WRITER & ARTIST: Sean Murphy
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
“The power of faith.”
I read PUNK ROCK JESUS 1-6 a few hours after Christmas Eve mass. As I traversed Murphy’s indictment of religion, reality TV and irresponsible science, the priest’s words prior to transubstantiation kept echoing in the back of mind. Murphy does a very clear job of reaffirming my belief in life as an agnostic, but he also made me finally understand the solace Mrs. Douche finds in the rituals laid forth by catholic dogma. Faith is not something seen, quantified or touched, it simply is. PUNK ROCK JESUS will test faith, but it also shows that perhaps faith is the road to salvation; it simply takes you on a myriad of blind paths before reaching your final destination.
A holy communion of characterization fuels this look at the day after tomorrow. The blood of the story that keeps the plot flowing over 19+ years is found in the clone that will never be king, Chris. Funded by corporate masters, the Ophis Channel, Chris is cloned from the Shroud of Turin and subsequently exploited for the masses in a Truman Story show called J2. The difference – at least Truman was allowed to believe he wasn’t being televised. Chris has no such luxury. The Eucharist, the substantive body of PUNK ROCK JESUS comes from Thomas McKael, the ex-IRA agent who serves as Chris’ protector and hired gun of the island on which J2 is filmed. Even though the title is called PUNK ROCK JESUS, I would say this title is more Thomas’ journey versus the unexpected life of Mohawk Christ.
The overarching indictment on current society is a shot at my least favorite phenomenon in America today, reality-show induced celebrity. Chris’ mother is selected in an American Idol style audition tour-de-force. Once she is appropriately anorexic, bleached and teeth veneered, she is ready to be inseminated with DNA scraped off the most famous dinner napkin stain in history. Chris’ mother has no strong religious beliefs and no true qualifications for anything, other than a young fertile womb – you know, the same reason the Kardashian’s are famous. Murphy’s distrust of the corporate brain trust is self-evident from page one as we meet the anti-Christ, Rick Slate, an Ophis channel executive who is ready to exploit and manipulate the life of new Christ even before he’s born. Is the DNA from the shroud or not? The answer ultimately doesn’t matter, but in the early stages of J2 it’s essential to believe this for advertising revenue and the ratings that come from believes and non-believer vitriol. There are many other indictments from cloning to global warming, but in the end all evil stems from our need to believe in is flase idols simply so we can believe in anything.
The new Jesus has no disciples in the traditional sense, but the cast of characters that raise and support him seem far more functional than the original Christ’s entourage. Sarah Epstein, the geneticist who wants to use her 30 pieces of silver from cloning Chris to create algae that saves the world is one and the ultimate heroin of the story if you need such black and white delineations. She also serves as a Mother figure to Chris after celebrity ultimately consumes his Mother’s soul. The aforementioned Thomas McKael is a Judas without the betrayal, he follows and protects Chris in search for redemption and the belief that Christ will one day return even if it’s not Chris. McKael’s story is fascinating as he atones for crimes committed during his time with the IRA by killing anyone and anything that could harm Chris, even if it’s Chris himself.
In PUNK ROCK JESUS nothing ends as it will seem. McKael’s “guilt” he’s been trying to absolve was never his to carry, but that ultimately doesn’t change what he’s done and who he is. The twin girl that was birthed the same time as Chris serves a much larger purpose than her initial implied fate. Even the name PUNK ROCK JESUS is indicative of the surprises in this story when ultimately Punk Rock is the only thing Chris is ever able to resurrect.
All of the above are merely the surface points of a story with more layers than Dante’s vision of hell. Each character is more than a purpose, they come alive in the pages of PUNK ROCK JESUS and as a reader you will be affected by their sweet, sad and appropriate journeys.
There is no loss of faith in PUNK ROCK JESUS, even though the “miracle” is often debunked in its pages. Murphy clearly lands on the side of agnostic/atheist, but has enough respect for us as readers to leave the door of a second coming wide open. The only surety is that divinity doesn’t dwell in the deep recesses of DNA; it is and always will be a matter of faith.