Punk Rock Jesus #4
And with that the series lived up to its title. Chris going old-school Punk Rock on the Christians in his life is what we have wanted to see all this time and Sean Murphy delivered it most satisfyingly; so satisfyingly that I would almost have be sated with this as a series finale and yet we are still only two thirds of the way through the story. The pacing of Punk Rock has always been a bit peculiar with whole swathes of an issue going past without much in the way of story progression and then in a single splash years will fly by and major moments skimmed over.
Though this is as much a positive as it is a problem since structurally the series follows the rhythms of real life ( or real punk music): it randomly circles around a safe central core ( a cohesive melody) until a massive ultimatum hits (the breakdown (the drop for those into Dubstep)) shifts the standard and resets to that tidal equilibrium (back to the chorus, back to the bridge). It’s taken me this long to get into the flow but with issue four I was feeling it in force, moving through me like a great song or spirit of the lord might. Reading Punk Rock Jesus has becomes something of a religious experience.
The issue is divided into four distinct scenes, the first of which is the biggest action sequence that the book has yet attempted and it’s most exciting yet. Murphy makes good use of juxtaposing yet another New American Christians incursion on J2 with yet another news interview – these two are becoming tropes of the series, but they’re never tedious to read or repetitive; simply another step in that rhythm – but it is his art that really makes this scene as strong as it is. The bright and lightly drawn panels of talking heads cut through the dark and detailed depictions of the midnight raid, clearing the palette with their perfect binary so that you can properly perceive what is happening in each image. As for what happens, well it’s the shock that makes it so stunning so I won’t say more than this: it is smart, sad thanks so some sick sound effects and features the most disturbing death by tablet ever drawn.
That chapter is there to draw you in to the story, the second is to set out once and for all its purpose. Murphy has made it known that this book was his attempt to convey his own falling out with the catholic religion and what we see here gets underneath all of the sci-fi trappings to show that very human story at its core. Chris, now a tragically lost teenager finds punk but the book isn’t limited to that, he also finds philosophy and science and history and through all of this information he is liberated from his prison home. Though this education directly contradicts the Christian values that he was raised with and though it discounts their easy answers these hard questions are somehow sturdier, they give him something more solid to stand on.
After another IRA flashback that shows once again how religion isn’t simply the lesser choice, but often an evil one we see Chris come into his destiny; not the one prescribed by any ancient book but this one, he becomes the Punk Rock Jesus that all those covers have promised and the moment makes all that waiting worthwhile. The dystopic New York that Murphy draws is dark and damp – the streets flooded, the statue in water waist high -but damn if it doesn’t suit the scene that Chris is searching for; this is the kind of world that punks were made for, like how a Heavy Metal band would look right at home in The Road Warrior. Here Sean stops pulling his punches and outright ostracizes all the religious readers that I recommended pick up the book after the fair and balanced first issue but its hard to fault anything that he says.
It could be that the book turns around, that it comes back a little on what Chris says but I don’t know if that will be the case; though I also don’t know where the story is supposed to go from here. Thankfully then it is Sean Murphy scripting this thing and in his pen I trust; sometimes you just gotta have faith. All I know is that bearing some kind of really unfortunate ending the book has cemented itself as a classic, as a part of the canon. So that when Christ is really reincarnated – through spirit or through science – it won’t be The God Delusion of End of Faith that breaks the spell over him, it will be this. It will be this that hundreds of kids read when he and I are long gone – though Iggy still tours somehow – and think ‘huh’.