In a reality-bending mind boggle that fans of “Total Recall” will love, writer Jeff Lemire, artist Greg Smallwood and colorist Jordie Bellaire continue Marc Spector’s painful stay in an asylum in “Moon Knight” #2.
Sanity isn’t exactly Marc Spector’s strong suit. When Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey launched their volume of “Moon Knight” in 2014, the storylines placed more emphasis on the white-suited Mr. Knight as he assisted the police in solving cases involving the supernatural than on his tenuous grip on reality. It was primarily during his conversations with Khonshu (who usually appeared to be a cobweb-ridden corpse) that readers openly questioned Marc’s sanity.
In the current run, however, writer Jeff Lemire puts the issue of Marc’s sanity front and center, and to great effect. Lemire’s careful scripting posits that Marc has been institutionalized since arriving from an orphanage at the age of 12 and that his entire manifestation as Moon Knight was just a symptom of his madness. According to Dr. Emmet, what Marc thinks are memories of his life as the Fist of Khonshu are merely delusions created by his broken mind.
The wonderful thing about Lemire’s script is that — as of issue #2 — either version of events could be true. He gives readers enough leeway to suspect Marc really is a mental patient, while he also provides enough clues to bring you back to thinking Marc is a prisoner of Seth. His careful attention to the supporting cast lends weight to both versions. From the sadistic orderlies to the fellow inmates who bear striking resemblances to Moon Knight’s accomplices, these characters reinforce both options and force Marc to choose his reality.
Fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will recall the sixth season episode “Normal Again,” where Buffy transitions between two realities: one where she is a mental patient and the other where she is a vampire slayer. Ultimately, Buffy chooses to return to Sunnydale and continue her fight, and thus her choice created her reality. Marc Spector faces a similar choice here. Following a chilling conversation with Khonshu, Marc dons his white suit and gives himself over to being Mr. Knight.
But was all of this too easy? Was it too convenient to find his companions? Was it too simple to decide to put on the suit and attempt an escape? Lemire leaves us with those maddening questions, and they’re why I can’t wait for issue #3.
Greg Smallwood’s attentive art adds restrained surreal qualities that reinforce the questions raised in Lemire’s script. The characters possess definitive line work while their backgrounds contain more washed-out inks, and their combined effect is chilling. Smallwood also alters his style for the conversation between Marc and Khonshu to an imprecise, sketch-based presentation that emphasizes the fractured nature of Marc’s mind.
Jordie Bellaire is no stranger to “Moon Knight,” having colored the previous run, and her delicious colors complete the reality-altered picture. Using greys and blacks on top of Smallwood’s inks, stark hospital scrubs give way to Mr. Knight’s suit and Bellaire transforms the color white into something simultaneously menacing and slightly creepy.
Is Marc Spector crazy? Absolutely. Is he a mental patient or a prisoner? That’s the real question, and it’s what makes issue #2 so enjoyable.