Written by Joel T. Lewis
In the past 10 issues of Moon Knight there has been a considerable amount of uncertainty. As we have followed Marc Spector’s shifting realities and corresponding identities we have not been able to make any definitive claims about the actual history of Jeff Lemire’s incarnation of the character. There have been subtle references to possible pasts but much of the Moon Knight mythos has been wreathed in shadow as Lemire showcased the internal struggle of Marc Spector. But this current “Death and Birth” arc has begun to make definitive assertions about the history of Moon Knight through flashbacks. Last issue, Lemire showed that Spector developed his Dissociative Identity Disorder when he was a child and Khonshu’s manipulative influence began at the same time. Issue 11 follows Moon Knight’s journey into the Othervoid but also shows us more of Marc Spector’s past.
I won’t disrespect Greg Smallwood’s wonderful artwork in this issue by telling you all that transpires as Mr. Knight navigates the Othervoid, is captured, and then taken to be sacrificed. Suffice it to say that I was reminded of the 1982 Arcade game Joust (and that is in no way a criticism). Mr. Knight discovers that he’s been sent back to rescue Anubis’ wife, Anput, who has been imprisoned by the same forces that call for his own sacrifice. Swallwood’s panels do not disappoint as Mr. Knight trades blows with soldiers who appear to be from ancient Egypt.
Though I am very interested in Moon Knight’s looming final showdown with Khonshu, I have been more fascinated with how Lemire is filling in the Marc Spector origin story. There is no father-son boxing match in this issue but we do get to see Spector attend his father’s funeral and we meet Mrs. Spector for the first time. Approved for a week away from Putnam Psychiatric Hospital so that he may attend his father’s funeral, young Marc Spector argues with his Mom over whether or not his father would have wanted him to attend. Marc’s belief that his father was ashamed of his son and was happy to send him away shows the resentment Marc has been cultivating since he’s been away. His mother assures him that his father only wanted him to get better, but when Marc begins to transition into Jake Lockley to help him cope with the passing of his father she responds with frustrated anger. You can easily read the tension and resentment in the Spector household in so few pages and you don’t blame Marc when you see him run away.
We then fast-forward to Marc’s deployment to Iraq and discover that he’s been sleepwalking. Into minefields. Spector hears the ominous call of Khonshu across the desert sands and isn’t able to resist its pull. Private Spector’s history of strange behavior throughout his two tours in Iraq prompts his commanding officer to investigate his past. He discovers that Private Spector lied on his recruitment forms about his history of mental health problems which leads to his dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Following the voice of Khonshu and afraid of returning to the states and to Putnam Hospital, Marc runs away again. When we fast-forward again, we find Marc in the middle of an unlicensed boxing match, beating the hell out of another man. After the fight Marc talks with a man who’s admired his skill from afar and has noticed his tendency to shift from persona to persona. The man asks if Spector would like to go into business together and when he agrees we discover the man to be Jean-Paul “Frenchie” DuChamp, Moon Knight’s dear friend and pilot.
Once again Jeff Lemire has artfully filled in a blank section of Marc Spector’s origin story. Before this issue, Spector’s military service was only ever mentioned in passing and never with any detailed specifics. It was never clear which war he had seen action in, what rank he attained, or what circumstances led to his departure. Now Lemire has answered all those questions and given us a better understanding of how Khonshu influenced the crucial events in Marc’s life. This issue also demonstrates the first tactic Marc employs to cope with his Dissociative Identity Disorder: running away. Smallwood’s panels showing Marc fleeing from his father’s funeral and from the military base in Iraq echo one another and show a scared, frustrated young man who doesn't fit in where he thought he did. He's told by his commanding officer that the Marine Corps has no place for a man like him and his mother makes him feel unwelcome in his own home. All Marc can do is run. Until he meets Frenchie.
In Lemire’s Moon Knight origin story Frenchie is the only person to have a favorable reaction to Marc’s shifting identities. Frenchie sees a powerful fighter with demons like everybody else but when he refers to Marc’s different personalities he almost shrugs it off. For the first time, someone responds to Marc’s condition with something besides fear and misunderstanding and it has a huge impact.
We never really got to see what solidified Marc and Frenchie’s friendship in previous comics but this very brief meeting in issue 11 shows that from the very beginning Frenchie treated Marc like a human being. I imagine that this kindness in Frenchie is why they remained such firm friends over the years. The next issue of Moon Knight will pick up with the beginning of Marc Spector’s mercenary career and perhaps we'll catch a glimpse of his oldest and most ruthless enemy, Raoul Bushman. Until next time, Geek On!