Punk Rock Jesus #1
Well, yes, I had to get it. I’m at least 98% evil, after all.
Here’s the basic gimmick: in the near-future, a mega-wealthy TV network hires a genius genetic engineer to harvest DNA from the Shroud of Turin and clone Jesus Christ. Then they hire a telegenic new Virgin Mary to be the baby’s surrogate mother, tweak the baby’s DNA to make sure he looks Caucasian and not like some awful brown person, and put the whole thing on TV as a reality show. Holy urine-soaked crucifixes, that’s downright sacrilicious!
Having said all that, it’s not nearly as evil as it sounds. Nearly all the players here people I’d classify as good guys. There’s the razor-edged security expert who’s working off the bad karma of years as an IRA terrorist, the genetic expert who’s doing the job mainly for the funding she can use to help save the oceans, the teen mother who’s going through this mainly to pay off her family’s debts and who worries that she’s a bad mother for even agreeing to all this. Our one serious villain is the TV network exec who thought up the whole scheme and who seems to have a completely nonfunctional moral code. To list all the awful things he does would constitute some major spoilers, so you can discover those for yourself.
The story is pretty brainy, too. If you know anything about the Shroud of Turin, you know it’s almost certainly not Jesus’ burial cloth — carbon dating places its age at around 750 years old. And this is actually addressed in the story — a scientist and a very excitable preacher debate that, and several of the “J2″ project members admit that they don’t think the baby is actually the Son of God.
My primary objection is that there’s a certain level of strawmanning going on for most of the religious folks. They range from the furiously angry near-terrorist group that protests the J2 project to the excitable preacher in the debate who has no grasp of either theology or science — he’s really only there to get slapped around by the scientist.
Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, seriously, not saying that just to be a contrary little cuss. It’s a great little concept — how would Jesus — or a clone who’d been raised as a Jesus substitute by the mass media — grow up? It’s a pretty sure bet that he’s not going to be the blond mild-mannered martyr from “Baby’s First Bible” — after all, the comic is called “Punk Rock Jesus.”
I enjoyed the initial focus on Thomas McKael, the ex-IRA terrorist/security chief. We get a glimpse of his terrible, terrible childhood, then meet him all grown up and razor-edged.
I like all the other characters, too — with the very, very notable exception of Slate, the utterly rotten TV executive. He’s definitely someone you’re going to love to hate.
I love Sean Murphy’s art, probably more than I do his writing. It’s all black and white, amazingly expressive. If there’s a single moment that really strikes me as remarkably good art, it’s when Gwen, the baby’s mother, having an anxiety attack just before she gives birth, sorrowfully frets that she’s a bad mother. The next panel features razor-edged security goon Thomas McKael with just a very subtle hint of sadness on his face. It’s a beautiful moment, considering his childhood, and a great piece of characterization.
All that, plus the twist in the final pages is pretty amazing.
Batgirl faces off against a team of supervillains called the Disgraced — winged warrior Katharsis, acid-secreting Bleak Michael, superstrong Bonebreaker, and the leader, Knightfall. They want her to join them, and of course, she says no. They attack, and she does pretty well for a bit, but they get her down, they get ready to kill her — and she gets rescued by Det. Melody McKenna, a Gotham cop who actually hates Batgirl’s guts. She gives Batgirl the low-down on socialite Charise Carnes, Knightfall’s alter ego — and she reveals that there’s another member of the Bat-family who’s coming after her.
Verdict: Thumbs up. For once, I didn’t even mind Barbara not being able to beat up her attackers — after all, there were four of ‘em, so she did alright. Good action, good dialogue, some very, very ominous stuff happening back at her apartment, and a very interesting team-up on the way next issue.
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