Punk Rock Jesus #3
By now you know the story of Punk Rock Jesus almost as well as you do those in the bible ( regardless of whether or not you’ve read it). You also know exactly how its characters would act in any given situation, especially when the one given is the same as the previous two issues. So it seems unnecessary for me to summarize any of this issues story; It starts literally seconds after the second and continues out from there. One interesting thing though is the pace at which it does this, and that is briskly: the first issue took us only to Chris’s birth, the second showed us his infant years but by the end of this one he is almost an adult. So in a strange way this third issue does do something new: it introduces the comics central character, a fitting concept for Comic’s zero month.
Because of the issues pace we don’t get to spend a lot of personal time with Chris, his school years all but skipped entirely, but what we do see is Supremely interesting. Chris, or Christ, is not an overly normal kid, which is to be expected given that he was raised in what isn’t exactly the normalest of circumstances: he has that strange mix of cockiness and uncertainty that exists only in those with an ego that has been inflated to the point of bursting, leaving him with only tattered rubber remains of self confidence. His playmate and sister figure ( but not literal sister, thanks to a certain twist) Rebekah on the other hand is both smart and social; I look forward to seeing the two interact further in future issues when the focus flips to them.
Since the story moves so fast a lot of the new characters content relies heavily on how they are drawn by Sean Murphy, so thankfully Chris and Rebekah’s expressions are as evocative as always: the eyes evoking everything that the script requires and more. Their design to is just so smart; they age through each stage of the story but do so in such a way that we can still tell instantly who they are within the first panel that we see them; which is saying something given just how much time passes in this issue and just how many people Chris has to be. Everything else that Murphy makes form his pen is just as phenomenal, but then you already knew that too, didn’t you?
What disappointed me a little about last month’s issue wasn’t the artwork, there was nothing wrong with that, but the fact that the script seemed to simply be spinning it’s wheels: dramatic events occurred but the book seemed to return to its baseline after only a page or two and thematically there was nothing new ( though of course there were still more ideas in the issue than most others on the stand, they were just all introduced in the deeply packed debut). Thankfully then the same cannot be said for this third issue which introduces a whole host of immaculately conceived new concepts.
After being locked back in to the J2 compound Gwen reads Chris the tale of Daniel and the Lions ( you know it) and this has an obvious literal relevance since she too is trapped deep in a lions den, but on a more subtle level the way in which she tells it, sidetracking to summarize the King of Babylon, suggests the issues larger theme which seems to me to be megalomania, or the corruptive influence of power. Since he was slighted Slate retaliates by removing rank from all the compounds staff, compounding his position and his problems, unable to trust anyone else with doing the job as it needs to be done even though he is clearly as poor a mother to this show as Gwen is to her son.
No one is happy on the island and no one on the outside is happy to see how things are going in there but they, like Gwen, feeder powerless to do anything to stop it. Gwen is drugged into submission by a literal opiate while the rest of the crew and world alike are given a metaphorical one. The classes, which begin so cute get much more intense; the carrot stops working and so Slate begins to use the stick. The protesters even give up their crusade and join the flock, better to sell out and side with the winner than fight and lose. He wins every battle using brute force, he frightens people into following him but he doesn’t really win, his plans don’t really work because they come from a perverted foundation.
Murphy seems to be making the point that Religion fills our heads with delusions that, while comforting, can be very dangerous in a real world that simply doesn’t work that way. This is shown most explicitly in Chris’ attempt to walk on water like his namesake, the result his plummeting to the bottom of the pool unprotected. But as it always is here this criticism is tempered by a complementary piece of supporting evidence that complicates the argument, this comes in the form of another illogical Christian tenet coming completely true, though not in the way that we are used to.
So all in all this book is well and truly back on track, covering what small holes it has in characterization and pacing ( In the midst of all this drama I’ve lost track of the three support staff that dominated the debut issue) with amazing art, a confident critique of Christianity, Catholicism and religion as a whole and the occasional bit of brutal but slick action. I was coming back already but throw in a cliffhanger as crazy as that you have me praying for more Punk Rock Jesus.