Sean Murphy’s “Punk Rock Jesus” is one of those great comics where each issue gets bigger and crazier than the previous one, and issue #3 is no exception to that rule. This is, after all, a comic where in the first two issues scientists created a clone of Jesus, staged a fake worldwide search to find a virgin birth mother for him, and then began a reality show of his upbringing.
True to form, “Punk Rock Jesus” #3 ups the ante. Gwen’s snapping under the pressure of being trapped on the island and filmed 24/7, Thomas’s position as head of security is being called into question, and as for Chris? Well, we’ve got two words for you, and those are public school. Picking a date for freshman prom never had so much drama, that’s for sure.
What’s nice is that at no point does “Punk Rock Jesus” #3 ever feel over the top. Murphy’s carefully built up his story, and with each step it’s following a logical progression from what we’ve learned up until now. Gwen’s downward slide could have come across as cliche if it was out of the blue, but everything we’ve seen up until now has shown us the growing cracks in her psyche. Likewise, Chris’s naivete when being interviewed fits with everything we’ve seen with his extremely sheltered life. And while we might not have the titular punk rock Jesus just yet, the seeds are being sown here. And of course, all the while, Murphy’s serving up a combination of humor and drama in this spot-on satire of reality television and the way that the media can manipulate the public. This isn’t Murphy’s first outing as a writer, but I do think it’s his best.
Those who are surprised that Vertigo’s publishing a black and white mini-series only have to see the finished product to know why they were in favor of doing so with “Punk Rock Jesus.” Just look at the panel with Gwen on the ground on the far side of the bars near the end of the issue. You don’t need color to drink in all of Murphy’s art here; the concentric rings of raindrops hitting the puddle, the splash of water off of Gwen’s hair (which has that just-right wet/disheveled look), the shadows playing off her clothing as it bunches up… it’s perfect. I’ve enjoyed Murphy’s color comics for Vertigo, but this black and white work is a reminder of just how great an artist he is that he doesn’t need to rely on those hues to bring his art to life.
“Punk Rock Jesus” is one of those Vertigo mini-series that reminds you of how good the line can be when the right project comes along. This mini-series deserves your time and dollars; with a great final page at the halfway mark of the entire series, I’m already dying to see what happens next. Murphy’s carefully led us down one path for the first three issues that this strong moment is the perfect way to launch us into the remaining three.