Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire, Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire return to the adventures of Marc Spector in the Jeff Lemire-written Moon Knight #1. The thirty-page debut checks in as the latest volume of Moon Knight, challenging all other comics for quantity of volumes published as the Fist of Khonshu brings readers his sixth volume.
Lemire doesn’t provide much exposition for new readers, but instead sets the table for experienced readers, name-checking people and events throughout the publishing history of Moon Knight. That process becomes nearly stream of consciousness, investigating the fractured mind of man behind Moon Knight. He recalls slivers, he sees people, but lacks the connective memories to stitch everything together as his consciousness’ stream hits rocky outcrop, gnarled branch, and pebbled barrier over the course of Moon Knight #1.
By the end of the issue, readers are sitting beside Spector, trying to discern real from imaginary and whether or not Spector even has the first inkling. The read is inviting and immersive, and by the time readers reach midway in Moon Knight #1, they are certain to be hooked.
Smallwood, Bellaire and letterer Cory Petit make sure of that.
The first image of Moon Knight’s makeshift mask on the recap page is mesmerizing and amazing. For a throwaway image on a page many readers barely acknowledge, Smallwood, Bellaire, and Petit have invested a lot of time. And it shows. It is gorgeous and simple, but infinitely open. The starlight speckling the simple sans-serif Moon Knight text gives readers an immediate impression of a nocturnal force that is at once beautiful and dangerous.
Smallwood and Bellaire really hit the ground running after that. The two artists collaborate nicely, with Bellaire adding subtle tones at the edges and blending into the meticulous crosshatch work Smallwood employs as shading in the opening scene. The artists add scope and scale to the drawings, daring to not fill the page, but to present the isolation Spector feels as he wanders through this scene, searching for meaning and relief.
The creative page layouts are just one part of what Smallwood brings to Moon Knight #1. The storytelling is smooth and crisp, and the figures range from edgy and harsh to dreamy and ethereal to all-too-real as orderlies Billy and Bobby, literally, put Spector in his place. At one point Smallwood brings the story of a page into formation, converging to an exclamation point, driving home the script and the visual narrative as he does so.
Bellaire has outdone herself on colors. From the wild starscapes in the opening scene to the worn, filthy walls and ceiling of the common room Spector finds himself in later in the book, she doesn’t just add color; she adds texture, temperature, and emotive assertion. Bellaire is just as much a part of the visual description of this adventure as Smallwood, whose art would work in black and white, but would lack the resonance Bellaire provides.
Petit’s letters work in and through Smallwood’s art rather effectively. Smallwood doesn’t provide borders for his panels, but Petit maintains the classic appearance of the word balloons, which provides an echo visually, elevating the sense that Spector is lost. Sound effects and larger dialog merge into the panels themselves, perhaps as much or more from Smallwood as from Petit, but the end result is stunning. Add in the ghostly, reversed-type, chiseled dialog from the disembodied Khonshu, and Moon Knight #1 is a visual spectacle worthy of studying on every level.
Lemire is peeling back the hood, giving readers a chance to get to know Marc Spector before really giving us any Moon Knight adventures. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any action here, there is, and plenty of it. Lemire is making sure there’s foundation for action and motivation for the titular protagonist.
Moon Knight is a character I have dabbled with, but Lemire, Smallwood, Bellaire, and Petit make this comic a must-read for me in one issue. This team, over the course of thirty pages, offers readers a sample of what the character could be, and if this issue is anything to judge the run by (and let’s be presumptuous for a bit) this version of Moon Knight will be on par with the Mark Waid/Chris Samnee/Javier Rodriguez-Matt Wilson run on Daredevil.
The Verdict: 10/10