always been central to Moon Knight (his first appearance involved fighting a werewolf) but his questionable mental state was almost always a touchstone to the character. It seems to be a crutch for writers to jazz up the protagonist recently, but neither one seems to have actually impacted the story in a meaningful way.
Marc Spector is still on a quest to defeat Khonshu, and despite absorbing all his fragmented personalities they still exist in an alternate plane or something (as seen last issue). This issue is split between Spector walking to face Khonshu and flashbacks to his mission with Raoul Bushman in Egypt where he would be reborn as Moon Knight. The latter is far more interesting despite the more grounded visuals, because it has some bearing on Marc Spector and is something that I don’t recall Lemire using yet in this run. The trippy visuals and metaphors have been done many times now, and they lack any significance to me.
For those who don’t know, Bushman is Moon Knight’s Shredder. By that I mean, he’s the most important villain but was dispatched early in his career. His influence on Marc and Moon Knight has never left though, which is why he’s central to the backstory. Lemire retelling that, even if very little is changed, still has a novel air against whatever magic nonsense is swallowing the main plot.
This isn’t to say that the art hasn’t been great in this run. Smallwood is making a strong case for being one of the best Moon Knigt artists with his transcendent layouts and psychedelic illustrations of Marc’s reality melting and transforming constantly. Even the guest illustrators like James Stokoe and Francisco Francavillia turned in amazing pages with only a third of the issue given to them. Jordie Bellaire’s colors have been a constant icing to each artists pencils, and her stark whiteness of Moon Knight’s costume still impresses me. This issue is beautiful artwise, as Mr.Knight travels alone through the deserted subway tunnel into his crazed brain. The flashback sequence has the cinematic quality of a gritty Iraq war film, and gives a more human feeling to the story which makes sense since there’s no magic or costumes involved. It’s pure drama, and Smallwood’s storytelling gives it the full effect.
Unfortunately the art isn’t on trial here, the story is. In 13 issues it seems like the plot has barely moved forward, which is troubling since Lemire’s run has been the most linear of the recent Moon Knight volumes. Most were one-and-done’s over six issues that were part of a loose larger plot, aside from Brian Wood’s. Still, he wrapped up his arc in six issues while Lemire’s may not have reached the climax yet. Is it editorial that has forced him to draw out this story to the limit? It seemed that Marvel gave him much more freedom than DC, so either that’s changed or Lemire’s story needed more guidance. It began tightly enough, with Marc and his friends escaping from the mental hospital amidst their reality being overtaken by Egyptian landmarks by the god Set. Then it got focused on Moon Knight’s split personalities, rescuing Anubis’ wife, now its about killing Khonshu. At this point, I’m ready for a completely new story either from Lemire or someone else.