Saturday, July 14, 2012

Punk Rock Jesus #1 Review

This week saw the release of Punk Rock Jesus #1, the lastest comic book effort from Sean Murphy.  While most of his mainstream work has been exclusively on the art side of things, Punk Rock Jesus sees Murphy taking on both writer and artist duties to tell his own original story.  How does the first issue of his new miniseries play out?  Find out after the jump.

A family sits at their kitchen table in the middle of a prayer of thanks before they begin dinner.  Suddenly, men with guns are outside their window.  The family's patriarch snaps into action, grabbing an automatic rifle of his own and firing it off in their direction to buy some time for his family.  He and his wife try to defend the family home while there young son hides in a closet.  Things don't end well.

This is our introduction to Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus.  An eight page prologue that focuses on this (understandably) formative moment for Thomas McKael, age 7, back in 1994 Ireland, 25 years before the events of the story truly begin.  It's an interesting choice by Murphy, as it is not immediately clear what this has to do with anything (beyond being a tense opening scene, of course).  However, as the narrative develops, some of the many purposes of this scene begin to reveal themselves.  It informs the reader what kind of story this is and provides some integral information on the man who will become the security chief for the J2 Project.  More than simply adding a heck of a lot to the story, it demonstrates how much forethought and planning Murphy has put into this story.

While Murphy more than proved his artistic mettle on books such as Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, Punk Rock Jesus #1 is pretty conclusive evidence that the man can write, too.  The story proper kicks off in 2019 with Dr. Sarah Epstein explaining to a curmudgeonly television pundit that media conglomerate Ophis is intending to artificially inseminate a young virgin with the supposed DNA of Jesus Christ for their newest reality TV show (that aforementioned J2 Project).  The concept of the book is admittedly a little high, but at the same time, it all feels quite grounded in the realm of the possible.

That's a big part of Murphy's success.  While many aspects of this book are perhaps a little out there, it all comes off as very natural and feasible stuff.  The idea that a company would trample on traditionally held beliefs and mores for the sake of profits is not something new, but Murphy takes it that extra steps to really create some interesting conflicts and dichotomies in his characters and world.

It's also impressive how Murphy raises so many moral and ethical questions without the book ever feeling overly preachy (except for when done on purpose for effect).  Instead of saying what's right and what's wrong, the characters of the book offer many different perspectives, struggling (or not) with those challenging questions, in an attempt to determine the answers to big quandaries such as whether the ends always justify the means.
Punk Rock Jesus is a black and white comic, but Murphy doesn't let a little thing like not having colour get in the way of his art being absolutely brilliant.  If anything, it feels like he's proving himself once again, showing that he doesn't need colour to make a fine looking book.  And fine is exactly what this comic is.  Being both the writer and artist also seems to suit Murphy, enabling him to give each and every moment the perfect amount of space and time to elicit the greatest impact.  He follows traditional layouts when they suit his purposes and eschews them when the don't.  It's great and makes for a stunning read.

A final note that's worth belabouring for a moment.  This is a 32 page comic with no ads.  That's 32 pages of lovingly crafted Sean Murphy story and art uninterrupted by anything at all.  And that ginormous amount of pages only costs $2.99.  That is amazing value, especially when you consider just how good this book is.

Verdict - Buy It.  Sean Murphy's new Vertigo series is a great success.  He's giving readers a multi-faceted story with lots of different moving parts and interesting characters populating the world.  Of course, the whole package looks amazing due to Murphy's great drawing talents.  Whether or not the 32 pages per issue lasts Each and every issue will clock in at 32 pages, and it's definitely a nice change of pace to get so much substance in one single comic.

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Nathan Aaron said...

"the last comic book effort from Sean Murphy." I think you meant latest.

I thought this was a great first issue, it's definitely controversial! I'll be curious to see what others think of this mini-series...

brandon said...

I thought the first issue was ok. I wasnt really a big believer of how the cameras were "off" at the end or how no one else knew about the secret. It served the story but just didnt make enough sense for me.

I was also taken aback by how little "reality" TV this had in it.

Murphy's art is the attraction and its awesome.

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