Moon Knight v.2 TPB: Reincarnations
I really liked the first volume of Jeff Lemire’s Moon Knight and this second volume is, if anything, even better. It takes the ambiguity and multiple-personality elements as presented in the first book and makes them the absolute focus of the story, with the entire arc flitting between multiple different scenarios - each of which features a different aspect of Moon Knight - and challenging us over which (if any) of them is ‘real’.
Of course, none of them is really real, which is part of the fun of the book. But watching as Moon Knight struggles to grapple with the various personas that make up his whole is hugely enjoyable, especially as the story starts to incorporate more rapid shifts in his perspective. This includes jumps that start occurring halfway through individual scenes, with certain immediate conflicts or threats persisting but manifesting themselves in different ways (depending on which persona is in the ‘driving seat’).
If that makes it sound like a bit of an abstract or intangible story, that’s not really the case. Each of the story’s individual vignettes - which are set apart from each other by their illustrator, with Greg Smallwood sharing the book with Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe and Wilfredo Torres - gives us clear elements to get our teeth into. But the shifting landscape of the book means that we’re always questioning our conception of these elements, which only adds to the fun.
Even as an artist showcase alone, this is a fantastic book. Stokoe serves up some wonderful sci-fi madness with his tale of an astronaut fighter pilot going up against a crazed race of moon-bound werewolves…
…while Francavilla provides a more grounded, noir-drenched setting which benefits from his shadowy style (and some fantastic deployment of bold colour).
As the book ramps up - and we start switching between the different storylines more rapidly - it really helps to have so many different artists providing such a clear delineation between the various personas. And once we get to the stage where the artists are each providing individual panels for the same page, the whole thing starts to feel like a wonderful big artist jam project.
This simply wouldn’t work without a strong vision behind the project and a firm control of exactly how these different stories intersect, and Lemire pulls it all off brilliantly, bringing everything to a close in a surprisingly touching final issue of the arc that somehow pulls all these threads together in a perfectly fitting and satisfying way.
This is one of the best Big Two books I’ve read in a while, and my only complaint about this collection is that it’s only four issues long, comprising issues #6-9 (bulked out by an old Moench/Sienkiewicz reprint at the back). I gather that Lemire’s run ends with #14, though, which I guess explains why one TPB has to be four issues instead of five. It’s a very minor complaint either way (especially since I got this entire book for just a couple of quid when Amazon was flogging digital copies on the cheap), and I’ll definitely look forward to the concluding collection that comes out next month.
It’s nice to feel thrilled by a mainstream superhero comic like this, and to have that all-too-rare feeling of being unable to put a book down until you’ve seen where it goes next, to the point where you end up reading an entire volume in one sitting. Lemire has been hit-and-miss for me in the past, but this is by far my favourite work of his that I’ve read.