RevolveR, the web comix anthology of Salgood Sam

May 11, 2008

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo" takes on new meaning with this one. Highly recommended."

Another cool one for the clipping pile, from by Byron Kerman

Some readers are never going to pick up Therefore Repent! when they hear about the plot. The graphic novel imagines the biblical Rapture, with the righteous floating up to heaven, and the sinners stuck on a miserable earth roiling with war and suffering. It just sounds too much like it might be the work of a smug Christian author, offering a book-length Jack Chick tract to a general comics readership. Bible camp for the heathens.

Not only is that an erroneous conclusion, it's a far too simple one. What writer Jim Munroe and artist Salgood Sam have done here is to join mystery, horror, romance, and the lurid excitement of eschatology in a complex tale that manages to be spiritually moving without resorting to organized religion.

We begin with Mummy and Raven, a couple of free spirits wearing the costumes it sounds like they are, as their way of protesting this whole Rapture business. They wander the post-Tribulation streets, squatting in apartments abandoned by the righteous, trying to cook up food without electricity and survive by their wits in a collapsed America. They confab with Jews, Muslims, drinkers, hippies, and "unbelievers" of all stripes, looking for resources, friends, and meaning in a bereft world.

The cover to Therefore Repent. Click for a larger image.Gradually, we witness stranger and stranger doings in this post-Rapture life. Dogs eat the voice boxes of dead people and acquire the power to speak. Some women have the ability to conjure living birds of ash, and cats of dust. The newly pious can walk on water, multiply loaves and fishes, and turn water into wine. Bisexual soldier-angels descend to earth to kill survivors practicing the "dark arts" of divination -- levitation, invisibility, and even drumming circles. It's a mishmash of horrors and wonders that reminded me, with its sheer oddness, of the vibe you get from some Clive Barker stories. Of course, the idea of this particular sick world is only as "new" as the New Testament. I wish I knew more about the Rapture so I could appreciate more here. The genital-less angels, for instance, are a Biblical idea, I understand.

Munroe and Sam convey the action with a deceptively sleepy pace. The practical considerations of what Mummy and Raven should do with their daily surfeit of free time, the bumps in their relationship, and the challenges faced by a few other minor but memorable characters are the meat of the book. We, along with these characters, are waiting for answers. Will there be another, final Rapture? Can the impious yet be saved? Should the stunned non-Christians fight the gun-toting angels of vengeance, or would that be sacrilege? What does anything mean in a world where god has passed judgment, and everyone left is a loser?

The ending is a revelation, in several senses of the term. Let's just say that the Christians may have been right about how the world will end, but wrong about who's on either side of the chess board. And the potential for good people to fight their way to salvation -- and transformation -- in the darkest of times is presented so lovingly, via the delightful couple that is the cosmically tripping Mummy and the defiant Raven (and their talking dog, too), you just marvel at your journey as a reader.

Salgood Sam (the nom de plume of one Max Douglas, spelled backwards, more or less) is a gifted illustrator. His black-and-white drawings are slick like a film storyboard drawn by an exacting crafter. Check out one panel near the end of the book, in which our band of heroes takes out an angel. He falls through the sky upside-down, his huge black wings fluttering helplessly above him on the way down. It's gorgeous.

It might be a good idea to read Therefore Repent! twice, even. Any confusing plot points at the beginning will be revealed as clever little breadcrumbs.

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo" takes on new meaning with this one. Highly recommended. | Byron Kerman

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posted by max at 5/11/2008 08:06:00 p.m.


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