Written and drawn by Sean Murphy
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
It’s surprising the idea hasn’t been used before: a reality TV show where a corporation creates a clone from DNA contained in the shroud of Turin. A teenage girl (virgin of course) is implanted with the embryo and then gives birth to Jesus Christ, Chris to his friends. Watching over them is Thomas ‘The Cemetery’ McKael, an ex-IRA assassin and high level bad ass, he is kept busy by constant attacks on the compound by the NAC (New American Christians). This is the story of Chris’s creation, upbringing and what happens when the Saviour discovers Punk Rock.
Being late to pick this comic up, I had heard how good it was. That lead to expectations about the art and particularly the story. They of course were all wrong. The story went to places I didn’t anticipate and the art was even greater than I had hoped. It was much more action packed than expected, and I didn’t think the main character would be the body-guard.
My man Thomas is like an Irish version of the Punisher. He might in fact be harder than Frank Castle and is infinitely more likeable, using the trauma from years of killing to turn away from murder. But not violence. No way, he is violent as hell, and very good at it. Although he has sworn to never take another life, that doesn’t mean he won’t maim you if you make him.
Sean Murphy is best known for his artwork for Vertigo comics, primarily Joe the Barbarian (with Grant Morrison), Hellblazer and American Vampire. I have not read any of his stuff before, but will be rectifying that error because his art is exceptional.
Shadow is well used to create mood and he is very detailed when drawing the technical stuff, the buildings, boats and bikes that fill this script. Murphy manages to capture the flow and feel of a sketch into his finished line-work and maintains a fantastic energy to his characters as they flow through the panels. The panels themselves are great and then he’ll drop an epic splash page on you.
While Murphy has justifiably gained recognition as an artist, the writing here is impressive. The characters are all believable and driven by their different motivations. He captures the anger, angst and know-it-all feel of being a teenager so well. I would have loved the hell out of this book at fifteen and enjoyed re-reading it down through the years. I hope it draws some angry young punks into reading a few comics.
It also impresses as a look at a possible future,capturing that dark, anarchic edge that society gets when pushed too far. This type of ominous, near future science fiction is hard to do well as it’s closeness to our reality makes us all experts. Murphy pulls it off by only adding a few tech elements (holographic classrooms and cloned polar bears) but pushing aspects of society to their brink.
Should I buy it? This is a must buy for my money. Even if the story doesn’t interest, then there are Murphy’s epic skills as a cartoonist to consider. I’m off to buy Joe the Barbarian and won’t be making the mistake of sleeping on any of Sean Murphy’s books again.
Next time: I haven’t written about any cape comics in a while so it’s time for some superheroes. Just not the nice ones you usually read about. It’s a dark and insightful look at costumed vigilantes and what drives them in The Victories by Michael Avon Oeming.