- Posted by Ed Sizemore on November 13, 2010 at 8:35 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Robert James Luedke
- PUBLISHER: Head Press; $13.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Terrence (Terry) Harper, Ph.D. is a world-renowned archeologist. He’s also an atheist. He has been called in by the Israeli Ministry of Antiquities [sic] to help identity and authenticate a recently found ossuary. There is a scroll inside the ossuary, but none of the other archeologists and linguists have been able to decipher it. Luckily, Dr. Harper discovered and deciphered a similar script on one of his recent expeditions to Israel.
It turns out this is the ossuary of Joseph of Arimathea. The scroll is Joseph’s recollection of the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The preliminary testing of the ossuary and the scroll shows them to be authentic to the 1st century AD. If further testing confirms the primary findings, then this could be one of the most significant archeological finds in decades. However, there are forces trying to prevent this discovery from becoming public knowledge.
The Eye Witness series is Luedke’s retelling of the Gospel narratives that detail the last week of Jesus’ life and the Book of Acts. Luedke is writing these books to make theses portions of the New Testament more accessible to a modern audience. He hopes non-Christians will read the first volume, A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth, and consider seriously the claims of the New Testament that Jesus is God and the way of salvation. Through the conversion of Terry, he is trying to address the concerns non-Christians would have regarding the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospel narratives.
For his Christian readers, Luedke is hoping to bring to alive the Gospels and Book of Acts to a modern reader. Eye Witness is not a staid attempt to simply render the Biblical text visually. Luedke injects humor and updates the language in his adaptation. There are a couple of novel additions to the Biblical story (Jesus’ mother appearing in the Garden of Gethsemane being the most striking), but nothing that alters the basic message of the story.
Humor is, of course, subjective. However, I find it a little disconcerting to have Roman centurions acting out a skit from Monty Python and later to have an angel pulling the Jedi mind trick on these same centurions. I don’t mind people adding jokes into their adaptations of the Bible to help liven it up a bit, but personally, I’m not a fan of having 20th century pop culture references in my 1st century stories. I wish that the humor had been more character- and situation-based.
The first book of the series, A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth, is the roughest; it honestly needs extensive rework. I understand the amount of work involved for the changes I’m suggesting. However, since this book gives the reader their first impression of the series, it should give the best impression possible. The first book of a series should be the best. Readers are going to decide whether to continue reading based on their experiences with the first volume they pick up.
I’ll just make a list of the most needed changes. First, pages 14-37 (assuming the page from Terry’s notebook is page 1) are low-res scans. The quality difference between these pages and the rest of the book is obvious as soon as you flip the page. The first pages are particularly bad, and I had a difficult time reading the word balloons. Second, Judas’ hair looks like he got a cherry Kool-Aid dye job. It should be changed to a much subtler shade of auburn. The color is so obnoxious that it took me out of the narrative every time he appeared. Third, more proofreading is needed. The word divine is misspelled as “devine” about half the time it appears. And fourth, I would recommend some general touch-up on the art, especially the faces. There are times that characters make some dramatic changes in appearance from panel to panel. The artwork needs to be evened out and made consistent.
Volumes 2-4 cover the Book of Acts. The framing story continues as Terry is recovering from an attempt on his life. While recovering, he has visions of the Biblical events and occasionally finds himself as a participant. In these three books, the action jumps back and forth between the two narrative strands. Luedke does a great job of pacing the jumps to create dramatic tension in both stories.
Luedke should be praised for one ingenious aspect of the framing story. Terry is suffering a major brain trauma, which creates a wonderful ambiguity in the narrative. Unbelievers can claim Terry’s visions are simply hallucinations caused by his injury. Believers can say his injury provides the opportunity for divine intervention. It’s rare to see a Christian author leave such uncertainty in a fictional work.
Both the artwork and the storytelling are much better in these volumes than in the first. The Book of Acts is already a fast-paced narrative and lends itself readily to comic book adaptation. Of course, Luedke adds his own flavor in the retelling, so the humor and modern language found in the first volume follows through.
I was shocked by Luedke’s portrayal of Paul as a gruff, brawny Jewish soldier. Paul was a rabbinical scholar. As such, I’m not sure how much time he had to develop the physique and get the military training Luedke gives him. While fierce of intellect, I’ve never seen any scholar suggest he was equally as fierce with the sword. It’s a minor quibble, but I did find Paul the warrior a bit distracting.
The New Testament was written by men who lived in a world completely foreign to us in America today. It’s no wonder so many Christians feel the need to provide adaptations that make the text more accessible. Overall, Luedke does a good job of adapting the Biblical text. Given the quality differences, I’m inclined to recommend readers begin with the second volume, Acts of the Spirit. If you enjoy his adaptation of the Book of Acts, then go back and read the first book. That approach gives the best first impression of his material possible.
You can find more information on the series and view sample pages at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided review copies.)