Miniature Jesus #1 of 5 (2013)
Writer/Artist: Ted McKeever
An overwhelming debut takes us inside a mind of darkness, and is quite content to let us lay there for a time.
Opening with the subtly beautiful language of Walt Whitman, renaissance man Ted McKeever raises the bar for comics a little this week with the disarmingly brilliant Miniature Jesus. For the comics world, the twisted and the religious have come together in Garth Ennis’ Preacher or more recently in Sean Murphy’s outstanding Punk Rock Jesus, but this might be something closer to Cormac McCarthy’s nihilistic view of America. Set in a desolate wasteland, almost devoid of buildings and humans, McKeever cracks open the battle between good and evil and seems to find at least one of them absent.
For recovering alcoholic Chomsky, there is a devil on each shoulder. Or more precisely, a talking and slightly rotting cat resembling an Egyptian deity, and a small gnarled demon who is determined to not let our “hero” forget the mistakes of his past. Meanwhile, a pastor on the fringes is about to make a small discovery.
The literal manifestation of Chomsky’s demons may seem like an obvious take on an inner journey through his character’s mind/body/spirit, but it is simply part of the bizarre piece of theatre that McKeever is staging for us. Two decades before, McKeever examined a war between demons and angels in Metropol, except that was in a modern industrial setting. Here, McKeever has almost emptied his landscape, save for the miscreants and misfits who fill his story. Like the land he inhabits, Chomsky’s excesses of the past have broken him, and he slowly limps towards recovery, but the extreme pundits on his shoulder (or are they simply in his mind?) will not let him be. Indeed, it is interesting to compare this with the consciously cartoonish blue winged horse in Grant Morrison’s Happy. Despite the similar theme, there seems to be little chance of redemption in McKeever’s world, and his demons are decaying and horrific. At one point, Chomsky is talking to a shopkeeper who remarks that he doesn’t “need your stinkin’ charity, chump!”. Chomsky’s reply could almost be to himself: “Go take a stare in the mirror.”
McKeever also does the art for this title, along with the lettering, inking and we imagine hand-cranking of the printer as well. The results are stunning, the black and white sketches looking as though they have been carved into the page. The dead and rotting cat is almost too grotesque to look at, and is in stark contrast to the ugly beauty of an abandoned set of buildings only pages before. McKeever’s book feels lived in, and is a welcome contrast to the hyper-reality of contemporary graphic fiction.
The final pages will shock and much as they intrigue, and with all the controversy surrounding sex in comics over the last few weeks, we wonder if this first issue’s final image will raise any eyebrows in conservative media. It’s a stunning debut issue from someone who has already mastered the surreal. Here we watch him harness it, darken it and ride it hard for our entertainment. Bring it on.
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