Sean Murphy - Punk Rock Jesus [comic] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sean Murphy

Punk Rock Jesus [comic] (2012)


If you're familiar with Sean Murphy, then chances are you'd know all about this book. If not, well it's one of the talismanic properties that DC's Vertigo imprint has to offer, and it's all about anarchy. That's honestly just scratching the surface though. Before I get into it, what inspired me to write this is seeing Tom's review here of DC's Metal comic, and also the fact that I recently binged on Murphy's work on Chrononauts (with Mark Millar) and more so, his recent work writing and drawing Batman: White Knight -- a flip on the mythos that sees a rehabilitated and politically-charged Joker getting Gotham to turn on the Dark Knight. Now, going back to Punk Rock Jesus, well, it's something we need more of right now: rebellion.

The premise of this book, which he writes and draws, is quite intriguing: the J2 project is all about cloning Jesus through his DNA from the Shroud of Turin, and the baby that's born (Chris) then lives life in a reality show, drawing the world's Christians in to watch. Basically, Murphy, an atheist, offers his spin on religion and how it monetizes people like a cult, as well as the extremists that oppose it. Now, it takes a while for the punk rock influence (something he got into in his late '20s and which Murphy spoke of here at Punknews) to kick in. It comes around issue #3 of the 6-issue run. But before that Murphy weaves a tapestry where Chris and his mom, Emma, are protected at the J2 compound by Thomas, an ex-IRA terrorist whose dark family past shapes him as a bodyguard to 'the Second Coming.'

Emma's story as an 18 year-old surrogate being used by this vile corporation for ratings then spirals into drug abuse, depression, suicide and well, youth in revolt. All while being a single mother. I don't want to spoil too much but her and Chris then wrap themselves with an inner-circle that grows to love them as a family. One facing a turbulent road and in a word, a life imprisoned. This leads to Chris' anger, which clearly can't be curbed and he rebels, presenting himself as a messiah with a mohawk and with a soul made from punk, to basically fashion a role as the anti-Christ. Yep, J2's plan backfires. Then he takes the show on the road musically. Reading this, all I can hear are bands like Bad Religion, NOFX, Public Enemy, Pennywise, Minor Threat, Rage against the Machine and the Ramones, to name a few -- which come out in full force when Chris takes his band on a global mission of preaching the punk message: standing up against institutions like religion and whatever else oppresses the free. How I wish we could get a re-release of this with some music curated by Murphy and the bands that inspired this.

At the end of the day, Murphy's story is raw, visceral and matches his black and white art so well. It's muddy yet very connective in that you can distinguish everyone with ease. You don't need color for this story to pop. The only thing is that sometimes the fight and overall action sequences get warped into each other. Other than that, this book looks, feels and reads like a bible, the one that truly emancipates us from the mental shackles we're bogged down with thanks to how commercialized life is at the moment. It's a drama, a thriller and an action-filled journey... but most of all, PRJ is testament to the heart, soul and spirit of humanity. This review comes very late, but better now than never.