In Moon Knight #17, the Light Knight must infiltrate the Church of Khonshu.
Waitaminute… Khonshu? Ancient Egyptian moon god? Isn’t that Moon Knight’s almighty homeboy in the first place? Cullen Bunn’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. Is it good?
Moon Knight #17 (Marvel Comics)
“Duality” opens with a group of homeless people being herded into a nondescript building by a couple of creepy-ass looking concierges. Writer Bunn and artists Ron Ackins and Tom Palmer place extra emphasis on their ghoulish grins — conflations of Scientology-era Tom Cruise and those afflicted by the Joker’s Smilex gas in the first Batman movie.
Of course, what’s a shady cult without a set of hollow aphorisms repeated ad nauseam? Phrases like “Everything’s going to be all right now,” and “Everyone pulls their own weight,” and “You’ll have a panhandling location assigned to you [and] a quota that needs to be met each day.”
Everything’s going to be all right if you stop smiling like that, extremely unnerving woman.
… Wait, what?
Why is the Church of Khonshu some kind of hobo sweatshop? Our tour continues with this look at the curious, exploitative ways through which the cult directors have systematized their operations, including a premade set of cardboard panhandling signs. Well, Egyptian moon deity running the place or not — a place has gotta make its money somehow, right? Besides, it’s not much different than passing around the donations dish during hymns, right? Well… just wait until you see what’s going on in the lower levels. And when they introduce Moon Knight to his “sister.”
The most fascinating Moon Knight yarns to me are the ones that skirt the line of the surreal and supernatural; ones that introduce aberrant concepts but never quite spell everything out for you; ones that truly grapple with the imagination; the hallucinogenic mushroom-dreams from Moon Knight #4’s “Sleep” (or pretty much everything but the ghost stories from Warren Ellis’ run) come to mind. “Duality” marks a return to that sort of narrative and it’s a welcome one. Although Bunn’s dialogue doesn’t quite have the bite that Ellis’ did, this is the finest issue he’s scripted since he’s taken over the title and ranks very close with the eerie, enigmatic vibe that the first six issues of Moon Knight Vol. 5 had going. My only gripe is that Bunn makes Moon Knight less strategic than we’ve seen him in the past, especially for his sleuth-like “Mr. Knight” persona. (He does exhibit undercover methodology in this issue, but seems to rush headlong into situations that he should assess more carefully. Of course, that is hindsight speaking as well.)
The art team of Ron Ackins and Tom Palmer and colorist Dan Brown don’t take as many liberties as Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire did in terms of panel structure, perspective and saturation — but they serve the story just fine. That being said, I do find myself wondering how Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire would have handled some of this issue’s more outlandish sequences.
The meeting with this issue’s villain is handled well and raises plenty of questions: (Spoilers)
Why is Moon Knight’s “sister” a Smurf-skinned, female Xerxes analogue?
Why the hell does she have a collection of deformed manatee statues?
If she’s calling Moon Knight her concurrent “brother” and husband and talking about royal intermarriage, like the Egyptian pharaohs on which this new “religion” is based… does this mean that Marc Spector has overlapping genes? But seriously, this “sister” character has an interesting appearance and something tells me the effects of her poison-laden claws will carry over to future issues. (I hope.)
Is It Good?
A strong issue that conjures some of those enigmatic, surreal qualities that the much-acclaimed first six issues (Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s run) of Moon Knight did.
Bunn’s most interesting narrative on the title to date; combined with last issue, he’s really starting to hit his stride with the character. Moon Knight #17 doesn’t require too much prior knowledge of Moon Knight beforehand, so it serves as a good jumping on point. Recommended.
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