Punk Rock Jesus #2
It took a month of waiting but now Jesus has returned to us, it has risen; Punk Rock Jesus that is. The second coming of this science-fiction depiction of the saviour’s resurrection has been strongly awaited by all of those faithful few who deracked and read its debut issue four weeks ago; without doubt we wanted it to come, but could it possibly live up to our expectations. The fact is most sequels fail to excite like their progenitors; hell, name for me one great scene from the section of the Bible after Jesus rises from the tomb, even his sophomore effort was a real let down. Thankfully though Sean Murphy manages to buck this trend and delivers a second issue too strong to leave unread until Sunday.
The premiere issue of this prestige mini provided everything that the synopsis said it would but none of what the title suggested. It took us to a strange world, one sadly similar to our own, showed us a fascinating ensemble of drastically different characters that live there and then proceeded to place them in intriguing moral and metaphorical positions. It did all that, but it never once presented the Punk Rock Jesus promised by every inch of the front cover. I had expected this second issue to take a Seismic leap forward in time to get us to that image, in a way rendering the first a sort of prequel or prelude, even though this would mean saying goodbye to such good characters. Strangely though it starts up only a few months after the birth, takes place over a few days and ends with a cliffhanger that promises the third won’t even have that pace.
This isn’t a criticism, I really do like these characters, it’s just always a little strange to see a series develop into something so different to what you initially expected. This issue at least comes with a cover that is cohesive with its content: it depicts a DNA strand, the mother to Chris, Gwen and above all others the muscular IRA security man covered in crosses. Thomas’s tale is one of the books best; his history, what he did back in the bad times, is obviously very meaningful to Murphy but I’m still not sold on it as being core to this comic, which is strange given the extent to which it is featured. He is the only character who gets flashbacks, he is the focus of all the action scenes and yet he is the one character that doesn’t quite fit within the world of J2; he seems straight from some other book, his face is even drawn in a different style, and Sean himself has admitted that is actually true, he was a separate concept.
Thankfully then there are hints in this months issue that bode well for his future; the flashbacks to his tragic past juxtapose nicely with what occurs in this near future. He lost his parents and innocence both to religion and the conflicts inherent to it, so seeing the same happen again to Gwen and presumably Chris cracks through his erudite exterior. These notions of lost childhoods and poor parenting are present throughout, all of the issues vignettes show the cast of characters struggling with being or having parents. This Is alongside the furthering of the first issues thematic discussions: science versus faith, corporations versus the church, people versus people and the place of the press Within all of these battles.
Ultimately though this issue is more about furthering the plot ( and genetically modified polar bears ) than it is introducing new ideas; that’s fine though when you are working with a foundation as fantastic as that set by the first issue and an artist as amazing at selling story as Sean proves himself to be here. I’m not sure that this issue hit me quite as hard as the first, or if what the cliffhanger promises is particularly what I want to see but in the moment this book is still a masterful read. So I have some doubts, but I also know that i need to have faith in Vertigo’s saviour Sean Murphy, even if he does work in mysterious ways.