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Punk Rock Jesus #1 – Review

By: Sean Murphy (writer, artist), Todd Klein (letters), Joe Hughes (assistant editor) & Karen Berger (editor)

The Story: A corporation clones Jesus so that he can star in a reality television show.

The Review (with minor SPOILERS): 

1. Loaded with cool concepts. - The pitch for this series was cool enough: company clones Jesus, puts him on a reality TV show and J2 rebels and forms a punk rock band.  That and Murphy’s art was enough to make me hooked, but there is a LOT more going on in this first oversized issue.  For starters, we’ve got the security guard for the company who is a former fighter for the Irish Republican Army and he rides a sweet old Indian motorcycle (awesome visual).  He adds this rich element of danger and physical, unshaven menace to what could be a pretty sterile story that takes place in a lab.  Then there are all these other nifty characters: the surrogate mother, the crusading scientist, the wicked company man…..  And it all adds up to a story that could be a LOT more than that initial teaser.  This issue was bristling with things to look at.

2. Ambitious. - We must give Murphy credit for “going for it”.  If you go back and read early works from many writers, you find much less ambitious fare.  Channel Zero (Brian Wood) or Nightly News & Pax Romana (Jonathan Hickman) were pretty straight forward affairs.  CZ had flavors of what Wood did later with DMZ or seems to be doing now with The Massive, but CZ stays in the box and tells a very linear story.  For as cool as Nightly New and Pax Romana are/were, they basically exist to tell a punchline on the final page of the series.  Murphy is eschewing that and has a LOT of cool characters in motion at once… And Jesus (or J2) isn’t really even a character in this issue…  So, he’ll be added to the mix yielding more complexity.  Bravo to Murphy for his ambition!  We’ve all seen complex stories fall on their face and that type of failure is always a risk is trying something bold, but I’ve read so many comics in my life that I have little use for creators who stay safely in the shallow end of the pool.  Go play in the deep end and show us something we haven’t seen before!  Murphy has at least the potential to do that.

3. Art is great.  - Unsurprisingly, the art is tremendous.  I’m a huge fan of Murphy’s and already own a couple of Murphy original pages.  I even saw THE page I’d want from this issue (page 8 with Thomas on the motorcycle).  I get the feeling that Murphy used to doodle motorcycles as a kid.  The new thing about Murphy’s art in PRJ is that it’s uncolored.  I think the art was originally intended to be colored, so these pages remind me strongly of what you get when you look at or buy original art pages.  And….you know what….I think it looks great.  Most colorists would just screw this up, add light sources that weren’t there and otherwise muddle the depth on the pages.  I’m fine with black and white even if there are a few places where he probably intended them to be colored (and it shows).  Other than that, it’s the typical art we’ve come to expect from Murphy that seamlessly blends these vibrant and slightly cartoony characters with immense realism from the physical surroundings.

Conclusion: A wonderful first issue.  The basic concept for this story is clever and inventive, but Murphy has gone a level beyond that to create a tapestry of rich secondary characters.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

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3 Responses

  1. The Nightly News and Pax Romana are arguably the MOST ambitious one-two debut punch of the last decade. To suggest otherwise seems a little kooky, IMHO. Hickman pushed the boundaries of comics on so many formal levels that were literally unprecedented in terms of the sheer density and complexity of info that he conveyed; Punk Rock Jesus is solid stuff, beautifully drawn. And yes, certainly ambitious. But PRJ is clearly, in every formal respect, a traditional modern comic. Hickman’s first two series were far from that and shoved the medium forward in a way almost no one has caught up with yet. Just my two cents. :)

    • Hey….I see your point and I’m not meaning to diminish either of those two works. I love them and give them as gifts. But…think about Pax Romana…It has a neat concept: What if the Catholic church could send people back in time to smooth the lumps in history. But, all that Roman era stuff just serves to put an exclamation point on that line from the Gene Pope (“And this was all by the year ______”) That Roman era stuff was just a fun little story, but not of any great import.

      Nightly News had that shocking beginning, but again….I think the middle is good stuff, but it really just serves to take us to the point of WHO was behind it and WHO he wants to go after next.

      I do see your point though….it’s entirely possible that some of these characters in PRJ who seem important now, will end up just being very supporting characters by the end.

  2. [...] Punk Rock Jesus #1 – Review [...]

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