I first came across Mark Millar’s American Jesus comic book series back in 2009 (See Greenflame: American Jesus) and then picked up the trade paperback, American Jesus: The Chosen, a year or two after that. I seem to remember reading it while I was lecturing the Bible in Popular Culture course at the University of Auckland. I found it an interesting if somewhat disturbing story about a boy who thinks he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ (and the plot does imply that) and then finds out he isn’t and it’s much worse than that.
I filed the trade paperback away with some other BibPop comics not realising that it was the first part of three story arcs. In 2019 I saw by chance in the comic store that the second story arc, American Jesus: The New Messiah, that of the actual incarnation of the second coming, was being published, so I collected the three issues of that. I didn’t find that story too interesting, and it felt like the filler to get to the third part of that story.
This week I finished reading the third story arc, American Jesus: Revelation, and again while it was interesting, I don’t think it trod too much new ground in the broader Bible and Popular Culture landscape. There is the climactic final battle between good and evil played out between the incarnation of Christ and the Antichrist, though with a few twists in that tale. Millar’s solution to that battle has a passing nod to the church father, Origen, who argued that all rational creatures including Satan would be offered one final chance to repent and turn to God at the Eschaton. Whether Millar knew about this is unclear, but that could be behind what turns out in the story. The story does play with the trope, common in other similar media (e.g. the film, Legion (2010); the Phantom Stranger comics (2012-on); and even in the Lucifer comics.), where God learns something from the freedom human beings have to love. That plays a key role in resolving of the story in American Jesus.
So overall, worth reading as an example of how biblical material is reinterpreted in popular culture, and comics in particular, but I think the overall story feels too uneven and stretched. I wonder if it might have worked better as a four or five-part comic arc rather than nine parts.
As an aside, the comic series has been optioned by Netflix to be the next Millar story translated to that medium. See: https://www.whats-on-netflix.com/news/the-chosen-one-millarworld-netflix-series-filming-begins-what-we-know-so-far/
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