Written by Joel T. Lewis
In preparation for this month’s issue I went into the Moon Knight back-catalog and pulled every appearance of the villain Raoul Bushman that I could find and read it again. I took notes on the history of the character and cataloged his atrocities. I tracked his evolution throughout Moon Knight’s history from his start as a vicious international mercenary to his stint as a New York drug lord, from his days as an African Dictator, to his last appearance as a faceless zombie. I had planned to use this research to show how Jeff Lemire’s Bushman fits into the greater history of the character. While this issue does introduce Raoul Bushman and shows the iconic confrontation scene that leads Marc Spector to become Moon Knight...the effect is underwhelming. This is not how I wanted to describe this issue. I was really excited but Lemire’s Bushman falls a little flat for me.
Let me explain: this is a character who in his first appearance (Moon Knight (1980) #1) revels in the violence he and his gang of mercenaries bring to the freedom fighters in the Sudan. His face is a tattooed death mask which rivals Darth Maul’s heebie-jeebie factor and to top it all off he brutally murders Marlene’s father by biting out his throat. Now, in issue 13 Bushman does murder Professor Alraune, and he does it by gutting him with an efficiency that is chilling, but the matter-of-fact way he does it is more controlled and removed than Bushman has been in the past. I can’t help but feel let down that I didn’t get to see Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire’s interpretation of Bushman’s filed down teeth taking the life of Professor Alraune the way he does in his first appearance. Now I can think of a number of reasons why Lemire chose to tone the Bushman down for this series, and chances are that we will see the mercenary return in the series finale, but when you pick up an issue with Smallwood’s terrifying Bushman on the cover, the last thing you want is to have that character be underwhelming on the inside. Now that I’ve had my nerd rant, I must say that if this is the first Moon Knight series you’ve ever read, or you came aboard for the 2014 Warren Ellis run, this first introduction to the Bushman isn’t a bad one, nor does it completely mischaracterize the villain.
While the flashback storyline follows Spector’s last mission as a mercenary and the introduction of Marlene, not much happens as we follow present day Spector on his journey to confront Khonshu. Marc receives an ominous warning from Anubis as he bids him farewell and Marc sends Crawley to Gena’s diner to protect him from the final showdown with Khonshu. We follow Marc as he makes his way to the subway station where he encountered the Mummies in issue 3 and eventually back to the asylum. Khonshu tempts Marc with the promise of a pain free life if he remains trapped inside his own mind which Marc rejects as he bursts out (rather messily) from a brain-shaped prison. While I have been ragging on this issue, and in all honesty it is a bit of a filler issue, seeing Smallwood trap Spector in a giant brain and a few pages later show him carve his way out with a crescent dart was really cool.
Another redeeming aspect of this issue was the way that Marc insulated Crawley from the final showdown with Khonshu. Throughout the history of Moon Knight, Marc has treated his friends and supporting characters the way he treated his different identities, donning each personality and using each friend to accomplish Moon Knight’s goals. In the past, Marc has been a parasitic influence in the lives of Frenchie, Marlene, Gena, and Crawley and it’s a nice subtle touch for him to take on this final battle alone. It’s not as dramatic as acknowledging his separate identities was in issue 9, but it is a great way of showing Marc’s healthier way of interacting with those closest to him.
This is it! We’re nearly at the end of this amazing run and while this issue was a bit of a disappointment for me I cannot wait for next month’s finale. Moon Knight VS Khonshu 2017 promises to be epic, intimate, and totally insane. Until next time, Geek ON!