The ‘Moon Knight’ Comic You Should Read After Episode 4

We examine the Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood comic that clearly inspired "The Tomb."
Moon Knight Episode Jeff Lemire Greg Smallwood

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores Moon Knight Episode  4 (“The Tomb”) and how it relates to the Moon Knight comic book storyline by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

After an episode like “The Tomb,” an uncontrollable instinct takes over. Moon Knight‘s fourth chapter is a grenade thrown at the viewer. It explodes, and whatever you thought was there before is eradicated. You’re compelled to pick up the pieces and assemble the puzzle. Once again, you reach toward the comics in hopes of forcing it all to make sense.

If you’ve been paying attention to the discourse, you’ve already run across the fevered mentions of Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood‘s iconic Moon Knight comic book series from 2016. It’s an exceptional read, compellingly told with a tremendous visual flourish. It’s one of those comics that, once consumed, you want to jam into others’ hands.

Never mind its narrative connections to the Disney+ series, the comic structurally behaves similarly. You do not need to have read a single Moon Knight comic before pulling back its cover. The first few pages, maybe the first few issues, do not reveal their purpose immediately. You wade into the comic. You adjust to its telling. And it reveals itself leisurely, only after numerous fake-outs.

Imagine starting the television series with Episode 4. Marc Spector awakens from a nightmare land where he is a masked crimefighter, battling those that would harm his god, Khonshu. In the waking world, he’s wrapped in hospital attire, bullied by nurses itching to strap him down for electric shock therapy. As Ethan Hawke‘s Dr. Arthur Harrow tells Oscar Isaac‘s the Body,  he’s lost reality, preferring fiction over fact.

His dissociative identity disorder creates an agonizing internal conflict. Wickedly, each persona navigates a different genre terrain. Steven Grant is a billionaire playboy movie producer, struggling to accomplish a Moon Knight movie for Marvel Studios while fending off an egomaniacal lead actor and an incompetent director. Jake Lockley is a noir-stained cabbie, chasing a psychotic through the streets and alleys. Moon Knight One is a space ranger protecting the moon from a lycanthrope armada. Think The Last Starfighter meets The Howling.

As the personalities rotate control, different artists illustrate the narrative. James Stokoe handles the sci-fi werewolf war with a chaotic, deliciously overwrought style. Francesco Francavilla provides Jake Lockley’s smokey neon nightlife, and Wilfredo Torres and Michael Garland drag Steven Grant through Hollywoodland hell. The reader soon finds favorites, preferring certain realms over others.

But we never gain too much traction away from Smallwood’s prime reality, the hospital, where the Body uncovers yet another possibility. Marc Spector’s doctors and nurses are immortal agents in conflict with Khonshu. The Egyptian gods came to Earth from their realm, the Celestial Heliopolis, also known as the Othervoid. The crocodile-headed Ammit, in the guise of Dr. Emmet, hopes to fracture the Body’s personalities even further, wishing to sever Marc Spector’s ties with Khonshu.

However, as the alters become increasingly aware of each other, they meld into a singular purpose. Jeff Lemire presents the process as a necessary healing act. The Body will never be free from any one of them, but they can be managed. This communion becomes a threat to Khonsu as well. The moon god used their warring status quo to control the Body, and the comic book series climaxes with the Body rejecting Khonshu’s 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 align perfectly. The film division picks and chooses from the books, taking a little from column A, and a little from column B. Moon Knight is not an anomaly. While the Disney+ series shares quite a bit with the Lemire/Smallwood comic, it is by no means a carbon copy, and to think we’re building toward a similar narrative end is foolish.

Will the Othervoid appear? Maybe, maybe not. Will Khonsu reveal himself as a threat equal to Harrow? No guarantee.

What the TV series borrows most from the comic book is Lemire’s notion that the Body is damaged, not broken. It’s not a matter of erasing 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 initial personality. The alters are forever roommates. They need a chore board.

The simple fact that Marc and Steven embrace in Moon Knight Episode 4 and then run around the hospital together suggests that they’re not in a familiar reality. The Body is most likely still stuck in the Tomb, bleeding out from a bullet wound caused by Harrow. We’re hopefully witnessing Marc and Steven’s partnership solidifying inside the Body.

With two episodes left, Marc and Steven need to rescue their third persona from its sarcophagus. We need to meet the killer who held that bloody knife in “The Friendly Type.” And the chipper hippo Taweret, who chimes a “Hi,” sending the two screaming backward, could either be yet another alter or an Othervoid interloper acting in response to or against Khonsu.

In the Lemire/Smallwood comic, we’re eventually granted access to the inciting incident that brought the Body into contact with the Egyptian moon god. We’re also privy to Steven’s earliest appearance as an imaginary friend for Marc. So far, Moon Knight has kept its audience at a distance regarding the Body’s origins. Episode 5 feels like a strong place for a rewind juncture where we better understand the pain that created this particular costumed crusader.

There can be no confusion about the Body’s motivations. Every Avenger holds a secret pain. That’s the Marvel 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 set him on this path and how he’s struggling to stay on it every day.

Moon Knight Episode 4 is now streaming on Disney+.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)