Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy has a lot happening in just six short issues. Firstly I got this book through NetGalley.com and it was of the upcoming trade paperback. The story follows a reality television show, skeezy television exec Slate obtains DNA from the Shroud of Turin and commissions Dr. Sarah Epstien to make a clone of Jesus. They get a teenage virgin named Gwen to be the mother and Slate sets everyone up in a bizarre island compound. The compound is protected by former IRA member Thomas. Everything is filmed and J2 becomes the hottest reality show on TV, along with the most divisive. There are constantly hordes of activists protesting the show and the baby (called Chris). The most prolific and vicious are the born-again Christians. And that’s just the premise!
Chris doesn’t even become “Punk Rock Jesus” until the third issue. I don’t want to spoil it, but the island is more of a prison for the “stars” than a way to protect them. Slate manipulates everything till the bitter end. Chris becomes radicalized and an atheist. He escapes the compound, starts a band, and sets off on a crusade to stop religion? I dunno, at this point it was at bit, well, pointless.
While I totally enjoyed this comic, it was almost impossible to take it seriously. It was so violent that one of the main character’s really gruesome death just feels like another scene. It’s one of the most defining moments for the title character (and the other main character Thomas) but it was hard for it to have the gravity it needed in with all the Tarantino-esque bloodshed. Plus I really feel like the author put too much in. Christianity (including Catholicism and Protestants) Muslims, Reality TV, Evil Network executives, Science, atheism, alcoholism, guns, the IRA, punk rock, the list really goes on and on. It was tough for me to care too much about any one of the things the author was harping on.
It read like Murphy had just been introduced to atheism and was really really excited about it. Like he got this new toy and couldn’t wait to tell everyone. Plus the bulk of the book was a “fuck you” to someone, Christians, TV execs etc. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fuck you, but that’s really all it was in some parts. Plus I heard a rumor that this book was kind of Murphy’s reaction to working for the big comic companies that he wanted to make a creator-owned comic that couldn’t be messed with. When I heard that it made perfect sense. It did read like someone who had been majorly burned by TPTB.
Despite all that I really enjoyed the book. The art’s not bad (which is a pleasant change) and the story is really original. It’s not often you get to read a book put out by a mainstream publisher that touches on so many very radical ideas. Plus I love reading non-orthodox takes on religion. It was a different comic, and just that alone gives it enough value to warrant reading.
I give it 3 out of 5 overly violent deaths.