I sense dark days ahead of me. In just two issues, two or three months at the most, Punk Rock Jesus will come to an end. Easily my favorite comic of 2012 (outside of Batman), Punk Rock Jesus continues to astonish with issue #4. Writer/Artist Sean Murphy raised the bar with issue #3 and now… now he’s raised it even higher. So much happens in PRJ #4 and it’s all illustrated with such a kinetic, frenzied energy that the book should collapse under its own weight. In short, Punk Rock Jesus, in dealing with multiple story angles and hyperbolic art, should be a convoluted mess. Instead, it’s absolutely flawless.
When we left off in Punk Rock Jesus #3, Gwen, the mother of the boy cloned from the blood of Jesus Christ, had tried to kill herself, only to be saved by an angel. Gwen was convinced it was a dream, until she noticed the bruises in a finger pattern on her shoulders. Jump right into PRJ #4. Gwen has become part of the New American Christians, released a book about the horrors of her time held prisoner by the TV studio and has planned a religious military coup (with the New American Christians) to get her son back.
The coup goes to hell, Gwen gets chopped in half and Thomas, the former IRA member who now protects Chris (the cloned Jesus boy), is fired. Chris is left alone, angry, despondent, and simmering in the hatred towards the TV company that betrayed him. So he begins training. To push his workouts, Chris raids Thomas’s record collection and finds a treasure trove of punk. Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, etc. Chris is now not only emotionally motivated, he’s politically motivated as well. Everything comes to a head when the TV station tries to reveal Chris to the world to get him started as their next big money maker. Chris comes out, Mohawk freshly shaved, and spouts a string of anti-religion, anti-establishment rants that would make Joe Strummer proud.
Here’s where the genius of Sean Murphy really comes out. In the middle of this tumultuous scene with Chris, we’re sent back in time to watch the rise of Thomas from child to major player in the IRA. At no point does this become confusing – in fact, it draws an interesting parallel between Thomas and Chris. PRJ ends with Chris joining a punk band called The Flak Jackets and beginning his submersion in the punk rock culture. Where PRJ #5 goes is anyone’s guess.
As I stated, the art is hyper-kinetic and incredibly aggressive. Murphy does more in black and white than most full color comics can ever dream of. The work is assaultive, with so much visual information crammed into every panel. I love how Murphy inks, too. So much of the drama and weight of his work hangs in the inks. The movement Murphy brings jumps off the page and attacks you. It’s been years since I’ve seen something so viscerally challenging in comic book art.
Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus belongs in the same league as Watchmen, it’s a complete game changer.
(5 Art, 5 Story)