My Many-Tentacled Space-Squid God Hates You And That Is Okay By Me

I have a God with whom I have a deep and personal relationship. The many-armed space-squid who is my God flows through this universe, devouring life, munching through whole cultures, civilisations, small planets, believing utterly in the survival of the mightiest, which is He. He hates life, hates it with a cold and infinite passion, with a hunger both literal and metaphorical. His great arms sweep the cosmos, seeking out prey, not with just with malice but with the great, essential hunger of the divine. He will eat us all, all the worlds, all the life, all the cacophonous rubble of existence, until only the silence of the worlds’ end remains, the haunting melody of absence which He will delight in, the song of the universe’s beginning played again.

I call my God a ‘He’ though really, that’s maybe inaccurate. Really, He’s a non-Hobbesian construct of Darwinian metaversal world-structure manifesting in our ontological paradigm in a Platonically-informed zoomorphic atom-frame and gender isn’t really a factor. But still for argument’s sake, we’ll go with ‘He’. He, this many-tentacled space-dwelling kraken, doesn’t like you very much, and I’m fine with that. He doesn’t like people much at all, with our noise and our clutter; He definitely doesn’t like me. That’s fine. We don’t need our Gods to like us, so long as they do what we need them to do.

Not many people follow my God, though his essence will be familiar to readers of Lovecraft or China Mieville These fictional gods are precursors to my divine master in much the same that Adonis or Mithras are considered foundational precursors to the reality of Jesus, as mythological expressions of Jupiter made way for the Catholic God. Read these books and you will begin to see a tenth of a shadow of my God’s power and majesty.

Our society is largely only familiar with a singular, anthropomorphic form of godhood, though historically animal representation was equally prevalent. Given that the dominant, even exclusive form of philosophical world-view has stemmed from a monotheistic, hierarchical patriarchy many of the cultural and social systems that are in place today are not surprising. Social adherence to the rubrics and procedures enacted by generations of unmarried, old, straight, white men makes sense given that this is the preferred form of the mainstream divinity. In many ways, it is arguable that the great cosmological kraken would do little or nothing to overtly change these power-structures. Work with what is in place; it’s a strategy that the existing Churches used to great advantage during their own rises.

In truth, the male, bearing his penis before him like a miniature tentacle, is probably the closest symbolically to the form of the Many-Armed Void-Swimmer. While He gropes through the darkness Space and Time, in search of nourishment, can we not say it is not unlike the flapping japery of the man-bits? In this way it is should be most obvious that the male personage is best equipped to be representative of the Will of my Celestial Cephalopod. This is not sexist, or deliberate exclusion, but rather the fullest expression of divine logic. It is simply the sincerely held ethos that the Space-Kraken has delivered onto me. We are not responsible for it. Understand, the Many-Armed Space-Squid God hates men, would devour me and any other man wholesale in an instant as He slides uncaring through the depths of the cosmos, but that does not diminish the reality that the penis is the closest biological symbol of His greatness.

Of course, in light of the religious and subsequent social realities pervading many nations, this may not even be an issue for most potential recruits. Living in Ireland, a Western and supposedly civilised and compassionate society, the influence of patriarchal indoctrination is perfectly evident. Despite multiple warning following the death of Savita Halappanavar, the Irish Government pushed ahead with legislation which was in no way fit for purpose and largely continued to pander to the concerns of traditional religious powers and the patriarchal inclinations of a particular segment of the dominant political party’s voters. This legislation came into force in January and it has taken only eight months for it to result in the abuse, dehumanisation and torture of a vulnerable, asylum-seeking, teenage rape-victim. Despite the public furore, and UN condemnation of the medieval attitude of the Government’s attitude in general, our representatives refuse to continence requests for a referendum which would allow the public the opportunity to change the constitutional laws enforcing the draconian Catholic ideology that actively deny women the right to define and regulate their own bodies.

Of course, women are not the only people denied autonomy over their own existence. Like many other nations, Official Ireland has a dismal attitude towards the LGBTI community. For instance, there are little or no protections for non-traditionally-oriented teachers in schools administered by religious institutions, which equates to the vast majority of schools in this country. Any teacher may be dismissed from their position if their personal sexual orientation contravenes the ethos of the school. Given that there is a surplus of teachers, this pressure becomes significantly heightened, since schools can easy replace teachers, particularly those serving on long-term contracts, for a fraction the wage. Despite considerable media attention, and public outrage, the Department of Education, and Government in general, seem disinclined to legislate for protections which might contravene the right of the religious to persecute. Quite recently, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), in response to complaints, ruled that LGBTI people had no right to discuss their lived reality or future aspirations without a bigot present to denounce them. Given the impending referendum on Marriage Equality, it is read by many as a chilling, heavy-handed reminder by Officialdom that they have no entitlements or rights until they are specifically afforded by legal disposition. Explicitly, the rights of LGBTI people are still “an issue that was of current public debate and Controversy” in the words of the BAI, and thus, the experience and desires of those people must be subject to rebuttal and dissent at all times.

