Punk Rock Jesus is a satirical retort directed at the generation that thrives on celebrity culture and provides some food-for-thought concerning religion in the 21st Century. Dangerous territory for most writers, but not for Sean Gordon Murphy. Throw in an ex-IRA love interest for good measure and Punk Rock Jesus sees love, heartbreak and teenage rebellion in amongst a much larger picture; it’s not a pretty one, but it’s certainly eye-opening.
Originally published as a six-issue series, Punk Rock Jesus is finally collected and published in its entirety. Entirely black and white, which only adds to its ‘punk rock’ ethos, Murphy’s artwork is impressively detailed and accompanies his story perfectly. The release of the series in trade paperback sees ten extra pages to the book; speaking to Comic Book Resources Murphy explained that these extra pages would expand on the story a little, with a scene between Thomas and Gwen and a little more time spent on Chris and the Flakjackets.
The plot, without giving too much away, goes a little like this. In an especially disturbing new brand of reality television, and some fictitious scientific discoveries, Jesus Christ has been cloned. His surrogate mother is kept on a remote island for observation and, of course, the viewing pleasure of the general public. There are some devout Christians who disagree with the “The J2 Project”’s ethics, or lack thereof, but a bit of controversy is good for marketing – right? Slate, the show’s creator, seems to think so anway.
In all of this, the aptly-named Chris is born. He grows up with only Rebekah, the daughter of J2 scientist, Sarah Eptein, for company. His every move, miraculous or not, is recorded and aired on prime-time television. But are his miracles what they seem or is this another product of sub-reality television? And will the oppressive conditions take their toll on Chris’ mother?
In amongst the ridiculous notion of cloning the messiah, Murphy tackles faith and religion. Enter former-IRA man, Thomas McKael, who works as a bodyguard to Chris and his mother. Struggling with his own faith, he lays his life on the line to protect the pair. Developing feelings for Chris’ mother, he struggles with the idea of acting honourably because of his affection towards Gwen or his dedication to his faith. For McKael, the reality televised farce doesn’t even come into it.
You might be wondering where the mohican haircut and punk rock band come into all of this. While all teenagers experiment with rebellion at one stage or another, Chris takes it to a whole other level. The Flak Jackets act as a platform for Chris to promote the fact that he’s not the Second Coming. It’s also an outlet for the angst he’s been storing up since he was old enough to hate Slate. Upon escaping J2’s clutches, Chris puts his time into energy into fast-paced punk-rock performances and his atheist beliefs.
Punk Rock Jesus is a great story on the surface, and an even better one underneath. It’s engrossing and, even when the ending sends you back to reality with a thud, it’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
Punk Rock Jesus is in stores now, at the retail price of £12.99, collecting #1-6 of Punk Rock Jesus. It is also available at FPI’s online store. Alternatively, you can seek out one of sixteen Forbidden Planet Internationals scattered across the globe. To find your your nearest FPI, click here. Other comic shops are available, of course, but that’s the one that employs me…