Written by Joel T. Lewis
If it is not apparent by now I’m going to state it for the record officially: I adore Jeff Lemire. Thanks to this most recent series of Moon Knight I’ve been exposed to one of the most innovative and powerful storytellers of our time. I was wholeheartedly in his corner from the first issue of this series but with issue 9, Lemire cemented himself into my soul. Issue 9’s impact on me has been so profound that I’m still a bit raw emotionally from having written about it so recently.
From the ending of issue 9 I wasn’t sure what to expect next from this series. Without the three conflicting identities that were so heavily featured in the previous 9 issues I wondered whether Lemire would follow a more conventional linear storyline or surprise me yet again. Lemire managed to do both. Issue 10 follows Marc Spector as he journeys back towards Mercy Hospital, determined to kill Khonshu but also gives us an intimate look at Marc’s childhood via flashbacks. Through these flashbacks Lemire reveals the origin of Spector’s Dissociative Identity Disorder but he also introduces a character from the Moon Knight mythos who we haven’t seen much of in recent years: Rabbi Elias Spector. The father of Moon Knight.
Oh yeah, did I neglect to mention that the resurrected avenger of an Egyptian Moon God is the son of a Rabbi from Chicago? While Marc Spector has never met up with Ben Grimm at the Synagogue for Shabbat, his Jewish heritage is another aspect of Moon Knight that I thought was really unique when I first starting reading his comics. Though there are very few references to Spector’s Jewish heritage in the comics, it is one of the contributing factors to his estrangement from his father. While there have been several storylines that focus on Marc’s tumultuous relationship with his younger brother Randall Spector (which I hope to discuss soon as Lemire seems to be moving in that direction) much of Marc’s history before his mercenary days is left open to speculation. But at the tail end of the first Moon Knight series (1980) writer Alan Zelenetz shed some light on Marc’s rebellion against his religious father.
As the first series of Moon Knight comes to a close, Steven Grant is in the process of filing away all of his files on his past life as Marc Spector. Pouring over old papers, film reels, and photographs Grant files each away, as if by organizing his past he might erase the violence of his life as a Mercenary. But a phone call from the bedside of his ailing father prompts Spector to recount the story of their 18-year estrangement.
When Elias Spector and his wife fled German-occupied Czechoslovakia for the sanctuary of the new world he had already gained acclaim as a student of the Jewish faith. Ordained at 18, Elias was known for his brilliant mind and specialization in Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism. Unfortunately, Chicago was not the safe haven Elias intended for his family as he was brutalized one night by a street gang who carved a swastika into his forehead. The trauma of this event and the way Elias responded to it deeply affected young Marc. The Rabbi chose to not to retaliate. Mistaking his father’s passivity for cowardice young Marc distanced himself from his father and his religion. Elias widened this gap by attempting to persuade Marc to follow in his footsteps as a rabbi.
Marc’s frustration at his family’s persecution fueled his desire to defend himself and he spent his days training at the local gym. Eventually, Marc began to box for money and was skilled enough at 18 that he was seriously considering a career as a professional. Marc had hidden this violent life from his pacifist father but he could not deceive him forever. Elias confronted his son inside the ring, chastised him for the violence of the living he was making, and demanded that he give it up and return home. Marc responded by knocking his father across the ring with a powerful right hook and that was the last time the two men saw each other for 18 years.
Since 1984 this has been all we’ve known about Marc Spector’s relationship with his father. Though many aspects of Moon Knight’s mythology have been revamped over the years, this storyline has been left untouched. While there is some sense of reconciliation between father and son at the close of issue 38, the legacy of this family dysfunction informs every incarnation of Marc Spector. Marc’s fierce loyalty to the Moon God Khonshu for example, may stem from the absence of a strong fatherly influence in his life. By resurrecting Marc and creating Moon Knight, Khonshu became his new father, at least in a spiritual sense. Also, by refocusing and encouraging the violence Spector’s father chastised him for, Khonshu gave Marc the acceptance that Elias wasn’t able to.
But when we meet Elias Spector in 2016 it is long before Marc turns 18. Lemire shows Elias as a troubled parent struggling to understand his son’s shifting personalities. Unsure of what he can do to help he takes Marc to a psychiatrist and we learn that he must undergo special treatment away from home. You feel the compassion and concern in this father’s eyes as he realizes he can’t help his son by himself and instead of a pillar of piety we get to see Elias as a man just trying to be a good father. While there’s still potential for a boxing ring confrontation between father and son in the coming issues, Lemire adds both humanity and intimacy to Marc and Elias’ father/son relationship as they come to terms with Marc’s mental health. If we do see a Spector vs. Spector bout in the coming issues the stakes and the emotional weight of that event will be considerably greater than ever before.
Returning to the story, as Marc listens to his father and psychiatrist’s muffled discussion from the hall Khonshu appears for the very first time. By bringing Khonshu in this early in Spector’s history, Lemire also extends the depth of the Moon God’s influence on Marc’s life. Khonshu calls young Marc his son and tells him that one day he will come to the Moon God and be complete, planting the seeds of dependence and manipulation that will plague Marc for decades.
Back in the present, Marc reunites with Gena and they talk about Spector’s confused sense of reality and his mission to return to the hospital over pancakes. Spector then travels underground in search of Crawley and Anubis. Bargaining for his friend’s soul, Marc agrees to descend into the Othervoid to retrieve something Anubis lost there a long time ago. As Spector dives into the Othervoid returning artist Greg Smallwood really shines. Color, scale, and gravity twist and meld as the issue wraps up and Marc arrives in the Othervoid. I won’t spoil what he discovers there, but it blew my mind. I’m not sure I’ve ever had the experience of coming to the end of a comic book with as much excitement and curiosity about what came before as what is going to happen next! Until next time, Geek On!