Eye Witness Books 1-4

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.

Eye Witness Book 1 cover
Eye Witness Book 1
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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.

Eye Witness Book 2 cover
Eye Witness Book 2
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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.

Eye Witness Book 3 cover
Eye Witness Book 3
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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.

Eye Witness Book 4 cover
Eye Witness Book 4
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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.)


8 Responses to “Eye Witness Books 1-4”

  1. R.J. Luedke Says:

    Ed:

    Thanks for your review of the series, and I just wanted to add a bit to it.

    First of all, the issues about the first book in the series (A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth) have been “painfully” well documented since the month it was released back in 2004…and they served as lessons learned about value of not rushing a project to market prior to extra rounds of editing (which you noted in books 2-4). To fix these issues we did release a REVISED edition of book 1, which did both clean up the editorial mishaps and totally remastered the colors (to better match up with the rest of the series). That edition is currently available through our website (headpress.info) as a PDF download or through a couple different applications for iphone & ipad.

    Secondly, in regards to Paul…yes, my take is unique and that’s a good thing, since I was attempting to insert him within the Gospel narrative much earlier than the Bible source and presenting him as I did helped to explain that dramatic choice. But that being said, I never really suggested he had “military training” and spent significant time “developing his physique”…my assumption is that a great percentage of men living in the 1st century were probably quite a bit more physically fit then their 21st century counterparts given the world in which they lived (and FYI…Paul didn’t really buff up in the series until his years spent alone in the wilderness after his encounter with the risen Jesus). I did go to lengths to establish Paul’s educational/spiritual background and if you go back and re-read the material, he never really is “using the sword”, rather commanding those who are.

    But overall, I really appreciated your thoughtful take on the series on thee whole!

  2. Johanna Says:

    That’s good to know, Robert, that you’ve cleaned up the digital editions, although those of us (like me :) ) that still prefer paper are a bit out of luck, I guess.

  3. R.J. Luedke Says:

    Joanna…not to worry, the revised edition will eventually see print. I currently have a couple options to make it available in 2011 through a P.O.D service. When that comes about, I’ll certainly let you know.

  4. hapax Says:

    That’s a real pity about the editorial problems of the print edition.

    Many public libraries in conservative areas (like mine) are desperate for high quality gn that we can point to to “balance” a perceived anti-Christian, anti-traditional morality tone of much of the adult gn available. But scanned pages and gross spelling errors are not going to fill the bill.

  5. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Hapax, Please note Luedke’s announcement above that the revised volume 1(with corrected art and color) will become available in 2011 in a print version. You can buy a couple copies for your local library and you’re gift is tax deductable. I think that’s a good solution.

    Luedke, Glad to hear you will be making the revised volume 1 available in a print edition. That’s great news.

    We are just going to have to agree to disagree on your representation of Paul. When he first appears in his Turkish solider hat and sword, I thought, “That’s one tough looking guy.” He’s no Conan, but he still looks like he can hold his own in your average fight. But toughness is in the eye of the beholder.

    I do want ask about your choice to include Mary into the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ve never seen that before in any retellings of the Gospel. How did you come up with that idea? I’m really fascinated by it.

  6. R.J. Luedke Says:

    @Hapax, I wouldn’t go as far as calling them “gross spelling errors”, but suffice to say over the course of the 90 pages manuscript there are about a dozen issues dealing with spelling and/or punctuation. But that hasn’t prevented libaries and/or bookstore around the country from stocking the title since it premiered in ’04…’cause the underlying story is just so strong!

    But if that is too much for you to overcome, do what Ed suggested and begin with Book Two (Acts of the Spirit)…since all of the four books in the series can easily be read as stand alone!

  7. R.J. Luedke Says:

    @Ed…to begin let me say, remember, this is not your typical “Bible Adaptation”, rather the first century narrative is historical fiction that is based upon the Biblical source material.

    Book 1 (A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth) is dealing with a fictional Gospel written by….SPOILER ALERT….Joseph of Arimathea…END SPOILER ALERT. This provided me with the leeway to make creative choices to enhance and narrative with the end game being, that it was more even more dramatic and easier to understand for those who are not Church goers or Bible readers (the book’s target audience)…in the same sort of way Cecil B. De’Mille did with Exodus in his 10 Commandments Movie.

    There’s no denying the formidable visual nature I established for Saul of Tarsus…who was known by the earliest followers of Christ, as “Saul the Persecutor.” Visually, I wanted to create a character that would fit that description and some of the speculative research on Saul/Paul, laid the groundwork for my developing him as someone who was not only physically imposing, but also scholarly and highly educated (which even today does not have to be mutually exclusive characteristics). And FYI…his outfit is more based upon visual interpretations of early Hebrew armor, rather than Turkish.

    In regards to the Mary question…this has probably been the most controvercial aspect of my presentation over the years. But simply put, Mary’s appearance in the garden was another dramatic license I took to help illustrate the severe emotional state that Jesus must have been feeling the night before his “great sacrifice”. Rather than having him just sit and monolog for 4-5 pages, this “fictionalized” conversation allowed for the reader to better appreciate his state of mind and body (which was so stressed, he was sweating blood out of his pores).

    And how I came up with it?…like alot of the creative directions I took on this series…it was the result of a lot of research, contemplation and even prayer.

  8. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Luedke,

    Thanks for the info on Paul’s armor. I guess I always think of that style of helm as Turkish for some reason.

    As far as Mary, I guess I was wondering if you had gotten the idea from a theologian or a film. It seemed like something you would see in Roman Catholic thought. I don’t think it’s controversial, just caught me off guard. Thanks for the insight.




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