Punk Rock Jesus #5 – Where anarchists collide!

Sean Murphy is currently contracted with DC and is known for his work on Hellblazer, Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire; all well received titles. This is his creator owned mini series and was borne out of his interest in media and religion, which are intimately intertwined in the US and their political system. Murphy has full creative control of this cathartic project, being the writer and artist of this book. It is set in the future, where reality television is the media and one organisation attempts to monopolise the market, by charting the life of Jesus. Christ is a clone created from actual DNA from a shroud that supposedly belonged to the son of God himself. The six part mini series charts Chris, short for Christ, from birth to adulthood and covers various aspects of his life. There is a large support cast including the television company that controlled his upbringing, the bodyguard who was a former IRA operative and an enemy religious group called the New American Christians, NAC.

This is an incredibly complex book as it charts Chris’ life amongst incredible civil moral, religious, ethical overtones. Hence the reason why there is often a lot of writing on the page and many arguments and discussions played out, between various players. The writing is impressive and I do not feel it could be made more succinct due to the incredibly tough subject matter, and it is an ambitious effort from the start. As the title suggests, the crux of the book is Chris becomes an atheistic punk and this reads an interesting narrative. There is a fantastic conversation between the religious forsaken Thomas and Chris about his beliefs in God and his upbringing in war torn Ireland. This book has it protagonist finally take charge in this issue, and declare to all factions that Jesus is an athiest. We have been waiting for this revelation since its inception and I am relieved to say it does not let you down. Chris is a completely believable character and his dialogue is perfect for an angry teenager, dealing with his legacy and the world at large. His mother and bodyguard are of a similar vein and have made this book refreshing and interesting.

The artwork is simply breath taking. At first glance the black and white artwork is complex and too detailed but once you start reading it moves fluidly and the emotions emanate through the page. Action is displayed crisply and concisely with excellent use of sound effect stimuli and words. The words vroom, toss, whud, brakka are barely noticeable as cars crash, doors are kicked and guns are fired. The key is the pencilling and shading as for large group scenes characters are thin and lighter, but Murphy has a way of focusing on characters with heavier work when he needs to display feelings. Sean shades thickly close up, to the point where darkness prevails the scene and our imagination easily fills the space. The band close ups and Irish background story are equally stressful in opposing ways. It is so different to anything I have ever seen.

The problem I have with this book is that it moves inconsistently. There are certain stories that must be told for the narrative to progress. The first three issues moved rapidly through Chris childhood to present time where the focus of the story lies. In dealing with opposing religious viewpoints, the speed of the book is misused, as it washes over many important factors such as more details on the relationships and beliefs of Thomas and the NAC. However this is not the focus of the book and can almost be forgiven. There are subtle undertones of the relationship of Christ and the excuse for violence in Ireland and the quest for television ratings. We have now come to Christ the punk rocker and this is where it ascends to new levels. Punk rock is inherently anti-establishment and in declaring his atheism, the clone of Christ is as rejectionist as you can really be. There are parallels to be made with the life of Jesus Christ as he was shunned and outcast by society; he is also anti-establishmentarian. Therefore Chris in his abjection of religion is similar to Christ in his rejection of false idols and Gods. They are both anarchists in completely opposing ways whereas one believes in God and the other does not. I really hope the final issue bears out this comparison. Overall this is a fantastic book and I commend the effort put into it. It certainly is challenging and too encompassing to work fully but the major tenets are covered well, with excellent characters and wonderful art.

“I’m the bastard child of America’s runaway entertainment complex” 9.5/10

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