Given the explicit social support for marriage equality, and the rights of LGBTI people in general, that has being growing in every poll undertaken in the national media for the last several years and now stands at a potential 86%, and that the upcoming Marriage Equality Referendum was triggered by the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, a non-partisan citizen body, and that all major political parties have agreed to support it, it seems that the BAI might recognise that the issue is not actually quite as socially divisive as it has been for previous generations. Rather, they are bowing to the minority objections of a small group of fundamentalist religious people who are entitled to an unequal share of the discourse because of their traditional ethos.

That is just the kind of disproportionate clout my Many-Tentacled Space-Squid Lord desires. Not because He needs it, but given His divinity, He does feel a certain inclination to be adored and blindly worshipped; that His Will, whatever that should be, be followed with rigorous, uncritical irrationality. This Squid-God of mine, He doesn’t care about many of the details which the current Christian Sky-Tyrant obsesses over. Indeed, the preoccupation with controlling the wombs and fiddly bits of the lesser-beings seems an odd neurosis to my Squid-God. My God, He just doesn’t care what consenting adults get up to in their own time with their own bodies. We’re all basically just miniscule quasi-intelligent self-propelled meatbags to Him (although the penis-baring members of the species are still obviously the physically closest to his resplendent form). He’s going to eat the whole of reality eventually; He doesn’t really care what you do with it beforehand, as long as there is a certain amount of adoring and cowering before Him thrown in for good measure. In fact, He would rather, as He is Merciful, that people of all genders, orientations and denominations had the briefest moments of joy before His Holy Maw descends upon the world in hunger and rage. It amuses Him too, that we might know some flicker of happiness before we go screaming into the eternal night of the metaverse’s ending, just that we might more keenly feel its loss.

He is a cruel God, and He hates you, all your noise and clutter.  It is only the silence He loves, and the hum at the beginning of reality. As much as the Christian God hates you, my Squid-Lord hates you more. Of course, that seems to be a selling point, considering the number of people who stick with the God-thing despite his vacillation between obvious disinterest and blatant cruelty. Honestly, from the outside it looks like a relationship built on unhealthy dependency with a flavour of sadomasochism. And really, if it is hatred and fear that drive your religious choices, I can assure you, the Space-Kraken is an infinitely better choice. Think this through, which is more terrifying; an old man living in the sky, spouting off about sin and who gets to live in his house when they die, or a massive, angry, all-devouring Kraken who swims in space and is going to eat the multiverse? The Eternal Cephalopod hates everything about you, but He hates the monstrously degrading and unfair power systems which pervade your reality too; mostly He just hates the noise you make and the space you take up, and this He will solve sooner rather than later. He, however, is still deeply uninterested in controlling your body prior to divine ingestion, or determining who you are entitled to spend the brief span of days you have remaining with.

I will admit it is a tremendously beneficial deal. You get all of the hatred and loathing of the Catholic God, if you need that sort of thing, you get impending Ragnarok and annihilation, and it all comes without the shame-fixation, mono-mythic power hierarchies and legally-enforced control of the bodies of an inordinate percentage of the population. Why wouldn’t you sign up? Who wants, or needs, a God that might love you if you can negotiate a litany of chaotic, contradictory rubrics which deliberately foster bigotry and exclusion? I don’t need a God who likes me, so long as He provides the requisites of civilised existence. In exchange for our devotion, the Glorious Squid-From-Above is offering all I honestly want in a God; freedom from the dictates of the entrenched bigotry of patriarchal social domination. Isn’t that worth believing in?

The only real question I have is, exactly how many straight, white dudes do I have to get to sign up, and how much cash do we need, before I can start imposing my Squid-God’s ethos all over everyone’s lives? How many straight, white men are required in the club before we can start making rules for the other genders, the other orientations, before we can set out access to healthcare options, the right to equal treatment under the law, who can partake of social and community structures like marriage or family, or has the simple right to speak of their aspirations, their lives, their reality?

How many of us have to believe in the right to self-determination, wrapped up in ethos of my glorious Many-Tentacled Space-Squid God, before the country is allowed to have that?

