Jeff Lemire left his mark on Marvel and it’s sad to see he won’t be telling anymore stories there soon. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the stories he did write while there, which includes the last chapter of Moon Knight; Birth and Death arrives in comic stores this week. We crack her open to answer the question, is it good?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The secret history of the man behind Moon Knight’s mask! Marc Spector was born in Chicago – but where was his alter ego Steven Grant born? A story of birth, death and rebirth digs deep into Spector’s past -and redefines the history of Moon Knight as you know it! Trapped outside of reality, his survival depends on answers -but Spector is plagued by nothing but questions! Is Moon Knight stronger alone, or more vulnerable? Where has he really been all this time? Where was a man like Marc Spector forged? And where will he face his final battle? The answers are here!
Why does this matter?
Jeff Lemire wrote a fantastic Moon Knight series which handled mental illness in a respectable and compelling way. Add in Greg Smallwood’s jaw dropping art with great colors by Jordie Bellaire and you have a cinematic experience. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel turns this story into a film some day.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Time to kick ass.
This volume opens with Moon Knight finally in control of his life after battling his other selves in the last volume. That’s a volume we really loved and this collection continues that trend. Opening with Marc Spector as a child, Lemire pulls the reader in with a young kid who isn’t aware of his mental illness. (And we soon learn that illness is probably an ancient Egyptian entity which preys on the boy). It’s an interesting scene as it reveals how Marc is really a victim from an early age and has been fighting this thing ever since. The story takes this first interaction all the way to its end, which ends the volume with a lot of closure.
The issue cuts back and forth between flashbacks to Marc’s life and his adventure in a quasi-Egyptian space realm. These scenes in a mystical cosmic landscape help punch up the character-driven narrative and give readers the superhero heroics we’re all hungry for. The character driven narrative is interesting as it jumps from Marc’s childhood to his time in the Middle East, and his eventual confrontation with the dark specter that haunted him forever. Lemire tackles this final battle with the mental illness in an effective way that’s respectful and not blown out of proportion. He’s fighting his need to be at peace more than actually defeat it, which I think many people can relate to.
Smallwood draws lights out throughout this volume. The haunting specter over Marc’s shoulder has a wispy look that’s ghost-like and perfect for its position in his life. The starry backdrops mixed with purple give the fight scenes an extra level of weirdness that makes the scenes feel bigger and more purposeful. On one level we can understand the fighting is partly to give the reader some action, but Smallwood can make the smallest of sneers on a villain riding a giant bug meaningful. These guys want Marc dead and will do anything to stop him. The scenes with Marc as a young boy are excellent too. It’s not easy drawing children and Smallwood proves he’s more than capable.
What the heck is that!
It can’t be perfect can it?
The flashbacks to Marc’s life seem rushed as they try to hit major beats before the inevitable end. This volume reads like it may have been cut short so the final confrontation, for example, ends up being less conclusive and satisfying. It’s still an interesting take on everything, but given the buildup of the series, it’ll leave you wanting a bit more. The Middle East flashback scenes don’t quite match up with the battle Marc is undertaking with Khonshu either, which end up feeling a bit disconnected. Given the narrative is about Marc’s unreliable point of view the fuzziness makes sense, but it makes the narrative feel too loosely connected.
Is It Good?
A fine ending to Jeff Lemire’s fantastic Moon Knight run which will most likely end up a movie before you know it. It’s a fascinating take on the character as it handles mental illness in a respectful way.
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