And so we reach the coda of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood’s run on Moon Knight. We pick up with Marc Spector where he left off—jumping out of a plane without a parachute, desperate to escape the detention centre and stop his psychiatrist from abusing Khonshu’s powers.
While it was implied last issue that the good doctor was up to something, it’s not until this latest installment that we find out what that something is. And, I have to say, it’s kind of underwhelming. A lot of the momentum from the last issue was carrying me through to the reveal, but once I got there, I wasn’t satisfied. I think this happened for two reasons: (1) I wanted the doctor’s motivation to be more interesting than it actually was and (2) I didn’t really buy it.
I obviously can’t go into it much more without spoiling the content for you fine folks, but I just found it incredibly unlikely that a person would go to the lengths that she did just for the motivation we were given. Once that happened, the whole climax seemed to unravel as I read it. What should have been damning dialogue turned out to be simple platitudes masquerading as deep conclusions.
I know that sounds very harsh, but I think there was a lot riding on this final reveal. Without a solid, captivating motivation, the rest of it loses its meaning. Wood took a gamble here, holding off this information until the very end—and I think it’s the readers who lost.
That’s the big picture stuff, mostly, and what represents the bad news about this issue and, by my reckoning, this run.
But here’s the good news: the smaller scale things, like dialogue and scene set-up are pretty great. I love Khonshu in this issue. I love his eerie turns of phrase and, just generally, how he manages to be so ominous. All of his interactions with Marc Spector are tightly written and very engaging.
Khonshu might have been my favorite character in this arc, and that’s in no small part due to Greg Smallwood. I’ve noticed, particularly in this issue, all the tiny ways he makes this God of Vengeance creepy. Rather than Khonshu being drawn with a head disconnected to his body, Smallwood’s addition of tiny strings—possibly cobwebs?—between the skull and where the rest of him ought to be somehow multiplies the ‘eeee’ factor about tenfold. I’ll also repeat that I love how Smallwood’s textured style has played itself out on Khonshu’s bird skull. All very, very good.
I also continue to appreciate Smallwood’s use of the panel gutters on this book. While it would be an effective technique on any book, it’s especially useful to make white gutters work for you on a book about the Knight in White himself. The panels aren’t lined, so it kind of feels as though Jordie Bellaire’s colors are blooming out of the whiteness. It’s a really cool effect and a very smart choice on the creative team’s part.
Even with the strong art, I’m underwhelmed by the narrative payoff we got in Moon Knight #12. The reveal was not strong enough for the climax to hold, and as a result, both the issue—and, I’d argue the arc—fell flat.
There’s a lot of pressure for a ‘last issue’ of a narrative story. And, actually, I think this speaks to an interesting pattern on the book so far. The sixth issue of Ellis’ run, the one that was the most involved in a continuity (that is to say, one that connected with the other one shots) and it was also probably the weakest one of the pack. This run of Wood’s and Smallwood’s has been much more narratively based than episodic, and I think, a lot weaker when compared to Ellis’ one and done stories.
Now, is that a factor of the form, the fact that the success of this Moon Knight reboot was built on single-issue stories? Or is it just the fact that these narrative stories in particular just weren’t as engaging as they could have been? With Cullen Bunn taking over the book next month, I guess we’re all about to find out.