Moon Knight #1
Marc Spector, aka the superhero Moon Knight, is trapped in a mental institution—but is he crazy, or the only sane person among madmen?
Creators: Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood
Genre: Superhero suspense
Reader Appeal: Teens & Adults
Publisher Rating: T+ (ages 15 and up)
I’m going to be honest and tell you I wasn’t really interested in reading the newest Marvel Comics series about Moon Knight. Just wasn’t a fan. Still, the “Comic Book Guy” at my local comics shop handed it to me and said, “You’ll like this one.” Ol’ Jason has rarely steered me wrong, so I shelled out five bucks and decided to give it a try.
After reading Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight #1, I have to admit Jason was right. This was a frightfully good story, illustrated with a gritty, mildly-disturbing style that was actually perfect for the mood and events that took place. Color me impressed, Jordie Bellaire. (Jordie Bellaire was the colorist for Moon Knight #1, and…ah, never mind. If I have to explain it, it wasn’t worth it.) ANYWAY…
Here’s the back-story, courtesy of Marvel Comics: “Mercenary Marc Spector died in Egypt under a statue of the moon god, Khonshu. In the shadow of the ancient deity, Marc returned to life and took on Khonshu’s aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane and disappeared for a time, but returned to protect those who travel by night. At least he thinks that’s what happened.”
And here’s what’s going on in issue #1: Spector finds himself locked in a mental institution, suffering memory loss, confusion, and physical pain at the hands of a couple of routinely sadistic orderlies. The facility’s psychiatrist is telling him that his memories of being the Moon Knight are all an elaborate fantasy, proof that he’s crazy and needs to be locked up in this asylum. But something, or someone, keeps telling him that things are not as they seem, that the elaborate fantasy really is one the enemies of Khonshu have manufactures in order to keep the Moon Knight captive. He longs to break free, but will his mental chains prevent him from seeing the truth and winning his escape? We’ll have to wait to see what happens in issue #2!
The best thing about Moon Knight #1 is Jeff Lemire skillful storytelling and dialogue, weaving a suspenseful mystery while his main character is grappling with a descent into madness. At times I felt like I was reading a Dean Koontz thriller novel instead of a flimsy, 32-page comic book. (That’s a compliment!) Lemire offers up a dozen little mysteries under the umbrella of the larger premise (is Marc Spector crazy?), parceling out clues with delicious pacing and building tension from page one to the end. I knew I was enjoying this tale when it ended before I was ready for it to do that.
Smallwood’s illustrations are artful and stylized, with hints of woodblock influences, and colored by Bellaire in shaggy browns, grays, reds, and blacks. As I mentioned before, they fit nicely the mood and setting of Lemire’s story. That the pages are sometimes a little busy with art is something easily overlooked when viewed as a whole. Overall, Smallwood and Bellaire have created a sense-filled insane asylum that’s a perfect home for Marc Spector’s story.
That said, parents should be aware that Moon Knight #1 may not be appropriate for younger teens or children—or even some adults. There is some truly macabre violence (oral electrocution anyone?), blood and sadism, familiar profanities, frightening magical beasts of Egyptian origin, and generally a dark, ominous tone throughout. It’s a scary story—one that older teens and adults will likely enjoy, but that might be too much for younger ages or sensitive kids.
Still, when I’m not working at PopFam, I write suspense novels on the side, so I found Moon Knight #1 to be a captivating start to a thrilling new mystery series from Marvel Comics. If you or members of your family are also fans of the suspense genre, you’ll probably like this one too.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:
• If you had written this review of Moon Knight #1, what would have been your main points?
• Moon Knight is definitely violent. How do you decide what’s too violent for you when choosing a comic book?
• Moon Knight relies on reincarnation and a cultic ancient religion to create the superhero premise. Is that OK for a comic book story you read? Why or why not?
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