Written by Joel T. Lewis
The first issue of Moon Knight 2016 wastes no time in establishing tone, setting, and subject matter: and all of that comes before page 1. Old Moonie is right where we’ve speculated he'd end up someday: on the wrong side of a padded cell, with his white straight jacket, and a crescent moon cut into his forehead.
In this run, Jeff Lemire places Moon Knight’s sanity under the microscope as Spector wakes from a vision of Khonshu to discover that he is an inmate at an asylum for the insane. Spector struggles to reason out which of the multiple personalities of his past is the real one only to discover that his therapist Dr. Emmet insists that none of Spector’s past was real. According to Dr. Emmet, Spector has been a resident of the asylum since he was 12 and has used the vigilante Moon Knight (who actually exists) as an escapist fantasy. Lemire, through Dr. Emmet, suggests that all we know of Moon Knight, but that Jake Lockley, Steven Grant, and Marc Spector could have been imaginary this whole time. The truth is unclear as Spector is torn between the “reality” of the asylum around him and the vivid flashbacks triggered during his search for answers.
Spector is not alone as familiar faces Gina, Marlene, and Crawley are residents of the asylum too. Gina and Marlene seem to have no idea where they are or who they were, while Crawley, unsurprisingly, seems to be in his element, serving as Spector’s tour guide within the asylum walls. The thorazine drips and threats of shock treatment seem to have had no effect on Crawley’s chipper demeanor as he attempts to reassure Spector of his identity as the Fist of Khonshu: Moon Knight. Khonshu himself makes a brief appearance in the opening dream sequence compelling Spector to remember his “pasts” as Moon Knight and urges him towards the end of the issue to escape the bonds of the asylum’s mundane reality.
Greg Smallwood’s artwork mirrors Spector’s introspection as he flashes between the “remembered” past as Moon Knight and the apparent reality of the asylum. The colors and texture of the remembered panels strike out in harsh contrast to the bright, antiseptic asylum panels. The reader is, as Spector is, more convinced of the validity of the memories than the reality presented to them. This is complicated however, as the vibrancy of these panels would seem to be too vivid and too surreal to be credible. Smallwood’s panels defy margins and leave more blank space than content as their shape mirrors the content of the panels: as Spector is knocked unconscious the panels seem to trickle off into unconsciousness as he does. Also, at times the shape of Smallwood’s panels serve as punctuation: as Spector is subjected to electroshock treatment the dial controlling the current running through his body is the dot of an exclamation point. This narrowing of panels from page to page focuses your gaze and intensifies the action of those panels. This style of paneling also establishes expectations that are blown away by massive splash pages whose scope and scale hit home all the harder for coming after the decrescendo of the page before.
This is not the first story arc to tackle the tricky subject of Marc Spector’s sanity (or lack thereof) as we have seen Moon Knight driven to psychotic rage and mutilation of his victims in the past. However, this is the first series of Moon Knight that I’ve read that attempts to capture the how cerebral madness can be and challenges both the reader’s and Spector’s faith in the legitimacy of Moon Knight’s legacy. Overall, I believe this issue succeeds in establishing the tone and style necessary to explore the Madness of Marc Spector (which would be a great title for a series of Moon Knight by the way) in an accessible and compelling way.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Deep down, there is one thing we all truly fear...losing control. Be it giving in to our tempers, or perhaps the vices we are ashamed of, we work hard to keep those respective 'darksides' to ourselves and where they belong...in the shadows and recesses of our soul. But what happens when the worst case scenario arrives and the ugly parts of us that we keep hidden within are unleashed?
Do we say goodbye to our friends when our tempers flare up non stop? Do we let our vices take over our lives? Most likely, our friends and family would step in to get us the help we need, but for those without friends and family...the results could be disastrous and in the comic world, the IDW revitalization of Tales from the Darkside decided to take this notion one step further, by personifying the worst parts of our souls in 'The Black Box - Part Two'.
When we last left Brian Newman, he was mere moments away from being free at last from the monster that plagues his dreams and causes harm to those around him; Big Winner, and thankfully the delicate surgery performed on his brain to remove this being from his life turned out to be a complete success. But what the scientists at Briterside are completely unaware of, is that by trying to change the chemistry and composition of Brian's fragile mind, they have unleashed true terror upon the world. For while Brian sleeps and heals, Big Winner is free to do as he pleases, and he is going to unleash revenge upon anyone that has ever harmed Brian in the slightest...
