Written by Joel T. Lewis
I’m not sure if it stems from my unbridled fandom of Moon Knight, or Max Bemis and Jacen Burrows are just that good, but Moon Knight delivered another incredible issue this month. Beginning with a cold open introduction to a new villain calling himself the Truth (readers of my last Moon Knight review will forgive my mislabeling of the previous issue’s villain as the Truth as I have found out recently that patient 86’s villain name is the Sun King) and concluding with the surprise reveal of an old rogue’s gallery favorite, Bemis and Burrows have done it again.
In an issue that introduces the Moon God Khonshu as a, dare I say it, whimsical narrator, Bemis maintains the poignant and playful tone of the previous issue. We are reintroduced to Moon Knight’s Steven Grant persona, who Bemis has described as an investor and entrepreneur, rather than the Hollywood movie producer that Lemire had built him up to be. Even after the lengthy sabbatical that he had taken while Spector sought the therapy he needed to accept rather than resent the aspects of his mental condition, Grant managed to double his own wealth in addition to boosting his corporation’s already healthy bottom line. The next few panels show us that every cent of Grant’s gains from his fancy stock footwork is going straight to a charity fund for New York’s displaced young people, a fund called the Lunar Lives Fund. Seeing the effects of the Truth’s attack on the subway on the TV at Grant’s corporate celebration, he rushes off to investigate.
In this section Jacen Burrows artwork really shines. The combination of his pencils with newcomer (at least to Moon Knight anyway) Inker Guillermo Ortego just leap off the pages. Burrows crafts some soon-to-be classic Moon Knight panels and just nails the character design across the board; in motion, covered in blood, shrouded in darkness, he’s just so spot on. I enjoyed the subterranean panels in particular because of the tone shift colorist Mat Lopes was able to achieve as Moon Knight moves through the low light of the subway tunnels. Moon Knight meets and tussles with the Truth in the cavernous tunnels, stumbling slightly as the villain attempts to subdue his mind to his will. The Truth’s powers, though effective at imposing his will and warped view of the world as unworthy of continuing on the citizens of New York, he finds himself unequal to the task of overpowering a mind as crowded as Marc’s. Though Marc, Steven, and Khonshu are unable to resist the Truth’s prying mental manipulations, once he transitions to his Jake Lockley persona, Moon Knight dispatches the villain quickly.
When Jake takes over, Moonie pulls back his hood and uncovers his mouth, a variation on the Mr. Knight identity introduced in Secret Avengers (2012) no. 19 by Warren Ellis and Michael Lark, which would be brought to the forefront of the Moon Knight solo title by Ellis in 2014. The Truth’s terror at the ‘truth’ he finds in Jake’s head disarms him enough that he leaves himself open to double crescent moon darts plunged into his eyes. But not before revealing that perhaps Lockley has been keeping his more gruesome actions secret from Marc and his other identities. The ambiguity of Marc’s sanity and grip on the actions of his segmented personality is a classic element of Moon Knight stories and I’m really fascinated by the notion of Jake, rather than Khonshu, using his position inside Marc’s head as a vehicle for carnage and chaos. It will be really interesting to see how the Marc/Jake dynamic plays out in the issues to come.
Interspersed throughout the issue are panels that follow the mysterious patient number 86 from the previous issue, (also known as the Sun King) on his search for a faceless Drug Lord. As the Sun King moves through the New York underworld, gaining information through his charisma and power over fire, the contrasting color scheme of the panels mirror the otherworldliness of his character, and the nature of his powers. The gray tinge that all other characters have in these panels contrasts beautifully with the fiery orange aura that Mat Lopes gives the Sun King. Finally, as the Sun King finds the elusive Drug Lord he’s been searching for, Bemis and company reveal the mystery man to be an overweight, sweatpants wearing Raoul Bushman.
This was a surprise. Especially considering my respect and fear of Bushman, seeing him let himself go, was a little disheartening. This is a man who slaughtered villages without prejudice and would bite out people’s throats with relish, so to see him drawn pudgy and wearing track pants made me a little sad. I am really curious to see how he will work in conjunction with the upstart Sun King, and also whether or not Bemis will fill us in with what Bushman’s been up to since Spector’s rebirth and how he came to let himself go so dramatically.
Bemis’ interpretation of how Marc interacts with his separate personalities, and his characterization of Khonshu in particular is fascinating. By showing ghostly representations of his other personalities as they speak to each other, Bemis has laid out an easily followed road map to Marc’s psyche that helps the reader understand who’s speaking to whom and where Marc is in terms of his control of a situation. Also, when Marc addresses Jake saying, ‘What was he talking about Jake? This is exactly what we agreed not to do! We will talk about this later.’ His tone is like that of a frustrated father, trying to rein in an unruly child, which is a very interesting dynamic for those two personas to share. Khonshu as a narrator is almost cheerful, complimenting Steven Grant and commenting on his dislike of the Jake Lockley persona. It’s almost as if Bemis has modeled the vengeful god in his version on Batman’s Alfred; he’s snide, knows his avatar perhaps better than he knows himself (or selves), and, thus far, has only spoken or acted in an observational and advisory capacity. I don’t think this is the wrong direction for the character, but it seems to disarm him a bit, which might be the point. Gone are the days that I forget what Khonshu is and has always been; manipulative, vengeful, and unpredictable. I certainly learned my lesson about underestimating him from the last series.
More remarkable than the levity and personality that Bemis brings through his narration of the issue, is that he’s nailed the old school Moon Knight quippy-ness of Doug Moench’s original series without it feeling out of place or dated. Moon Knight addresses the Truth before attacking him, ‘You. Before I knock you out, tell me…do you need to be called anything?’ This sounds like a classic Moon Knight line, but it’s updated to show that while Moon Knight couldn’t care less what the Truth calls himself, he understands that a villain with a persona craves to be labeled as such. And Moonie is happy to oblige before punching him in the face. Burrows and Bemis continue to do right by Moon Knight and I’m sad that after this issue they’ll be returning to releasing only one issue a month. Alas, I shall have to wait. Until next time, Geek On!