 

The Church of the Divine Space-Dwelling Kraken is now accepting both members and donations.

There Is A Darkness On The Edge Of Us

Note: I have considered posting this for a week in various incarnations. Shifting my position back and forth, I am fairly familiar with either aspect of the argument. I have no special insight. I have no answers. Yet it seems to worse to leave it unsaid, since the very crux of this matter, for so many, lies in the inability to express. But understand, I have nothing that has not been said or known before. My only hope is that I will not make anyone’s situation worse, if I cannot make it even marginally better.

Robin Williams died. I woke up to that news, woke up to it like a slow moving hammer in the gut, like it’s still sinking in, the incontrovertible weight of it, a week later. Even the early reports were fairly clear about what had happened; that Robin Williams had killed himself. I write that, fully aware that it sounds like he made a choice. I don’t believe that he did, not for a minute. He didn’t make a decision to die; not that way you choose to have a cookie, or you choose to get a haircut. Depression doesn’t leave you with any choices.

This is not a fresh, new observation; I will not be the last person who needs to make it either. Suicide is never an easy topic to approach, not for anyone. In Ireland, we have finally begun, as a society, to discuss it. The entrenched Catholic mentality that it is a sin has withered; the once-accepted notion of its inherent selfishness is starting to fade. It is no longer simply too taboo to discuss. We are fortunate that a number of high-profile figures have spoken out about their personal experiences, such as Conor Cusack and John Murray. Donal Walsh used what little time he had left to attempt to persuade our youth that life was worthwhile and precious. Broadsheet.ie has been unwavering in its support of the growing conversation. As a society, we have taken the first fleeting steps towards understanding what many individuals have been trying to tell us; that suicide, that depression, these things are not mind-sets, they are not choices.

I’m not the only one who has been sitting at a keyboard, hammering buttons in the hope of turning up an answer (something I have certainly not found, by the way). There have been obituaries and goodbyes, there have been stories, pleas and tributes. It’s been a week since Robin Williams died and the loss still seems to hang there. He is someone who meant a lot to an enormous number of people. Clearly, he meant something to me. I didn’t know him, but there is a wound of loss gouged into me all the same. I’m not really going to talk about him though; because I didn’t know him, and what could I say that his family, his friends, those who knew him have been saying for days. He was a good man, by their account. He was a nice person, a comical genius. He was a father, husband, friend, person. I like his films, I grew up seeing him, and now he is gone and I am saddened.

There have been, in the wake of his death, many reminders to talk, for those suffering to seek help. Jason Manford wrote an eloquent piece on reaching out, on its necessity. It is naïve to imagine the act of reaching for help is simple, when it plainly is not. To speak truthfully of things, to breach the habitual daily armour we build, is more than difficult for many of us; for those suffering it can feel akin to an act of destruction, as if by speaking the pain they will crack the last vestiges of whatever keeps the dark thing at bay, that they will invoke it, summon it into reality. In silence, perhaps it can be contained, perhaps it will slink back to wherever it came from; named, or summoned, who knows what will be unleashed. This is fear, and it is human. To speak is an act of courage and act of faith. Every assurance aside, it is difficult to be convinced that those we might go to are capable or equipped to deal with our agony.

It would, however, be wrong, and dangerous, to suggest that the simple act of talking is the only step in the process. When something like this happens there is always the question, “why?” Always the question, “how do we stop this happening again?” The need to talk, to express, is both necessary and simplistic. It is not always enough. There also need to be systems in place to deal with those suffering from depression health, from any form of disordered mental health. David Wong, of Cracked.com, writing about the prevalence of depression and mental health issues among comedians, pointed out that Robin Williams could probably have tapped any stranger on the street for help or reassurance. We would gladly have given it. Robin Williams spoke about his depression. He wasn’t closeted away hiding his pain from an uncaring world. He is still gone.

The systems that deal with these issues are utterly unfit for purpose. There may be places were this is not the case, but I don’t know where they are. In Ireland they are a shambles. Gareth MacNamee, Lisa and Oisin McKenna are just three examples of the failures of the existing systems in Ireland. They are harrowing accounts of what can happen to those for whom speaking isn’t enough of an answer, who need more help than a sympathetic ear. It is an easy, comforting narrative to assume that talking is a catch-all solution. It is one that allows our authorities to shift the blame away from their financial and professional disinterest and inability. It falls, very often, for underfunded charities to bridge the gap between broken services, and families and friends who are unequipped or unable to provide the necessary support.

