It’s kind of weird that there isn’t any sort of Moon Knight comic right now, isn’t it? The last two runs of the series have been critically acclaimed and successful enough commercially to justify a new title, while the looming Disney+ series shows that Marvel has big plans for the character moving forward. Though we might not have a full Moon Knight series to enjoy, we at least have The Age of Khonshu, a recent story arc from Jason Aaron and Javier Garron that heavily features Moon Knight and the lore surrounding his character.
Released this week trade paperback format, The Age of Khonshu is a peculiar story arc. It feels, for lack of a better descriptor, like a rejected line-wide event crammed into five issues. That’s not entirely a bad thing, since it does feature an over-the-top story with potentially world-ending stakes for the Avengers to operate against. For the most part, however, this arc is mostly just okay.
The Egyptian deity Khonshu, who resurrected Marc Spector a.k.a. Moon Knight, is presented as the villain attempting to take over the world in a vague attempt to protect it, but his supposed motivations are not at all believable. From the very onset of the story, it is obvious that not all is as it seems — yet Khonshu’s true motivations are never actually revealed. By the time the story wraps up, the reader is left asking “why?” without any real sense of closure or meaning. Khonshu is simply defeated and things go back to normal, leaving this story feeling aimless and unimportant.
Additionally, the fact that this supposed “world-ending” crisis is not in an event book but instead an unceremonious Avengers arc eliminates any tension that might have been created during the Avengers’ battle with Khonshu. The reader goes into this book knowing that the Avengers will absolutely come out on top, largely unchanged and, unfortunately, that’s exactly what ends up happening. Again, this story feels like it doesn’t really have a point and that it doesn’t do all that much to advance the overall story being told in this series.
If you’re a Moon Knight fan who’s picking up this trade simply because you want more Marc Spector/Jake Lockley/Steven Grant in your life (which, full disclosure, is exactly why I gave this collection a read despite dropping Avengers from my pull just before War of the Realms), you might find yourself especially disappointed. This arc completely eschews the multiple personality facets of Moon Knight’s characterization and instead goes all-in on the Khonshu connection. In fact, the few times that Marc’s disorder is referenced is actually kind of insulting for anyone who has suffered from mental illness.
There are multiple confrontations between Moon Knight and various Avengers in which the “heroes” immediately assume Moon Knight is “having an episode” or “off his meds.” And while the Avengers offer Marc help and are likely genuinely trying to help, their assumptions rob Marc of ownership over his actions, particularly not allowing him to act irrationally without assuming he is having a psychotic break of some kind. This gives the notion that those who have struggled with mental illness aren’t allowed to simply act irrationally without their illness being blamed, thus robbing them of their own agency, and it’s something that bugged me every time one of the Avengers made a comment to Marc about his illness.
The Age of Khonshu might fall short narratively and in the representation of mental illness, but it absolutely succeeds in the presentation of action sequences and the lighthearted humor that have made Marvel movies so successful at the box office. If writer Jason Aaron was trying to mimic the personality of the MCU films in this story arc, he absolutely succeeded. There are quips galore from the characters you’d expect to hear jokes from, and those jokes land the majority of the time to elicit a light chuckle from the reader. In this way, The Age of Khonshu absolutely captures the spirit of a summer blockbuster, but it’s the awesome action sequences that truly give this arc a sense of spectacle.
Whether it is something as simple as a sparring match between Iron Fist and Moon Knight or the insanity of a Spirit of Vengeance-possessed Moon Knight going toe-to-toe with Iron Man and Captain Marvel, the action sequences presented by artist Javier Garron and color artist Jason Keith are awe-inspiringly rad. So many action sequences in modern comics are too chaotic to truly enjoy, but Garron and Keith capture the sense of spectacle and absurdity that makes superhero adventures so enthralling without causing the reader to lose focus on what is actually going on. Every action sequence is frenetic and vibrant, reminiscent of the type of bombastic scenes that make the Avengers movies so beloved.
On top of The Age of Khonshu story arc, this trade boasts an additional three issues (#31-#32 and #38) that serve as both a prologue and epilogue to the contained story. These additions give new readers (like me) a sense of what had been going on in the series while also providing a clear direction of where the series is headed. These three issues are not particularly outstanding or anything, but they add value for new readers and might even effectively get these readers to stick around for later issues. Plus, these issues bring this collection to eight total issues and make the $20 price tag much more worthwhile.
Overall, Avengers by Jason Aaron Volume 7: The Age of Khonshu is a totally fine read. It’s an enjoyable enough spectacle that overlooking the poor characterization of Moon Knight and underwhelming narrative doesn’t take too much effort. This really feels like the comic book version of a “turn your brain off” movie: Don’t think about it too much because if you do you probably won’t like it, but if you just shut your brain off for a bit you’ll be able to enjoy the ride.
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