It seems as though with every issue of this comic, Joe Hill manages to recapture the magic more and more of this iconic series and this issue is no exception to that unspoken rule. This go round, Joe has managed to bring the gorier side of the show back to life as Big Winner begins his wholesale slaughter of those who have 'wronged' Brian and the blood is thrown about the pages of this issue with glee. But what makes this episode even more like the regular show, is that it continues to captivate and ignite the imagination by bringing forth so many questions. For example, is Big Winner truly a manifestation of psychic power from within Brian...or is he some kind of supernatural being that attached itself to the poor man and has been with him all the way.
Heck, this issue even manages to become philosophical in nature, speaking to exactly what we discussed earlier, the struggle to keep the worst parts of ourselves under wraps because now that we can see what Big Winner is capable of, we understand completely why Brian has worked so hard to keep himself away from other human beings and protect them from this awful being within. As an added bonus as well, another first for the franchise comes into play here since I was under the assumption that this was a two part fiesta, and well...this is turning out to be a three parter, with the epic conclusion now looming before us and well, I love it. This has been quite the engrossing story, and I'm dying to see if we will learn more about Big Winner and what he really is...and if he can ever be put back under control. Guess we'll find out in Issue #4, until then.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
There’s a used bookshop in Breckenridge that my family visits every year when the international snow sculpture competition is in town. It's everything that you want in a bookshop: it has the smell of dust jackets living up to their name, books are precariously arranged on every surface you can see, and there’s a vague sense of organization but finding anything is an adventure and this is where I discovered Moon Knight. Actually, this is where I rediscovered comics through Moon Knight.
Growing up I owned a handful of comics: a few obscure issues of Batman that came along with an action figure or from somebody who just picked one up for me on a whim. I didn’t follow massive continuities or wide sweeping story arcs but I did read those 4 or 5 issues over and over, wishing I knew what had come before and what would happen next. I just never had the access to comic shops so I wasn’t able to pursue that curiosity. So it was with this fascination and unfamiliarity that I approached a dusty long box full of old comics, intending to flip through just to see if there were any cool Batman covers that I was interested in taking home with me. But as I was flipping through the faded issues I came across a cover that infected my brain, one that I couldn’t put down, and one that I would eventually purchase along with every other issue I could find of this new hero I had discovered. That cover was Moon Knight no. 17.
In the months that followed I bought trade paperbacks, drove out to comic shops, and poured over everything the internet had to offer on my new favorite superhero: Moon Knight. I’m obsessed. I’m using the present tense here deliberately because mine is a constant state of fascination when it comes to Moon Knight. I have read nearly every issue that bears his name, I own the issue in which he makes his first appearance, and I am well on my way to owning every comic in which he makes an appearance. So when I tell you that what follows is the short version of what Moon Knight is about and why I love the character, rest assured that I am telling the truth.
Marc Spector was a Mercenary. An ex-marine who decided that his combat training could prove more profitable if the operations he staged were auctioned off to the highest bidder. But when confronted with a fellow mercenary’s willingness to harm truly innocent people, Spector had a change of heart, which proved fatal. Left to die in the middle of the desert, Spector stumbled into a forgotten temple, collapsed at the feet of the Egyptian God of the Moon, Khonshu, and died. Khonshu, taking pity on Spector, intervened and resurrected him, molding him into his avatar on earth, his warrior-priest, his Moon Knight of Vengeance.
Spector returned to the United States and rebranded himself as the millionaire Steven Grant by day and Moon Knight by night, funding his affluent playboy lifestyle and moon-themed gadgets with the spoils of his mercenary days. But here’s where the character gets truly interesting: Spector willfully suppresses his true identity as Marc Spector the soldier for hire and affects an affable millionaire playboy persona in his everyday life. This is not his sole performance, however, as he affects the gruff persona of New York City cab driver Jake Lockley. Lockley allows Spector to keep an ear to the ground and spy on the seedy underbelly of the city he protects as Moon Knight. One man: four personalities.
Now Moon Knight, or Moonie as he is sometimes called by his rogue’s gallery and writing team, has been through the the Marvel blender like most superheroes: he's been through reboots, redesigns and relocations like the best of them. What have remained constant are Spector's uncertainty of his own sanity and the support of his friends. Whether it's his brother-in-arms Jean-Paul DuChamp who serves as Moon Knight's mechanic and Moon-Coptor pilot, Jake Lockley's friends Gina and Crawley, or Spector's girlfriend Marlene Alraune, Moon Knight is never alone in his fight for justice, vengeance, or sanity.
