Sean Murphy’s “Punk Rock Jesus” has been an incredible ride and it certainly doesn’t stop with this final issue. A clever idea that could have easily gone awry, Murphy’s story of a clone of Jesus Christ raised in the public eye was constantly unpredictable, almost always in a good way.
Murphy’s story and characters throughout this mini-series have been surprisingly dense and layered to wonderful effect. Sometimes the jump into a detailed flashback has been jarring, but the emotional beats those back-stories have provided were well worth it. Thomas’ journey with faith and religion in particular is rewarding, especially given the abrupt and violent end of the book, which speaks volumes about where he is (and is not) as a character. Occasionally characters felt a bit too old or too young to me — Thomas felt a bit older than his age, while both Chris and Rachel feel too old to be 15 — but it’s a minor complaint in an otherwise engrossing and beautiful read.
Perhaps most impressive beyond the art is Murphy’s ability to play with and extrapolate so many pre-existing ideas such as the Christian right; religious zealots; reality TV, corporations, and media as the powerful monsters they are; and revolution and politics as tied to youth culture in a creative and realistic manner. I particularly appreciate Murphy’s ability to let his stories progress naturally and damn the consequences. It’s something that has made the series continually interesting as it has evolved with the lives of his characters and the world in which they live. Several of Murphy’s lead characters have met brutal ends in this mini-series and never is it more true than in this last ferocious issue — but none of it feels gratuitous. It feels like life, which is about as high a compliment a series can get when it comes to story plotting.
Murphy’s visuals are like riding a rocket through a comic book. They have an energy and kinetic looseness that simply cannot be contained. The bold black and white art and the devil may care way in which Murphy approaches his characters and layouts feels by its very nature punk rock. Which is not to say it’s sloppy in any way. It’s to say it is absolutely stunning, but it doesn’t really care what you think. The black and white is a particularly strong choice for the book. Although I’m sure Murphy is enough of an artist to have made color work, the decision to make it black and white serves his story in every way. Whether it be the themes of good and evil or the single-mindedness of zealotry and youth. It’s the kind of confident choice expected from the most seasoned of comics pros, not those still early on in their creator-owned career.
Everything about “Punk Rock Jesus” shows Murphy to be not only the brilliant artist we’ve all known he’s been, but also the extremely talented creator that we’ll all be getting to know for many years to come. The entire mini-series, though it had a few unsteady moments, was breathtaking, fearless and exactly the kind of comics the medium needs more of.