‘Moon Knight’ From Page to Screen: Episode 5

As Moon Knight nears its finale, we continue to explore how the live-action series has utilized (or not) the titular character’s comics source material. Following Episode 1, we looked at how the show explored Marc Spector’s dissociative identity disorder compared to the comics. In Episode 2 Mr. Knight was introduced through a rather different take than in the comics and in Episode 3 Layla’s backstory, along with her dad’s, was approached and so we delved deep into how those same events were presented in both the original Moon Knight comic run and the more recent Lemire/Smallwood one. After the twist ending of Episode 4, we again looked at the ways that the series was obviously inspired by the psych ward introduced in that latter run.

This week, for the penultimate Episode 5, we compare and contrast how Moon Knight’s most iconic moment was portrayed in the series and the comics. Specifically, we look at the scene where Marc Spector becomes Khonshu’s avatar and dive into the details of the show and three major Moon Knight comics run—the original 1980 run, the Lemire/Smallwood run, and the ongoing MacKay/Cappuccio run.

Moon Knight #14 (2017)

All iterations of the classic Moon Knight scene are incredibly similar. It is the type of moment that is so attached to the hero that it somewhat defines him. As we see in Moon Knight, Marc is mortally wounded during a tomb raid. His mercenary partner Bushman killed a team of archaeologists outside of a tomb, including Layla’s father. Marc crawls into the tomb and prepares to take his own life, but he is stopped by a voice that seems to come from the statute of Khonshu that he is underneath. Khonshu tells Marc it would be a waste for him to die, that Marc has a fractured and broken mind, and that the god believes he would be a worthy candidate to be his avatar. Our protagonist agrees, and Khonshu saves his life. The last thing we see is Marc summoning the Moon Knight suit.

Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight Episode 5
Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight Episode 5

There are many aspects that are entirely consistent across the live-action series and the comics. For one, all versions begin with Marc being a part of a tomb raid with Bushman, and the villain ultimately wounds Marc. It is also integral to every Moon Knight story that he is physically under Khonshu’s statue at the time he becomes his avatar.

Moon Knight #1 (1980)
Moon Knight #14 (2017)
Moon Knight #1 (2021)

It is unclear why he dragged himself into the tomb in the show. While the current MacKay/Cappuccio does not go into it, the way Spector winds up in the tomb itself varies slightly. The series seems to have taken more from the Lemire/Smallwood in terms of Marc literally dragging himself into it. In that comics run, he is apparently lured by Khonshu’s voice. In the original run, he roams the desert before eventually being taken into the tomb by Marlene and some survivors of the raid.

Moon Knight #1 (1980)
Moon Knight #1 (1980)
Moon Knight #14 (2017)
Moon Knight #14 (2017)

Similarly, Moon Knight is more similar to the Lemire/Smallwood run in terms of Khonshu’s role. In the original, there is no dialogue that the reader sees between the two—Marc simply comes back to life after lying dead under the statue for a small amount of time. The Lemire/Smallwood run, however, features a very similar conversation to what we see in the series. This is the same run where Khonshu is trying to break Marc’s “weak” and fractured mind in order to use the human body for himself. He tells a dying Marc in both iterations about the gig of the Fist of Vengeance. As Steven tells Marc in Episode 5, it is clear that Khonshu is taking advantage of a soon-to-die mercenary with some substantial mental health issues.

One aspect that is present in all three comics versions of the scene is missing in the series. In the comics, Marc Spector the mercenary grows a conscience during the raid. In both the original and Lemire/Smallwood runs, he seems to have an ethical awakening after Bushman kills the head archaeologist, Marlene’s father. In the MacKay/Cappuccio run, the scene is brief like it is in the series, but Mr. Knight does specifically mention that he grew a conscience while on the job. In Moon Knight, we see the aftermath of the violent raid but we do not know whether or not Marc had a true “change of heart”. It makes sense that he would have, but it is not as explicit as it is in the comics.

Moon Knight #1 (1980)
Moon Knight #13 (2017)
Moon Knight #1 (2021)

Another interesting difference in the series is that no one else seemed to be present in the tomb at the time. In both the original and Lemire/Smallwood runs, his future love interest Marlene (and others) are present when he comes back to life. In the current MacKay/Cappuccio take, it is not mentioned, and the only visual we get is simply Marc’s dead body below the statue. Layla (who is a much-improved Marlene in the series) was unaware of the details of her father’s death and Marc’s involvement in it prior to Arthur Harrow telling her in Episode 4, so that seems to confirm she was not there in the tomb. It begs the question in Moon Knight: how did Marc and Layla meet?

Moon Knight #14 (2017)

Perhaps the most interesting difference is subtle but fundamental. In all comics iterations far and wide, Marc Spector is resurrected by Khonshu before becoming Moon Knight. In Episode 5, Marc does not die. Khonshu apparently heals him and keeps him from dying, but there is no resurrection. This could perhaps be an oversight brought about by the ease of dialogue between the two characters if Marc is alive throughout the conversation.

Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight Episode 5
Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight Episode 5

Still, the idea of resurrection is a major theme for Moon Knight in the comics, and so it could be a very intentional and meaningful decision. After the events of Episode 4, it looks like Marc Spector is in need of resurrection—he has had at least two (three according to the MacKay/Cappuccio run) in the comics, but they have always been major character-changing events. If Moon Knight decided that a resurrection during the series should be the character’s only one, there are strong themes connected to the hero’s “origin” that would certainly make such a moment in the series finale carry much more weight than any resurrection in a flashback.

The first five episodes of Moon Knight are now streaming on Disney+.

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