Punk Rock Jesus contains the little baby Jesus but no punk rock. While punk bands are absent, I’m thinking the first two words of the title are an allusion to cyberpunk, as the book is definitely a work of science fiction. Created by Sean Murphy (Crush, Joe the Barbarian), who both writes and draws the book, Punk Rock Jesus is an interesting critique of contemporary politics, religion, and science, extrapolating on the present and presenting a bizarre not-so-distant future where things look pretty bleak.
In the year 2019 an all-encompassing corporation called Ophis is cloning Jesus, using DNA from the Shroud of Turin, and making it into a reality show. Just like any televised series they hold tryouts for the Virgin Mary (requesting only actual virgins apply) and are impregnating her in international waters, avoiding any nation’s laws. Regardless of the various opinions given by religious groups and the scientific community, everybody watches as Christ 2.0 is born for a massive viewing audience on Christmas.
Originally I thought the idea of a comic called Punk Rock Jesus was pretty silly. A six issue series released by Vertigo, who hasn’t been delivering with their newer titles like they have in the past, I thought it was just another inane book put out there to attract sales based on the imprint. I was wrong. Although I don’t think the title is amazing (realistically, Punk Rock Jesus is a pretty goofy title) the story and art makes up for this lackluster choice. Murphy injects the book with a great deal of social and cultural critique, discussing issues ranging from global warming and cloning to ethics and doing it within a science fiction universe along the lines of Blade Runner or Children of Men. In short, it’s a well-done sci-fi dystopia.
Murphy’s artwork is excellent, even if the style is a bit derivative of manga’s like Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita. It suits the story well, showing a culture overrun by corporations and mindless advertisements—a splintered world, where Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World beats out Orwell’s 1984 by offering too many choices, diluting dialogues and drowning out any voices of importance. I’m not very familiar with Murphy’s prior work but if the art for Punk Rock Jesus is any indication of his talent I’m curious to see where this title goes and what he has planned for the future.