Moon Knight #196: Aspirational madness
Image credit: Becky Cloonan
Why do I like Moon Knight so much?
That's a good question, because since reading #195 a month ago, I've become mildly obsessed with the character. I went back and began reading the original Moench/Sienkiewicz run, dipped my toes in Ellis and Shalvey, bought and received toys, and spoke about my first issue on our podcast. That's a lot of Moon Knight in a short span of time.
Why do I like Moon Knight so much? Let's ask Moon Knight #196.
What I am and what I want to be
Most people who know me well agree—I'm a joke-maker. I like to laugh, and I like to make people laugh. Moon Knight #196 seems born of a kindred mind. There are moments of simple, on-the-face-of-it humor, such as when Jake punches Maurice in the face and welcomes him—Maurice—to his—Jake's—"collective unconscious." But there are also moments—even in this same sequence—in which the humor results from particular timing (aided by the panel layout) and character expressions. Bemis and Davidson are capable of delightful punchlines (pun intended), but also of developing a scene so that humor arises from circumstance. Or just doing something so bonkers that I can't help but laugh.
Moon Knight isn't just a bunch of silliness and wit, either. Marc Spector is a legitimate hero, and he risks his own life—and what passes for his sanity—to defend the innocent. He's an ordinary man—power of crazy notwithstanding—but he dons a costume, enters the dangerous night, and fights hand-to-hand with a monstrous freak. In that sense, he's quite a lot like Batman, my favorite hero.
But Batman isn't known for being quirky and weird. We don't generally find the Dark Knight being played for laughs, unless in a book deliberately making fun. Batman's discipline, drive, and capabilities are attributes I long to find in myself. He's a purely aspirational hero, something quite different than myself in almost every way. In Moon Knight, however, who I am, and who I wish to be, meet. Quirky, crazy, funny, fierce, protective, and good.
Taking it easy
Moon Knight #196, much like the rest of Bemis's run thus far, is calm. Marc Spector died and was reborn, and though there is chaos between his ears, he exhibits a steadiness that defies even the most dire scenarios. This calm makes the usual sort of comic book suspense—the suspense of the "what"—much less effective in context; but it matters very little, because the suspense of the "how" is just as engaging. What will Moon Knight say next? What unconventional, savage, or unconventionally savage solution will he come up with? In each story I've read in the past month, I was certain that Marc would prevail, but I found great reward in seeing how things played out, regardless. Maybe that's why I like Columbo, too...
I think this shift away from focusing on outcomes forces me to savor the experience of reading, too. I'm not waiting for any tension to release, so I can dwell on each moment and enjoy it for what it is. That's a much different reading experience than just about anything else that I'm reading right now, and it's a welcome change. Moon Knight is delightful on its own, but its delights are accentuated by their scarcity.
When life gives you lemons, make lemoonade
Most of all, I think I like Moon Knight so much because it's an interesting take on that same-old superhero story of the hero born of brokenness. Bruce Wayne is broken in Crime Alley, and Batman is born to overcome that brokenness. Peter Parker is broken by the death of his Uncle Ben—at the hands of Peter's own pride—and Spider-Man is born to overcome that brokenness. But when Marc Spector is broken by Bushman's men, dead at the feet of Khonshu, Moon Knight is born as an instrument of his brokenness. Marc's disorder is his power—the power of crazy, as Bemis put it in his first arc. He is still damaged, but his damage is his power. What an encouragement that is for the rest of us, wrestling with our mess. Life is kooky, crazy, and mean, and it can beat you down. Instead of telling us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and rise above it, Moon Knight tells us that our very particular mess makes us very particularly suited to push back against the kooky, crazy meanness right where we are. You are who you are; now be who you want to be.