Written by Joel T. Lewis
At the conclusion of last month’s issue of Moon Knight, I was left wondering what had happened to Bushman that caused him to become the pudgy sweat-pants wearing drug dealer that Jacen Burrows brought to life on that final page. Max Bemis wastes no time in answering that question: Moon Knight happened. Bemis paints an almost pitiful picture of the once mighty Raoul Bushman, acknowledging his stint as an African Warlord in the 1989 Marc Spector: Moon Knight series, confirming that he was murdered and had his face removed by Spector in 2006’s Huston Run, and that he was resurrected and had his face reattached in 2009’s ‘Vengeance of the Moon Knight’ series.
Bemis’ Bushman bears all of the trauma that the different stewards of the Moon Knight mythos have put him through and the pudgy damaged man that remains is unique among the villains of the comic book world. Bushman is terrified of Marc Spector. He tells us so himself in issue 190. And I have to be honest, as I read his stirring and emotional speech to his army of Spector’s victims (a horde of street hoods left disabled and maimed by Moon Knight over the years) my first instinct was to sneer and turn up my nose. I actually thought, ‘Well that’s just a complete misunderstanding of the character.’
I don’t know what gives me the right to think something like that. The fact of the matter is that until Bemis came along, Bushman was a one-dimensional figure of terror. Ruthless, bloodthirsty, and cold. When Marc finally killed him in 2006, though the image was disturbing, I relished that the monster had been given a fitting end. Bemis on the other hand has given us a Bushman who’s just as damaged as Marc is, perhaps even more so as his resurrection came at the hands of a villain called the Hood who used the powers of Dormammu (probably the result of a bargain of some sort…pauses for laughter), a force more sinister than that of Khonshu. Bushman is still a monster, but he’s now a more relatable, fractured monster and that’s a breath of fresh air. Bemis is great at throwing our preconceived notions about our favorite jet and silver avenger out the window, especially when he shows us the multitude of street hoods missing limbs, eyes, and fingers courtesy of old Moonie.
When reading a Moon Knight Comic, you don’t really stop to think about the maimed and abused ‘thugs’ that Spector leaves in his wake, you just revel, as he does, in the brutal violence Khonshu requires as tribute from his priest. Bemis reminds us all that Spector cuts a more gruesome path through the New York City Underworld than Spidey, Daredevil, or even the Punisher. Moon Knight’s victims (at least since Huston’s run in 2006) bear the brunt of Marc’s vigilante Justice with crippled limbs, missing eyes, limps, stumps, and scars. This reminder reframes the beloved carnage that has been associated with Moon Knight as even more cruel and poignant than ever before.
Bemis is having a lot of fun with the tenuous team-up of Bushman and the Sun King, and the way those two interact with each other is really interesting and entertaining. Bushman doesn’t buy into the Sun King’s literal door-to-door evangelism and plays down his partner’s crazed pontificating but at the same time Sun King reins Bushman in when he starts monologue-ing. The two do a great job of interrupting each other when they start to descend into tired comic book villain tropes and that’s a really subtle and clever nuance to Bemis’ writing that really impressed me this issue.
In this issue, Sun King and Bushman recruit an army of Moon Knight’s former victims and plan to use Marlene as bait in a trap for Marc Spector. When they arrive at Marlene’s suburban home they quickly discover they have a lot more leverage than they thought. Meanwhile, Marc quite literally wrestles with himself within his mind as he struggles to reason with his Jake Lockley personality and discover the awful secret that the Truth had seen in the previous issue. This sequence is a lot of fun to read as artist Jacen Burrows gets his first crack at the inside of Spector’s head, shifting between scenery, color, and tone effortlessly. These internal glimpses are punctuated by panels depicting Spector calmly mediating in central park, and then shouting at himself. This frightens an elderly lady walking her dog near Marc and the effect is really fun and lighthearted.
Marlene, who has been estranged from Marc for about 5 years at this time, is forced to invite him back into her life as Bushman and the Sun King lie in wait. Spector arrives, springs the trap, and the Sun King reveals that not only does he have Marlene held hostage, but he also knows Lockley’s secret, and it’s really messed up. Turns out that Jake Lockley has been seeing Marlene behind Marc’s back for about 5 years. And pretty early into that 5 years Marlene had a child. A child that Lockley and Marlene have been raising in secret behind Marc Spector’s back. That’s right: Moonie’s got a five-year-old girl that he had no conscious knowledge about. I had not fully grasped how literal Bemis’ title of ‘Crazy Runs in the Family’ was going to be until I reached this final page reveal and boy did it throw me for a loop. What a great way to shatter the illusion of conscious harmony in Marc’s head and redefine the relationship between Marc and Marlene in one page! With one swift motion Bemis has linked these two characters together with a bond that is so much more nuanced, complicated, and realistic than has ever been written between them before.
This creative team continues to blow me away with their balance of poignant and playful moments and Bemis in particular is just making Moonie dance by shaking up the formula and reframing his relationships and rogue’s gallery. I can’t wait for the next issue! Until next time, Geek On!