High-profile suicides always prompt a cultural soul searching, a quest for an answer. It is easier if there is an answer. If you can identify the point at which the failure occurred, you can take precautions, and you can safeguard against it. Otherwise, you are faced with the stark, terrifying thought that this is something that can repeat. There are reasons, general and specific. They didn’t Talk; they didn’t Get Help; The System Failed. Push further and there are more Reasons; the society in which we live is fundamentally damaged, infinitely damaging. Those who outlie the traditional heteronormative denominations are still bullied, othered, abused; they are denied basic rights, have their voices stripped away, told their opinions must be offset, “balanced” by the voices of “normal”, traditional voices. It must do wonders for your mental stability to know that every time you speak to a body of people, there must always be a bigot on hand to put you back in your box. And we teach our children that this, this horror, is acceptable, because they are different. We teach our boys that their value is tied up in their earning potential, that it is their social and familial duty to provide. We teach them they must be physically strong. To mock fatness and smallness, slowness, bookishness. We teach them to despise femininity, to use it as an insult, and then we teach them what is feminine. We train away the ability to express pain, to cope with it; the very act of feeling becomes inherently feminised and thus, worthy of scorn. We train them to procure sex for validation, to expect it, a lot of it, that their just reward for compliance is female companionship and sexual congress. We teach our girls to accept their role as prizes, convince them they want to be won, chased. We teach them to be small, and quiet and dainty. That they need to be pretty more than they need to be anything else; that they are in competition with every single other woman alive. We teach them to buy shoes and not eat in the service of the project of their appearance. That to be successful they will need to be bitches, that authority requires a brutality. We teach them both a philosophy of marriage, monogamy, mortgage like it is a fact, not a possibility, and build social structures that punish those who fall outside of it. We teach them that the structures that surround them are natural, correct, and inviolate; they are broken. We are – we are broken. We literally pile neurosis on top of ourselves and wonder then how people fail to cope. And this still, is not a total answer to question of where depression comes from, of how we solve it. It suggests that if only we could stop this problems, help people not to feel this way, they would stop choosing to kill themselves. Robin Williams was successful, loved, and he is gone.

Depression comes, from wherever it comes from, and it wounds and it hurts, and too often it takes like a thief. On a very fundamental level, we don’t understand it. Some of the science is becoming clearer, but we have no robust answers. There are some, most unfortunate in their experience, who are acquainted with it on a very intimate level. I am not one of these people. You could say I’m lucky; I know so many people who have tried to die. I’m lucky because I don’t know anyone who has succeeded. A lot of my friends know people who have died by suicide. I think we all know of people who have; friends of friends mostly, extended family maybe. It is there, though, on the periphery of all of our lives, when it isn’t closer. Like I said, I’m lucky; I don’t know anyone who has killed themselves. There’s a line of a Lene Marlin song I know. It goes, “I heard about your story from a friend . . .” and it makes me wonder about those people that I missed, those that didn’t make it far enough for our lives to intersect. Sometimes, I wonder how very large that number might be. I’ve never been through what Robin Williams, or millions of others have been through. I have no special perspective on what they’ve had to endure, and I don’t have a solution for them or for you. Fiction, for me, has always provided the best path to fundamental truths. I imagine that’s true of a lot of us; I think that is why we so keenly respond to the loss of someone like Robin Williams; because he provided a voice and a form to so many of the fictions which led us to strength, upon which we condition our existence. My entire worldview is conditioned by interactions with such fictions, my understanding of everything is informed by them. It should, then, be no surprise that depression takes a particular form in my mind. Some of you will be familiar, though most won’t I suspect, with the image of Sephiroth. To me, he is the ultimate expression of despair, the avatar of the suicide solution. You can understand his anguish and outrage, and the horror at what he is beneath his own skin, you can understand his point of view. He is a thing of rage and death and he is a monster, and he is so very full of rationales and reasons and logic. His philosophy of murder is couched with such clarity as an act of compassion, of relief, that he is utterly terrifying. He does not merely kill; he is the one-winged angel of despair, bestowing a favour, in the name of a terrifying logic, a Reason all too easy to understand. You don’t choose to go with him or not, you simply survive him. I read the stories of survivors, of sufferers, and it’s an image that makes sense to me. They know better. I’ve never had the knife in my hand, and I’ve never stood on the edge and stared over.

