By: Adam Basciano
“American Jesus Volume 1: Chosen follows a twelve-year-old boy who suddenly discovers he’s returned as Jesus Christ. He can turn water into wine, make the crippled walk, and, perhaps, even raise the dead! How will he deal with the destiny to lead the world in a conflict thousands of years in the making?”
The draw for me to read this book was because it was written by Mark Millar. Whether it be his work for Marvel, DC, or his other creator-owned work I’ve read, he’s quickly become one of my favourite comic book writers. Half way through this book, it feels as though we’re going to get a 21 Century telling of the Jesus story we all know. For a bit, I was thinking that this was going to be the “Smallville” for Jesus in a way. We had modern-day stand in’s for the returned Jesus, Jodie Christianson’s earthly parents. Yes their names had alliteration to their biblical counterparts Mary and Joseph. We had a requisite stand in for Mary Magdalene, and one of his friends was actually named Peter. Just as the Biblical Jesus did, Jodie matched intelligence with his supposedly superior intellectual elders, cured the lame, healed the sick, and even raised the dead. Sure, in this case it was a dog, but still. While up to this point, this was simply a modern twist on stories we had known, what made it interesting was the modern context. Seeing a returned Jesus have to deal and navigate the trials and tribulations of living in the modern world, and try to live a more pious lifestyle, once he comes to the realization of his apparent divine nature was interesting. Once this is revealed, it is a little jarring, yet humorous at the same time having his parents and peers swear in front of him. What I really enjoyed was how writer Mark Millar, through the character of Jodie compared the Bible to the original Star Wars trilogy. When you read that description, you can’t help but think; “Why didn’t I think of that.” The book really picks up at the half way point, when you realize they are telling the story told in Revelations. There’s a big twist at books end, which will shock you. It leaves the story open for more, but also leaves you as a reader wanting more. If you get impatient for Mark Millar to write the next installment, you could always read Revelations, although I really want to see Millar’s particular spin on things.
I wasn’t familiar with Peter Gross’ art at all before reading this book. His style has that sense of classic or vintage comic book style. At times it can be very simplistic, while at times being very detailed. The truck accident was incredibly detailed, as were all the “Jesus” moments. The locations in this book all looked great. Whether it was Jodie’s boyhood home, the town church, the school, or the woods. They all felt authentic, like places you could visit, existing in the real world. The artist expresses emotions well in his art. This is especially true in scenes featuring the priest who lost his faith, or Jodie’s concerned/protective mother. A shout out must be given to colorist Jeanne McGee. Her tones are very earthy and knows exactly when to amp up the bright colours. or when to tone things down., using plenty of greys when things get serious. The covers mimics the story and takes classic religious imagery, and adding a modern context to it! Definitely grabs your attention.
As a person of Catholic faith I thought this book reinvigorated the stories, that after hearing then 1000 times from at Sunday mass or reading them yourself can get stale after a while. If you’re not religiously inclined, then this makes a fascinating sci-fi story. This easily ranks as the best non-superhero comic book I’ve ever read.
Overall Grade: 9/10