Friday, July 13, 2012

Punk Rock Jesus #1

Writer: Sean Murphy
Artist: Sean Murphy
Company: Vertigo

If you think you've seen the bleak and insane edge of the lengths that reality television will go to gain viewership, i.e. money and fame and fortune, then Sean Murphy would like to educate you a bit on just how far things COULD go. Welcome to the world of Punk Rock Jesus, a place where anything is possible, even cloning Jesus Christ himself.

First and foremost, Sean Murphy the artist is what's on the firing range when you open the cover to this one. Last year, for me, he was the runaway knockout for Best Artist for the work that he turned in on both American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest and Joe the Barbarian. His style is both in your face, like a
back-hand that you can't help but love, and immersive to the point where his work floods your brain and causes an immense case of artistic euphoria. He crams details into panels like he's saving the items of an entire drowning ship, yet somehow he doesn't make the work feel cluttered or out of step.

Ultimately, he's the master of his domain. This is the first time that I've seen his work in black and white though, and while I know that that sort of thing can be a speed bump for some, the work here is stunning and the black and white aspect enhances the story that's being told. I mean, I wouldn't be upset if it was in color, but there's no detriment to be found because of its absence either. There are numerous splash pages and moments that really resonated with me. The way that he uses sound effects and the unique way that he plays with both light and shadow to get the proper effect is perfect. The realism that he depicts with his vast array of weapons and cars and motorcycles and buildings is what makes it though. For the story that's being told, a dramatic and serious one, that sort of realism is welcomed and needed.

Unlike many artists turned writers, Sean Murphy seems to really know what he's doing. That one thing was probably the most worrisome aspect of this project for me, as the track record for said genre of people isn't great. It seems that my worries were completely unfounded. The story, which will be a six issue story in the end, has a very literary feel to it. It's packed to the gills with characters bursting with life and the issues that he tackles are controversial and worth exploring.

The bare bones of the story that are presented here are: Set in the future. American Idol-esque meets the Osborne's program, humorously named J2, selects a new Virgin Mary to bare the new Jesus Christ. An ex IRA member turned special security agent is tasked with the sole purpose of protecting the new messiah.

Murphy kicks your teeth in with all of these things and its that sort of unrelenting nature, and his commentary on things like reality television and religion, that allows it to get under your skin and make you give a damn. His future, one that lives and breathes on the page with grim and grit, is a bleak one, but there is hope to be found. All of the characters that are presented get a good chunk of screen time. None are cast to the side or not given a hook that will no doubt be their thing. The characters are interesting and the way that they are explored and shown, and the back stories that are presented that flesh them out even more, help keep the bleakness at bay. I will say that the uber evil nature of our bad guy is a little Bond-ian, almost to the point where I expected him to give a hearty villain laugh, but in the grand scheme of things, evil doesn't need to be subtle all of the time.

This issue is a lot of setup, but none of it is boring, nor does any of it feel like fluff. Building this world up and showing its roots is just what the doctor ordered. Overall, Punk Rock Jesus' story, in regards to pacing and tone, reminds me a lot of what Brian Azzarello is doing these days, especially Spaceman. If you're digging that or feel that Reality Television needs a little skewering and don't shy away from hot button topics, this book will probably be right up your alley.

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