There have been many “Moon Knight” comics over the years, with current hot names in comics working on the character to boot. Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Stephen Platt are just a few of the big creators to tackle Marc Spector — so why have none of them stuck? Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood are doing their best to defeat the curse of Khonshu in this latest “Moon Knight” #1, and it’s certainly an impressive comic.
Lemire’s script focuses on an aspect that has been played up in some other recent takes on the character — the idea that Marc Spector is crazy — and pushes it to the extreme. Not only is Spector in a facility that may or may not be a mental hospital, but the very nature of reality is slipping in and out of focus. Even as he tries to escape, his perception of what’s happening around him is both an ally and an adversary.
The concept of this first issue is great for an opening arc (scheduled to run five issues), although it does bring into question how much or little this particular take on the character can continue beyond that. It’s a fun way to start here, though, and based solely on this initial chapter it’s a good way into the character. Lemire gives us a Spector who is alternately befuddled and driven, and it ably keeps the character from ever coming across a little too simplistic. While the look at what’s happened to the outside world almost certainly can’t be taken at face value, there’s still enough ambiguity on what is and isn’t happening in “Moon Knight” #1 that the story alone should be enough to draw readers back.
That said, if the story doesn’t hook readers, the art surely will. Smallwood drew the story arc written by Brian Wood in the previous volume of series and it looked good, but he and Jordie Bellaire give us something head and shoulders above what we’ve seen from this team before. The opening sequence as Marc tries to find Khonshu is breathtaking, reminding me of Sienkiewicz’s groundbreaking later issues on the original “Moon Knight” comic, with a slightly rough, textured, crosshatched style that just bursts off of the page. Khonshu’s temple looks wonderfully old and mysterious as Marc stands outside of it, helped by Bellaire’s stunning colors that slide from one hue to the next without looking over-rendered or in your face. The third page in particular shows great collaboration between all parties involved; Lemire, Smallwood and Bellaire place Marc on a deliberately stark white background to make the moment where Marc and Khonshu meet feel especially eerie and as if it’s in a different dimension. Add in both the gleaming white clothes that the characters are wearing, and the fact that the Moon Knight mask that’s pulled on at the end of the page also has that lack of color, and it’s a scene that sets the rest of the book up for greatness.
As wonderful as that style of page is, it’s also worth noting that the “reality” pages, drawn in a more traditional style, are also strong. Smallwood’s characters in the real world have a strong, attractive line defining them, to say nothing of the details of the crumbling, decaying mental institute. Smallwood and Bellaire bring this setting to life instantly, and I love how real it all comes across. There’s also a nice page layout or two here, as well. The moment where Marc’s strapped in for the electroshock treatment works in no small part because of how the panels shrink in size as they move down the page, post-shock, decreasing as Marc’s consciousness fades proportionally.
“Moon Knight” #1 is a strong first issue from Lemire, Smallwood and Bellaire. For whatever reason, this character seems to rarely click with readers, if the number of series that have come and gone over the years is any indication. Will this be the take that sticks? It’s hard to say, but if pure talent alone assured victory, there would be no worries here. Lemire, Smallwood and Bellaire have made Moon Knight intriguing again.