I’ve never stared into the darkness where the monster swims. I can’t claim that I have, and I don’t wish to pretend of been in a place worse than I have. I don’t know what people who battle daily with depression and suicidal ideation go through. I’ve never had to live in, or through, that kind of battle. I’ve just got this one night, from maybe three years ago; this one night where all my Reasons, and there seemed so many of them, were lit up like balefire. I was unemployed, and sending out dozens of CVs a week and getting nothing or nowhere. Most of my friends lived in different countries and I didn’t have the money to do anything with the ones that were here. I was upset, lonely and surly all of the time. I wasn’t who I wanted to be physically, mentally, financially, personally. I was failing to fulfil responsibilities I have invented for myself in the first place. I’d been staring at a bank of DVDs for more than an hour, completely unable to care what I watched or did next at all. Exhausted by doubts and fears and the sheer struggle to keep entertained in the face of monotonous days of simply enduring, awaiting some promised economic resurgence so I might be gifted with some job I didn’t want anyway, a cog in The Man’s Machine. I don’t know what it was about that night, what made it different than the one before. I remember no special significance, doubt there was one. I don’t know what turned reasons into Reasons. But something did; the kraken breached the surface. This dark and hungry thing was swimming through me then, and all I saw was more of this same trudging awfulness. There was no voice, no Sephiroth, even the monster is a metaphor I’m constructing here. There was just this idea – simple, obvious, and yet utterly appalling – that I didn’t have to have a tomorrow.

I didn’t choose not to do something drastic. I dodged it. That’s how I see it. I sat there, for the longest moments, mulling that thought over. And in an instance of clarity I realised I didn’t like what I was thinking. I left the room I was in. It was late, past the middle of the night, and everyone was asleep. I got my dog and I sat with her and I took many deep breaths and ate some chocolate, drank some water. I scared myself, don’t doubt it. Eventually – minutes? – hours? – I went to sleep. I woke up and the thing, whatever it was, wasn’t there anymore. I still had all those same problems, all those same reasons why my life was shit and not likely to improve any time soon. But they weren’t Reasons with a capital R anymore, they weren’t pointed at something, they didn’t mean that I was useless, valueless, a waste, a burden anymore. They were simply a reality of my life. My life isn’t so much better now. I’ve had a shit job for year and eight months that doesn’t pay enough and doesn’t allow me to have the life I’d like. I’m not going to pretend what I had was a unique experience. The consensus seems to be that a worryingly large number of people go through moments like mine. The lucky ones, like me, have only the briefest of glimpses of the monster; others live with it, day on day. They go through years suffering through it, and knowing that any respite might be temporary.

We’ve finally begun to reach a place, culturally, where we can share things like this without having to worry that some stigma might become permanently affixed to us; and because of that, we’ve started to learn that we are not unique in our distress. Unfortunately, that isn’t an answer. Saying, “Well a lot of people go through this” is not an answer, or a solution. It should be a rallying cry, a call to arms. Sadly, it is too often used to suggest that those suffering from depression, from suicidal ideation, simply need to “toughen up”, to “wait it out”, to “remember the good things in life”, to “be happy with what you do have”. In that state of mind, answers become irrelevant, they vanish into the murk, swallowed up by questions, by the appalling logic of the monster, until there is only one path, one ending on a horizon of infinite affliction. For those in that position, I can only offer the advice of Matt Fraction – find an anchor, something, anything to tether you until you can get to the help and stability you need.

Robin Williams had answers. I know because he gave them to me; he’s been quoting them off the screen in front of me all week. Robin Williams had access to support. He provided support for others too. You’ve probably read that he rang up Spielberg to keep him in good spirits during the filming of Schindler’s List, that he called on Christopher Reeves after he was paralysed. He was familiar with the concept of relief. Depression takes away that rationale, the logic of survival, swallows it whole or blinkers you to it. It steals your choices, until there’s only the bleak reality of endurance remaining. It is not a sickness you can cure. It’s not like a rash, or a chest infection. Can’t shovel money into a research project and hope to wipe it out by 2018. It’s not malaria; it’s not AIDs. When we climb into the stars and spread across a dozen worlds, we will likely take depression with us. That is not to say that there are no options, no defences. Quite plainly there are a range of avenues of treatment, from medicinal to institutional intervention, which can work for some, and not for others. A long-term regime of intensive psychiatric therapy may work for one person; for another any form of counselling might be useless. The most dangerous notion we could assume is that there is a singular right path to mental health. Real monsters are rarely susceptible to silver bullets. We need social and medical structures conditioned to respond to distress in multiple, complex and affirming manners, able to differentiate and respond to the variable and fluctuating needs of a host of people. Most particularly, we need care that begins from a place of compassion; one that sees sufferers as people, rather than statistics, or worse, unproductive social units, one that would construct failure as the responsibility of the intransigent ill.

