Sunday, August 4, 2013

Punk Rock Jesus

This is a series that I have wanted to write about for some time. I kept seeing issues for this series every time I went to my local comic shop but I never thought of picking it up. After a few people recommended it, I decided to take the plunge and pick up the series. what I found was that Punk Rock Jesus is one of those special series that comes along every few years. The story, art, and writing of the series is incredible, and Sean Murphy is quickly becoming one of the great talents of the modern comic book age. He has the uncanny ability of effortlessly building a believable and engaging world through his art and writing ability. Sean's work on Punk Rock Jesus and The Wake perfectly showcase how incredible of a storyteller he is.

The series takes place in the near future where a company, The Ophis Corporation, claims to be cloning Jesus from DNA from the Shroud of Turin. They have a reality show following the doctors and the surrogate "Mary", as they deal with this high profile pregnancy. The show, J2, is the most popular show on the planet and the research facility where the show takes place is on a heavily guarded island. We follow the head of security, Thomas (an ex-IRA operative), as we navigate this world that is very similar to our own. Once the clone, Chris, is born, we get the sense that the Second Coming may be one of the most dangerous events in human history.

This is a series that isn't so much about the actual event of the Second Coming of Christ, but how it could possibly affect the world at large. We see how groups see the cloning as an abomination and violently assault the compound at every turn, and other see it as a blessing. The majority of the world is sucked into the luster of the reality show and see the mother of the clone, Gwen, as some ultra celebrity. You see her struggle with the pressure of being the mother of Jesus Christ and being a huge celebrity, and the huge toll it takes on her over time. the NAC, a radical Christian group, tries to stop the cloning at all costs and will not stop until their goal is accomplished. The cloning is handled by Ophis more as a PR stunt than an event that could shape the future of the world. The whole story a commentary on how religion can be this beautiful thing and can also be the source hate at the same time. Punk Rock Jesus was also envisioned by Murphy as a commentary on politics and the media as well, showing how dangerous both can be when used in the wrong hands.

The character of Thomas was the main reason that I kept reading this series to the end. He is this mountain of a man that once believed that his sole purpose in life was to deal death to those who needed to be punished. He is a former operative for the IRA and certain events led him to leaving that life. Thomas is the security chief of the J2 programs but is very detached from everyone involved. Eventually he becomes close with Gwen and we start to see him truly evolve as a character. Serving as Chris' loyal protector as Chris grows up, he promises Gwen that he will not kill another person which is in direct conflict to what was his main purpose in life for a very long time. There are many times in the series where Thomas is tempted to kill and decides to use less lethal force but he is always brutal with the justice he deals out. His arc is by far the most interesting of all of the characters in the story, and he is very high on my list of top comic characters of all-time.

Of all of the mini-series that I have read over the last few years, this is by far the best one. Sean Murphy crafted a layer world that is ripe for other stories. His ability to tell a craft a fully fleshed out world using both his ability as a writer and artist. Murphy's art style is an offshoot of anime style, not the cartoonish style but a grittier style. It is a very unique style that I feel will be considered to be iconic in time. The Wake and Punk Rock Jesus has solidified him in the top tier of artists and storytellers in the comic industry.

This is easily the best mini-series to be produced in the last few years. Punk Rock Jesus is one of the most socially relevant pieces of media to come along in the last few years. It lost some impact due to the fact that not everyone reads comics and it wasn't heavily publicized but it is a powerhouse story. Even if you are not truly interested in the story, at least check it out for the artwork which is simply incredible. Punk Rock Jesus is available at your local comic shop in individual comic form or in collected graphic novel form. Go buy it.