Moon Knight #195: Marc Spector’s got personality to spare
I’m starting to get the feeling that Max Bemis is one of my favorite writers. There’s a particular sort of miswiring in his head that resonates with me—probably because I’ve got the same synaptic gymnastics at play in my own mind. I’ve loved reading his own creation, Lucy Dreaming, and this week, I took his work on Moon Knight for a spin. It was as bonkers as I expect from Bemis, but it ended up probing some interesting questions along the way, too.
E pluribus ugly
Our story opens in a classroom, as the oddly-proportioned Maurice assesses a similarly-abstract-looking group of people whom he hopes to make part of “The Collective”. There’s a certain tone set by artist Paul Davidson’s aesthetic here: even before we can compare it to later scenes—scenes which feature more realistic character proportions—we can’t help but take this all a bit lightly. It’s an absurdist fantasy. The dialogue reinforces this, with each character’s introductory speech reading fairly over-the-top in content, style, or both. This gets all-the-more interesting when you remember that you’re reading a book about a hero with multiple personalities.
The next several pages enforce the bizarre standard Bemis has set, but then they turn. After a single read, I might have said that they turn suddenly, with the appearance of The Collective’s much-desired, abominable union; but, in fact, Davidson and Lopes start laying clues as soon as the scene shifts from Collective HQ to the Secret A.I.M. base where the dream becomes reality. While the first page of the book—the “evaluation” page I referenced above—has a small establishing shot at the top-right, the rest of the page—and the double-page spread that follows—feature much more stylized layouts. While they are essential to the sort of storytelling that Bemis and Davidson are going for, they don’t tell much of a story-in-motion. Really, that whole first page is more like a single composition of its own. It is a single moment in time, as is the double-page spread.
When we get to the A.I.M. base, though, the panels start to illustrate a narrative—a movement through time—and the tone becomes slightly less fantastical. Something is actually happening now: the goofy, over-the-top characters are about to interact with the real world. And some of that goofy, over-the-top aesthetic recedes to reveal some genuinely evil-looking stuff within Maurice (the Collective’s brainfather) and Ty (who is basically a unisex sanitary napkin). Even Lopes’s colors take on a more realistic saturation in this scene, skin tone looking more like its worldly counterpart than it did before.
“No more weirdos”
The story then pivots to Marc and his other personalities, fishing in the sea of his mind. The scenery and spatial orientation of the characters is bizarre, and the bird-skull-headed, wader-wearing Khonshu clearly places us outside of reality; but, the character aesthetics are in a firmly realistic domain. I’m not sure what exactly it says, but the contrast between the visually-abstract portrayal of reality at the beginning, and the realist presentation here in the abstraction of Marc’s consciousness, is nevertheless striking. Maybe it’s an illustration of just how nuts the Collective are, that their reality is more swollen and distorted than the fantasy of an afflicted mind. And I really don’t need to know what it’s saying, at least not right away. It’s a compelling visual device in a very entertaining book. I don’t mind chewing on it for a while longer.
“Some real super hero”
Ultimately, Marc dons his vigilante duds and takes to the streets to take on The Collective, which has begun exceeding in vile deeds what it has already achieved in physical ugliness. And while the final sequences are no doubt meant to entertain—and they do—I can’t help but feel moved by Marc’s legitimate heroism. After a snide remark from the many-headed abomination before him implies that he is something less than a “real” hero, Marc responds indignantly—but he does ultimately fail to stop The Collective in physical combat. In that regard, perhaps his enemy is correct.
And yet Marc—with none of an Avenger’s powers, and quadruple an Avenger's baggage—throws himself at a shockingly horrifying threat, even after observing what might happen to him should he fail. And though he had no idea at the onset, it turns out he’s exactly the hero that New York needs to take on this particular threat, after all.
I can’t wait to see how he does it.