But we need to recognise a fundamental truth too. We treat our social structures as though they are inherently natural, as if they are a level playing field, when in fact they are designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many, that they marginalise and stigmatise any who seek to exit or challenge them. They prioritise traditional (and archaic) identity and power constructs, punishing any who fail to fulfil narrow designations. There is nothing intrinsically right about society as it stands, and we cannot continue to punish those who flounder in the face of its flaws. We cannot continue to pretend that the constructed mechanisms of our societies are perfectly functional and fit for purpose, laying the blame for alienation and disenfranchisement on people who simply cannot, do not, may not, or refuse to conform to its imagined, invented standards of propriety.

It is time to say to those suffering, that yes, they are entitled to their pain, that they need not be burdened with guilt for having those feelings, that pain. That it is not only acceptable, but that we acknowledge that it is real. We need to make a sincere, honest, long-term commitment to providing the mechanisms for healing, for treatment and for survival.

Robin Williams was successful, beloved, and probably financially capable of affording more than basic care and treatment. He could have turned to nearly anyone in the world, at any given moment and asked for help. Robin Williams is dead.

Consider those who don’t even have Robin Williams’ advantages.

Helplines (Ireland)

Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

Aware 1890 303 302 (depression anxiety)

Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Helplines (International)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Moon Knight: Agent Of (A Moon) God

When I first heard about Marvel’s re-launch of the Moon Knight solo, I was not immediately frothing at the mouth, given that I was largely unfamiliar with the character. Reading a little closer, I noticed the names attached; Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. Shalvey and Bellaire were just coming off a great run on Deadpool’s “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” arc. Shalvey also worked on Venom with Cullen Bunn, which I deeply love. Eisner-award-winning colourist Jordie Bellaire colours about 80% of my favourite books. So Moon Knight’s potential was already looking up. And then I realised I hadn’t read any new Warren Ellis stuff in a good while. I mean, definitely, I had reread FreakAngels earlier in the year because when do I not want to be reading FreakAngels? I just hadn’t read anything fresh off the assembly-line new. Suddenly, there was a little bit of excitement building for the book. It helped that my local comic book shop was doing a signing, just for the added poke in the right direction.

Moon Knight is not a character I had read a lot of. He had popped up in Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man, so I had a vague sense of the gist of his backstory; mental health issues, white suit, moon-adjacent, bit punchy, that sort of thing. I have heard him referred to as Marvel’s “Batman” which is true enough, in that he assumes the night-stalking, crime-fighting elements of the Batman motif, while Tony Stark does the “genius, playboy, philanthropist” world saving stuff.  The actual history of Moon Knight and his origins is a little involved, much like any superhero who has been around for a few decades, but basically Mark Spektor, an American veteran turned mercenary, dies in an Egyptian temple and is resurrected by Khonshu, the Moon God, ostensibly as a spirit of vengeance. Spektor manifests secondary personalities, suggested to be related to his service to Khonshu. As Ellis has veteran Marvel reporter Joy Mercado put it in the first issue, “Now, Khonshu, he has four different aspects.  So the mercenary, he comes back to the States, becomes the Moon Knight, and two other people.”

Warren Ellis plays loosely with the material, essentially cutting out the skeleton of the established myth.  If there were one word, in fact, to describe this run, it would be “minimal”. Everything is pared back, reduced to the bare minimum. The backstory exists in hints, some from Spektor, much of it from Mercado and Flint – “L.A. There’s footage of him standing in the middle of Sunset shouting at Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America”, “Cut off a guy’s face once”, “One of the first cases we ever worked together was a slasher”. Ellis treats the audience like they are smart enough to figure out who Moon Knight with as little direction as possible. In the first pages, we learn a little of the Khonshu tale, that he’s possibly unstable and definitely dangerous, and that he rocks a spiffy suit. The opening issue actually makes a point to discuss his look, pointing out that the glaring white gear is not particularly circumspect for a night-stalking vigilante. As both Joy and Moon Knight note, he enjoys that his targets see him coming. “Because he’s crazy.”

