By: Sean Murphy (writer/artist), Todd Klein (letters) and Karen Berger (editor)
The Story: Chris continues his assault on fundamentalist religious movements.
Review (with SPOILERS): This is a very interesting issue. On the surface, Murphy has introduced some fun and exciting elements to this issue. At first, it’s tempting to think that Murphy is putting away all the allegory from the series so that he can tell a rousing finale – allegory can be confining, after all. But if you ignore the bright and shiny stuff, all the complexities are still right there, causing you to think and ponder. It’s impressive that Murphy can simultaneous tell a story that is (a) entertaining and (b) has a lot of depth.
Let’s talk about the fun stuff first. Any comic that focuses so much on religion can get a little heavy at times. Eventually the whole thing needs a colonic. So, Murphy gives us some cool scenes of Thomas being an ass-kicker. Thomas is just such a neat character. I would totally read a series called, “Thomas of the IRA”. He’s just so big, bad-ass and invincible that he’s fun to watch. In a comic about God, Thomas is the closest thing we have to a superhuman. Murphy also gives us some humor in the form of a spastic band-mate who is perpetually PUMPED about everything and really gets on Thomas’ nerves.
At first, I really thought this was all the comic was about, but then I scratched at it a little more and found some interesting stuff. In my review of PRJ #4 we talked a little about how Rick Slate is kinda like God. Slate is the mogul of reality television who caused Chris to be created from the Shroud of Turin. So, he was kinda the creator of Chris and also the creator of the religion of TV that the mindless masses worship. It was all very clever. But, in this issue we get the teaser that Chris probably isn’t cloned from the Shroud, but from some as-yet unknown DNA. Is there any question that he’s a clone of Rick Slate?
How clever and thought provoking!
I’m not sure precisely what that means, but it spurs a series of thoughts:
- Chris is just a normal person: There is nothing supernatural about Chris. Even if you accept that Jesus existed and that Jesus is the Son of God and that there was something divine in Jesus’ DNA, Chris doesn’t have any of this.
- Normal people can do extraordinary things: If Chris is just a famous 15 year old, isn’t it amazing the power he is wielding? He’s changing the world and it isn’t because he is a clone of Jesus. On the flip side, we have Rick Slate – also a “normal man” – who has also done great things. Slate isn’t good, but it’s hard to argue that he isn’t great.
- All of Chris’ gifts come from Slate: Much is made in this issue of Chris’ 185 IQ, but he owes that to Slate. And, all of his readings and trainings that he possesses also came from Slate, so there isn’t even a nature-vs-nurture argument.
- LOTS of stuff about worshiping the wrong things: Whether it is the mindless people worshiping Slate’s TV shows or the lunatic fringe worshiping Chris (before turning on him), there are a LOT of people in the world of PRJ who have their values out of whack.
It’s just a really compelling story. The only parts that aren’t quite pulling their weight are Thomas’ back-story and the tale of the scientist and her algae. These stories aren’t “bad” in any way, but they just don’t compare to the masterful story of Chris. Like I said, I’d love to read a “Thomas of the IRA” comic, but I’m not sure it quite fits in this issue. However, it doesn’t hurt the story at all and since the issue is extra-sized, it isn’t even stealing pages.
Was the art good? Well, let me put it this way, I turned the page at one point and actually verbally muttered, “Oh my god…” This was the double-pager of Chris and his band playing. Holy crap is this a page! If my wife wouldn’t shoot me for buying it, I’d do it in a heartbeat. You’ll not find a better piece of comic art. It encompasses what I love about Murphy as an artist: the energy, the intense detail, the accurate machines, the emotion–wow. The rest of the issue is mostly “Just more great Sean Murphy art” which means it is very, very good. One other page really stood out: The scene when Thomas finds the dead child. The emotion that bubbles off that page is intense.
Conclusion: This is the best comic being published right now. From a writing/art standpoint, it might have a few equals, but the fact that Murphy actually has something to say puts it in another class.
– Dean Stell