I guess it was bound to happen.
After all the adoration I heaped onto Punk Rock Jesus, it’s only fitting that the final issue is a bit of a let down. Having read PRJ #6 alone and then as part of the series, I think writer/artist Sean Murphy should have stretched it out to seven issues. The finale of this series had too many strings to be wrapped up in one issue and, sadly, the issue suffers for it.
The opening of issue six is the first clue that things have gone awry. All this time, we’ve been under the impression that Thomas McKael, the former IRA member who now serves as the protector of Chris, the supposed clone of Jesus, was a man seeking redemption for what he’d done in his terrorist past. To further his torment, McKael watched his parents murdered before his eyes as a child. Taken in by his uncle, McKael fought in the IRA as vengeance for his parents. This conundrum of circumstances helped to create a fully realized and fleshed out character.
Well, apparently, that’s all wrong. Issue six reveals that McKael’s father was never part of the IRA, which caused tension between him and his brother. Seeking asylum for his family, Thomas McKael’s father decided to trade IRA secrets in exchange for relocation and protection. So what happened? You guessed it, the uncle found out, had his brother murdered, and then lied to Thomas to bring him into the fight. Thomas finds all of this out after being captured by the British Government.
An interesting plot device? Yes. Does it diminish the power of Thomas’s search for redemption? Yes. Having Thomas discover all this about his father gives him an easy out to reform from the IRA and find that redemption. Murphy also adds in an unnecessary scene where Thomas is visited by a religious deity.
Bombshell dropped, Murphy moves us back to the current story, where Chris and his band The Flak Jackets are about to perform a huge concert in Jerusalem. Chris’s vocal and high profile anti-religious sentiments have caused outrage across the globe. The major religions have united to bring The Flak Jackets down and Israel’s allowing the concert to happen has caused massive tension between them an the Muslim community. All the unrest Chris wanted is coming true.
I was waiting for Murphy to hit us with some thought provoking ideas on religion and mass media. I was hoping The Flak Jackets concert would cause a revolution across the world that could overturn the iron grip religion has on it. Instead, Sean Murphy gives us an action movie. As soon as the Flak Jackets land, they’re attacked by a mortar launch, effectively ending the concert and killing Flak Jackets lead guitarist Rabbit. Thomas chases after the killer, who manages to get the drop on Chris. Struggling against his promise not to kill again and his love for Chris, a tormented Thomas shoots the attacker, blowing his skull apart.
The rest of Punk Rock Jesus is one admission after another, followed by a big action sequence. Slate, the man behind the corporation that brought us J2, is facing serious charges of criminal wrongdoing for his actions in the death of Chris’s mother. Instead of facing those charges, Slate burns down a whole building and an entire island. Then we get the quick and clunky admission by Dr. Epstein that Rebekah, the girl she claimed was her daughter, is really Chris’s sister and that the DNA used to clone the two of them was only a few days old, not from the Shroud Of Turin. Everything was a big fake.
After this admission, the NAC (New Age Christians) launch a final attack against Chris and, even with Thomas’s interference, they manage to shoot down Chris’s helicopter and kill him. The last scenes of Punk Rock Jesus are Dr. Epstein showing Thomas footage of Slate dropping Rebekah into the river as a baby (see issue #1). Thomas takes justice into his own hands, grabs Slate from a moving car and throws him under a semi. That’s how Punk Rock Jesus ends and, for me, it fails to live up to the other five issues of the series.
To put it simply, there are too many loose ends to wrap up in one issue, and there are too many easy plot devices to wrap the series up. Why tell us that Chris really isn’t a clone of Jesus? Why not let that remain unanswered? Why does Thomas’s background suddenly become so easy? It was much more compelling to have him be a bad man looking to turn things around. Finding out his parents were betrayed makes it all a bit too pat and simple for me. I also thought Chris’s death and the whole resolution involving Dr. Epstein and Rebekah came about too quickly For a series that was so thought-provoking and so in-depth, the final issue seemed just too simple.
Sean Murphy’s art remains untouchable as always. His ability with simple cross etching and the detail he can bring out with his eye for detail are a constant pleasure. As much as I felt action outweighed the story here, the action scenes are incredible. Murphy creates such an air of claustrophobia during the Jerusalem scenes that you can feel the tension mounting. So many fail to communicate their story even with a full color palette. Sean Murphy does it with nothing but pencils and inks.
Punk Rock Jesus is still the best mini-series of 2012, but #6 is just shy of delivering on the level the other five issues did.
(3 Story, 4 Art)