Moon Knight Volume 1 – “Lunatic” Review (2016)

In the lead up to the release of the third volume of the new Moon Knight book, let’s take a look at what has come before it. This week, the first volume of the newest run, consists of issues #1-5 – Lunatic.

Moon Knight is somewhat of a cult favourite in the Marvel universe, and it’s easy to see why. Marc Spector died under a statue of the Moon God Khonshu in Egypt and was reborn as a protector of night travellers. He’s a unique character, carving out his own little niche in a very particular corner of the Marvel universe.

There have been some great runs, not least the most recent series, which concluded after only 17 issues in 2015. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey began that run with some arguably seminal Moon Knight comics, and it was continued extremely well by an ever changing creative team. Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood (who worked on issues #7-12 of the aforementioned run) and Jordie Bellaire thus had a lot to live up to in this most recent incarnation. However, that creative team is one of the best assembled in the business right now, so Moon Knight was always in safe hands.

This arc begins with Marc Spector in an old-fashioned asylum, where patients are mistreated by the orderlies. He has no idea why he is there, or what exactly is going on. Marc is told his time as Moon Knight was but a mere hallucination. He thinks he knows who he is, but his eyes seem to be deceiving him. The story follows Marc as he struggles with whether or not he is indeed insane, and whether his visions are mere delusions.

Lemire is one of the most consistent writers working today, and he manages to take the long standing mental health questions regarding Moon Knight and create a quite brilliant, original tale. It must’ve been tempting to reveal his hand in one of the first issues, but Lemire keeps you guessing. When all seems right in the world, it most likely isn’t. But he also crucially does not leave the question infuriatingly unanswered. Instead, there is a compromise in the final issue, which resolves some things, but opens up whole new issues for the titular hero. It will no doubt prove to be a somewhat divisive ending. That however, should not take away from the spectacular story woven by Lemire, which has worthwhile twists, and some fun set pieces.

Of course, it is not a one man team, and Lemire’s story is complemented by both Greg Smallwood on art, and colourist Jordie Bellaire. Both are extraordinarily good, with Bellaire in particular being the best in the business at what she does. The colours are bold and vibrant but with enough underlying grit to match the environment. And Smallwood has such a great understanding of pacing and of how to use the space on the page to really highlight the story. At certain moments the art style is mixed up, particularly when Khonshu appears, and this scratchier work harkens back to ’90s Vertigo comics, and seems to take a particular influence from Sandman.

This first arc also sees the introduction of old characters returning to the fold, which makes a nice change from the Ellis/Shalvey run of a few years back. And whilst there are twists and shocks, the door is left open for at least some of these characters to return in the future. These reintroductions also allow us to see a more vulnerable, human side to Marc that we didn’t really get too much of in the 2014-2015 run.

Overall, this is a great first arc for the new creative team on Moon Knight. Marc Spector has long dealt with possible insanity, but it’s handled really well by Lemire, and it becomes an engrossing read. This team really hit the ground running, and I look forward to seeing where this story goes to next.

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