We examine the cartoon Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, who clearly inspired “The Tomb”.
By Brad Gullickson · Published April 27, 2022
Marvel Explained is our ongoing series in which we dive into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers and news stories to predict the future of the franchise. This post explores Moon Knight Episode 4 (“The Tomb”) and how it relates to the Moon Knight comic book story by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.
After an episode like “The Tomb,” an uncontrollable instinct takes over. Knights of the MoonThe fourth chapter is a grenade thrown at the viewer. It explodes and whatever you thought was there before is extinct. You are forced to assemble the pieces and assemble the puzzle. Once again, you reach out to the comics in hopes of forcing it all to make sense.
If you have been aware of the discourse, you have already come across the feverish mentions of Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwoodis iconic Knights of the Moon comic book from 2016. It is an exceptional read, convincingly told with a huge visual flourishing. It’s one of those cartoons that, once consumed, you’ll put them in the hands of others.
No matter its narrative connections to the Disney + series, the cartoon behaves structurally in the same way. You do not have to have read a single one Knights of the Moon cartoon before it is withdrawn. The first few pages, perhaps the first few numbers, do not immediately reveal their purpose. You wade into the cartoon. You adapt to its narrative. And it reveals itself casually, only after several fake-outs.
Imagine starting the TV series with episode 4. Marc Spector wakes up from a land of nightmares where he is a masked criminal fighting against those who would harm his god, Khonshu. In the waking world, he is wrapped in hospital clothes, bullied by nurses who itch after strapping him to electric shock therapy. As Ethan HawkeDr. Arthur Harrow tells Oscar Isaac‘s the Body, he has lost reality and prefers fiction to facts.
His dissociative identity disorder creates a painful inner conflict. Incredibly, each persona navigates a different genre terrain. Steven Grant is a billionaire playboy filmmaker who struggles to make a Moon Knight movie for Marvel Studios while fending off an egomaniac protagonist and an incompetent director. Jake Lockley is a noir-colored cabbie who chases a psychotic through the streets and alleys. Moon Knight One is a space ranger that protects the moon from a lycanthrope armada. Think The Last Starfighter meetings Hylen.
As the personalities rotate control, different artists illustrate the narrative. James Stokoe handles the sci-fi werewolf war with a chaotic, deliciously exaggerated style. Francesco Francavilla gives Jake Lockley’s smoky neon nightlife, and Wilfred Torres and Michael Garland drag Steven Grant through hell in Hollywoodland. The reader quickly finds favorites and prefers certain areas over others.
But we never get too much traction away from Smallwood’s primary reality, the hospital, where the body reveals yet another possibility. Marc Spector’s doctors and nurses are immortal agents in conflict with Khonshu. The Egyptian gods came to Earth from their kingdom, the celestial Heliopolis, also known as Othervoid. The crocodile head Ammit, in the form of Dr. Emmet, hopes to break the body’s personalities even more and wants to break Marc Spector’s ties to Khonshu.
But as the altars become more and more aware of each other, they merge into a unique purpose. Jeff Lemire presents the process as a necessary healing act. The body will never be free of any of them, but they can be controlled. This community is also becoming a threat to Khonsu. The moon god used their warring status quo to control the body, and the comic book reaches climax with the body rejecting Khonshus’ mission. Marc, Steven and the rest can protect those who travel under the moon without their puppet master. They can be their own mission.
Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics never fit together perfectly. The film department picks and picks from the books, taking a little from column A and a little from column B. Knights of the Moon is not an anomaly. While the Disney + series shares a lot with the Lemire / Smallwood cartoon, it is by no means a copy, and it is foolish to think we are building towards a similar narrative ending.
Will Othervoid show up? Maybe maybe not. Will Khonsu expose himself as a threat equal to Harrow? No guarantee.
What the TV series borrows most from the comic is Lemire’s notion that the body is damaged, not destroyed. It’s not a question of deleting Steven or Jake from Marc’s Body. It’s not even a question of Marc’s body. That’s why the series opened with Steven’s perspective, the personality that was not the original personality. Elderly people are roommates forever. They need a task board.
The simple fact that Marc and Steven are embracing Knights of the Moon Episode 4 and then running around the hospital together suggest they are not in a familiar reality. The body is most likely still stuck in the grave, bleeding from a gunshot wound caused by Harrow. We are hopefully witnessing Marc and Steven’s partnership solidify inside the body.
With two episodes left, Marc and Steven must rescue their third person from its sarcophagus. We have to meet the killer who held the bloody knife in “The Friendly Type.” And the hippopotamus Taweret, which calls a “Hello” and sends the two screams backwards, can be either another altar or an Othervoid intruder acting in response to or against Khonsu.
In the Lemire / Smallwood cartoon, we finally get access to the inciting event that brought the body into contact with the Egyptian moon god. We are also familiar with Steven’s earliest appearance as an imaginary friend of Marc. Until now, Knights of the Moon has kept its audience at a distance regarding the Origin of the Body. Section 5 feels like a strong place for a rewind point where we better understand the pain that created this particular disguised crusader.
There can be no confusion about the body’s motivations. Every Avenger has a secret pain. That’s Marvel’s appeal. They hurt as we hurt. If Moon Knight is to one day stand next to the Hulk or Thor, we must understand his origins and his greatest fears. We need to know what put him on this path and how he struggles to stay on it every day.
Knights of the Moon Episode 4 is now being streamed on Disney +.
Related topics: Marvel Explained, Marvel Studios, Moon Knight
Brad Gullickson is a weekly columnist for film school rejections and senior curator of One Perfect Shot. When he’s not tumbling about movies here, he walks around comics as a co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him on Twitter: @MouthDork. (han / ham)