Given that Moon Knight himself has such a distinctive look, it seems only appropriate that the artwork itself would be so meticulous and engrossing. His runs on Venom and Deadpool certainly showed me that Declan Shalvey does creepy well, but the artwork he’s produced on these six issues of Moon Knight are a level above. Added to that, the scrupulous attention to detail in Jordie Bellaire’s colours and you have a dream-team book. The decision to keep Moon Knight himself uncoloured is inspired, granting a visceral contrast between Moon Knight and the world he stalks through. It is particularly effective when the Moon Knight mask is removed and the “real” face of Spektor sits imposed above the ethereal suit. There is a fantastic moment where Moon Knight enters the den of the murder, you seen a throwing-moon in his hand, and then it is gone with a small, innocuous movement line on the page. Some fourteen panels later, the pay-off comes, when Moon Knight informs the villain, “I killed you two minutes ago. Look down.” You can find the little blade peeking out of the bad guy’s side in two panels before the reveal, not buried by any stretch, but carefully placed within the context of overtly detailed shots examining the broken, ravaged physique of the ex-soldier antagonist.

There are obvious parallels between Spektor and this unnamed ex-SHIELD soldier, who is at least partially a victim of the same systems that left Spektor dying in an Egyptian desert; Moon Knight, although the dialogue hints that he understands the soldier’s plight, does not actually feel any empathy, or sympathy for that matter, with the deranged, abused man – “You prey on innocent traveller’s at night. That’s all I care about.” This is the essential mission statement of Warren Ellis’s Moon Knight. It’s possible to suggest, even probable, that Marc Spektor is not even truly the lead of this book. Ellis’s primary concern throughout is Moon Knight, not as an aspect of the man, but as an agent driving the vehicle of Spektor. His take on the mythos of the character is not that Spektor is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, but rather that Spektor is a remnant haunting the body hijacked by Khonshu’s resurrection, becoming only an aspect of the God; “. . . Whether that be Marc Spektor, Steven Grant and Jake Lockley, or Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America . . . your brain has conjured them to explain what has happened to you. You’re not insane. Your brain has been colonized by an ancient consciousness from beyond space-time.”

The second issue, “Sniper”, is where we begin to see that this run is something unexpected. It is also the issue where you begin to feel like Warren Ellis might actually just be trying to slowly destroy Shalvey’s mind. It opens with an eight-panel grid, ending in a headshot. Next page only has seven panels, with another red-splashed kill-shot. Every turn of the page has another victim and one less panel, until there is the one page, one panel, red-splattered, exploding exit wound of the final headshot. It is a testament either to his intention to crush their spirits or to his trust in the team that Warren gives the seven pages which succeed this only one dialogue bubble. Between them, Shalvey and Bellaire are perfectly capable of carrying off the action and the storytelling without the crutch of text boxes everywhere to carry the audience. This is something they return to later in the fifth issue, “Scarlet”, where Moon Knight ascends a building to rescue a young girl. It is an issue essentially devoid of dialogue, bar a couple of key scenes. Most of the issue however, is driven by Moon Knight beating the crap out of people, counting the floors as he climbs. It, again, reinforces the central theme that Moon Knight is the divine vengeance (what the ancient Greeks referred to as nemesis) visited on those who would attack overnight travellers.

The metaphysical framework of any fantastical story tends to attract me; it is part of the reason I respond to the kind of stories of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Hal Duncan so particularly. Moon Knight draws deeply, but sparingly, on its own foundational myths. ”Box”, the third issue is perhaps the most expansive in terms of the mythological basis of Moon Knight as he takes on a band of ghost-punks who have been terrorising a small section of New York. Initially defeated (or rather, battered bloody) by the ghosts, Spektor sits in his home in sullen consultation with his other aspects. The grim, suited, bird-skeleton that represents Khonshu reminds him of the Egyptian fascination with the dead, points him towards artefacts he doesn’t even really remember buying. It is another hint at the lack of agency devolved to Spektor himself, further confirmation that Khonshu, and Moon Knight, have more dominance than might be suspected. Mystically armoured in ancient bones, the ghosts represent significantly less threat. And yet, Ellis doesn’t leave the story at that. Much like the previous issues, the audience are left mulling over the melancholy victimhood of Moon Knight’s antagonists. Certainly, they are rarely sympathetic, but there is some aspect of their story that we empathise with; we are left to contemplate the tragedy of that life, to consider what, if anything he deserves from us. Certainly, Moon Knight does not care. He only came to silence the ghosts, and achieving that, leaves their bones behind. He is, quite frankly, not a heroic character. He is a force, an agent. He does not do the things were necessary expect from our idols. He does not bury the bones, or lament the dead, he does not judge guilt or worth. He does save little girls. He saves them when it is his purpose, when divine laws of natural human interaction has been breached. He is not a crime-fighter, he is the punishment of a wronged God.

