Question Reality With Lemire, Smallwood & Bellaire’s ‘Moon Knight’ #1 [Review]
Moon Knight is a character that has gone through a lot at Marvel, and he's one of those characters that's so adaptable that everyone wants to do something different with him, to the point where it's eventually hard to square all the many versions into one coherent character. However, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire managed to craft possibly the definitive Moon Knight take with six issues of their 2014 run, to the point that everything that comes after it is going to be compared to that yardstick.
This week sees the release of a new Moon Knight volume, by Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire, which seemed to be going in an opposite direction from the previous run by returning Marc Spector’s dissociative identity disorder and placing him in what the book calls an “insane asylum.” It’s a take on the character that seemed fairly archaic and in poor taste, but on the page the creative team has turned in a first issue on par with the previous run, while doing something completely new.
The first thing I want to say about Moon Knight #1 is that it is not as insensitive to mental illness and the treatment of mental illness as I was worried it would be. Lemire’s story is moody, gothic and scary, but it’s very clear from the get-go that there is something more at play, and the story is way more supernaturally focused than the press for the series made it seem.
The hospital in the story is portrayed as a terrible place, but it’s less One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and way more Silent Hill. Throughout the story there’s a growing sense of unease and dread about how much of what we’re seeing is legitimate, how much is actually supernatural, and how much is in Marc’s head, but it’s never exploitative at the expense of the mentally ill.
Moon Knight #1 actually follows Ellis’ lead and brings together the disparate strands of the character's continuity and puts them at the heart of the story, wrapped in a giant mystery that leaves the reader just as confused as Marc Spector. The biggest accomplishment of the issue is how much is there for die-hard Moon Knight fans, given how accessible it is for new readers.
The star of the book is unquestionably Greg Smallwood, who should be a megastar if his work continues at this level. The opening pages are a beautiful throwback to Bill Sienkiewicz, who defined the look of Moon Knight in the '80s, and his regular pages have a gorgeous weight to them that remind me somewhat of Yanick Paquette, if Yanick Paquette drew The Shining.
Smallwood’s layouts deserve mentioning as well because the panel structure of this book is as much a storytelling device as Lemire’s dialogue. At times you’re deliberately made to feel disorientated, and the way panels shrink as they descend and Marc fades out of consciousness is beautiful.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jordie Bellaire’s color art, as she’s been the one constant through the various creative teams over the past few years. She’s opened up the negative space even more with this issue, and Moon Knight isn’t the only character who gets to exist without color. The effect is almost unsettling. In the previous volume, his presence stood out from the page, making him seem above it all, but with multiple enemies given the same color treatment, you get the feeling that Marc Spector doesn’t have quite the same advantage now.
Moon Knight #1 is one of the most intriguing and visually exciting first issues of the year so far, and a stunning step-up especially for Smallwood who has been one to watch for a while now. If the book continues at this level of quality, it could easily be a breakout book for Marvel and deservedly so.
Moon Knight #1 is released this week and is available digitally and in comic book stores. Check below for a full preview.
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