Meet Moonshadow, the son of a Jewish hippie girl and a madly grinning alien light globe. Raised in an intergalactic zoo, he is kicked out at fifteen with only his cat and a sex-crazed furry weirdo as companions. This 12-part series, originally written by J.M. DeMatteis in the 80’s and republished under the Vertigo imprint between July ’94 and June ’95, is the story of his journey to maturity and awakening.
I have to say, Moonshadow is one comic that hasn’t aged well. In my original review I called it “insightful, brilliant, and absolutely beautiful.” Well, it certainly is beautiful, with stunning watercolor painted artwork (courtesy of Jon J Muth), the likes of which I’d never seen in a comic before. The words and images flow around and into each other in perfect harmony. The series is well-written—quietly paced, silly and touching in turn—but brilliant or insightful? Not really.
Upon rereading the series, the first thing that annoyed me was the plot. Or rather, the lack thereof. Moon wanders the universe, watches his mother die, spends time in an insane asylum, joins the army, loses his virginity, briefly finds a home then loses it… but it’s all just stuff happening to him, one thing after another. His father (one of a race of seemingly omnipotent but completely unpredictable beings) appears at random intervals to move the plot along—or sometimes just to taunt Moon. And, the series is narrated by an elderly Moonshadow, which I feel distances the reader even more from the events and their ultimate importance.
Then again, maybe the plot isn’t so important. Every issue ends with a mention of Moonshadow’s “journey to awakening”—but what is the nature of that awakening? I have no idea. In the last issue, Moon and his companions end up on the planet of Shree Quack-Quack H’onnka, a prophet who claimed to have discovered the meaning of life. One by one they all join the throng of H’onnka’s followers, blissfully marching round in circles in search of their prophet. They know their actions are illogical and ridiculous, but they apparently have total faith that they will one day meet Shree Quack-Quack H’onnka. Moon, however, goes off on his own, led by the ghost (or the memory) of his dead mother. And it’s there, in a cave by himself, that he reaches the end of his journey.
Except that we the readers don’t even end up learning about this awakening, because it’s at this point that the elder Moonshadow chooses to end his narration. I’ll grant that (as he explains) mystical, transcendental experiences are hard to translate into words. But frankly, I feel this is a cheat. In fact, a double cheat, because it seems the entire 12-issue journey has been essentially pointless. Have all of Moonshadow’s experiences served only to lead him to that revelation, at that particular place and time? Was the destination more important than the journey?
Who knows? I guess a series like this is a bit like a Rorschach test: people hungry for mysticism and revelation will find something in it to satisfy them. That was the case for me then. And now? Well, I find the gorgeous artwork satisfying enough.