Moon Knight #4

The mushroom dreamscape, by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, from Moon Knight #4

My personal favourite issue is the fourth, “Sleep”. Ironically enough, it was probably a nightmare to draw and colour. Just look at that gorgeous monstrosity there. What even? The imagery that Shalvey and Bellaire provide has an epic grandeur to it, matched only by the detail in it. In fact, it is almost as if the detail of the art exists in utter counterpoint to the minimalism of the dialogue. The combination paints a character who is laconic, while emphasising the Holmesian attention to detail in his detective aspect. He is a watcher, an agent of observation, as much as a vehicle of violence and vengeance, if only because he must see where to point himself, before unleashing.

I imagine this is something I’m bringing myself, rather than a direct influence, but this issue seems to be some weird and delightful confluence of two particularly good Irish poems, Derek Mahon’s “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford” in particular and the final lines of W.B. Yeats’s “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”. Mahon’s poem, envisioning the neglected, unremembered victims of death-camps and massacres, the abandoned of humanity, is perhaps easily understood within the context of this issue of Moon Knight. That opening line, “Even now there are places were a thought might grow – ” speaks quite directly to the events taking place in Moon Knight. With Yeats’s poem, the stretch is a little further, but consider that half-hopeful begging whisper of:

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

It seems almost a counter point to the urgent accusation levelled by Moon Knight, raging, “You’ve been breathing in his dreams.” Certainly, much of this is baggage and iconography I am bringing to the table, but any art is at least half audience participation. There are those who will never be able to think of mushrooms with considering Cordyceps-zombies and the Last Of Us. In a sense, what the issue plucks out of me is what I like best about it. Comics as medium is always working with shorthand, with a range of twenty-pages or so to tell a story, it almost certainly relies on the reader to provide some of the substance; the gross foetor stench of mould or head-ringing dizziness of a head-punch, we do not need every aspect of a scene described, only to have our thoughts directed to it.

Sadly, just this week, “Spectre”, the sixth and final issue of this team’s run on Moon Knight arrived. The series itself will continue with Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire, and I have every intention of continuing to read it; but that does not mean I do not lament the ending of such an intriguing take on the character. This sixth issue plays quite heavily with the opening of the series. The cover is an inverted reference to the first, depicting the Moon Knight antagonist Spectre. It opens in the alleyway where Moon Knight first takes on the “slasher” case, showing us a different side of the conversation. Following a disgruntled police officer, we see the origins of the opening dialogue which introduced us to Moon Knight, and follow officer Trent as he attempts to usurp Moon Knight’s position as nocturnal protector. It goes about as well as you can expect. It does, however, afford Moon Knight the opportunity to explain the difference between himself and others, those like Spectre who challenge him, those who would take up his position; “Let me tell you a thing about me. People who love me suffer and die. I never want to be loved. That’s why I always win.”

The purpose of this run, it seems to me, is to tell you who Moon Knight is. It is not so much a continuing adventure of, but rather an attempt to create a holotype example of the Moon Knight character and his mythos. It serves as a defining piece of mythology, six vignettes which set out that stall so to speak, giving us glimpses of the wider story, but plucking the most essential parts and reinforcing them, refining the Moon Knight archetype and laying it out for the audience, both new and old. I firmly believe that this is a book which will serve as the creative touchstone for future incarnations of the character, as well as for new readers who come to character. When people ask, who is that guy, people will point to this run for the answer.

Interestingly, not long after the new comic’s release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, dropped a “man from Cairo” reference, that has led many to suspect it will be part of the Phase Three releases that lead up to the third Avenger’s film. Given the success of The Guardians Of The Galaxy in its first week, and that a Doctor Strange film is in the works, it does not seem impossible that Marvel could go with Moon Knight at some stage. Although, and I mean this quite sincerely, if the next film announcement from Marvel is not a female-led piece I am likely to lose my patience completely. They have made ten films, with three more in various stages of production, all of which have essentially been headlined by straight white men; it is very much past time to make one with a female in the lead. I still have my hopes pinned on either a Black Widow or Captain Marvel film (or both), but there are plenty of other characters for them to work with. That said, if a Moon Knight picture ever does come to fruition, the Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire run will serve as a great introduction to the character for anyone who (like me) likes to get a little look at the source material before seeing the film.

For anyone else who is also sad to see the team go, there was good news out of the Image Expo a few weeks ago. While they won’t be working on Moon Knight, they will be launching a creator-owned book Injection in 2015. The Moon Knight trade paperback will also be available from all good comic book shops come October, and it will absolutely be getting pride of place in the over-stacked, bulging monstrosity that is my comic’s bookcase.