Is he crazy or is he sane? Can he balance his crime fighting with his off-again on-again relationship with Marlene? Is the vengeful God Khonshu real or is he a delusion created by Spector's damaged psyche? These are the most prominent conflicts that Moon Knight's Comics have explored over the years and though they are revisited again and again they continue to fascinate me with every reexamination.
He's been bitten by werewolves, seduced by serial killers, and traded punches with Spiderman and the Punisher. He's been a Defender and a member of both the West Coast and Secret Avengers. He's carved crescent moons in the foreheads of his prey, he's taken on the personalities of other superheroes, and he's worn the face of his most hated enemy. Moon Knight is clever, brutal, and completely insane.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing review/recap articles on the most recent run of Moon Knight and I sincerely hope if you've never heard of Marc Spector before you'll consider picking up an issue and sharing in my obsession.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In the weeks leading up to the blockbuster releases of superhero films like Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, or BVS I find myself pouring over back issues spanning multiple hero titles and story arcs. I consume like a madman so that when that tiny bit of fan-service makes it on-screen, I can appreciate it or when a character arc is switched I can wince with the rest of the audience. In the digital age we live in our access to comics is almost limitless. If I want to read every back issue of the Fantastic Four (and believe me, I do), I can go on my Marvel Unlimited App, access the digital archive, and read them anywhere I want, day or night, coffee shop or city hall. Databases like Marvel Unlimited and Comixology allow us to access thousands of issues and follow every story arc, but sometimes it’s nice to break away from the search fields and subscription services and pick up a comic the old fashioned way.
I do not intend to make a hipster, comic-book purist statement about how comics should be consumed; rather, I want to share how I discovered Propeller Man. I was flipping through a stack of comics, bundled together by title, and happened across a cover that I couldn’t get out of my head, and despite having already blown the majority of my Comic Con budget (as I do every year) I had to take it home with me. Propeller Man is by no means the first title that I’ve discovered this way, nor is it likely to be the last; however, it could be in the running for the best title I’ve come across.
A forgotten past, a dystopian future, a power suit, and a mysterious government plot. Everything about Matthias Schultheiss’ Propeller Man screams early 90’s and as a product of that era myself, it’s right up my alley. Okay it’s not an air-tight story: it’s true that the German translation is a bit choppy at times, and sure there are heroes with better powers and story arcs but Propeller Man is a lot of fun. Plus, the series doesn't feel like any other comic books. The pages are thick, the art is glossy and there's a real heft when you hold them in your hand. But, more than the polish of the issues or the quality of the narrative or the art, I want to express how it was reading this series.
The world of Propeller Man is familiar in its strangeness. The dystopian future in which the comic takes place is unique in its details but familiar in its broader strokes. As Schultheiss pans over the ruinous hulks of decrepit skyscrapers while Propeller Man sails over the city I am reminded of Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It is a world whose history is only glimpsed through little dialogue cues and Schultheiss’ dystopian artwork. I found myself fascinated by how this world came to be, even as I was fascinated by the title character’s origin, and as I closed the back cover of the final issue I found that that world loomed larger in its potential than any other comic book world I had entered in a long time.
But, there is no massive back catalogue of Propeller Man. There are only eight issues. Only eight issues were planned in the first place and the story is crafted to live within those constraints, and, in a sense, I knew I had to live within those constraints too as I read. There weren’t any more issues for me to devour, no comforting backlog of tangents and side-plots, no variant covers and no conflicting timelines championed by different artists and writers. I had 8 issues to experience the world of Propeller Man, and that was it. I wanted to savor every issue. I didn’t want it to end, but at the same time when I reached the end, my imagination didn’t have to shut down.
Often the massive catalogue of Marvel or DC titles can feel intimidating but also stunting to the imagination: everything you can think of has been, or is on its way to being done. That’s why titles like Propeller Man are so valuable to me; their obscurity allows them to breathe; they are not confined by their popularity and proliferation.
Propeller Man exemplifies everything I like about comics: wacky, silly, dystopic, strange, and imaginative. Oh, and he has Dolphin Powers...that’s right...Dolphin Powers.