Monday, May 08, 2006

Top 10 Comics since 1979
6. Chosen #3

Dark Horse
August 2004
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Peter Gross

Jodie Christianson is a pretty normal twelve year old boy. He has a crush on the girl next door, he picks his nose and wipes it under the furniture, and oh yeah-he's pretty sure he's the reincarnated Jesus Christ.
After Jodie survives a run-in with a pickup truck that by all rights should have crushed him, he becomes aware of certain abilities: turning water into wine, walking on water, and awakening coma patients, for instance. Sometimes puberty's a bitch.

Welcome to the mind of Mark Millar.
Millar, in this story at least, is reminiscent of Stephen King. He has King's formula of heavy religiosity mixed with heavy vulgarity. He's also wickedly funny and bizarre. Fortunately for the reader, Millar can tell a story like this in a few dozen pages, not two thousand.
The art is by Peter Gross, and what stands out are his watercolor backgrounds. His figures and faces are very simple, but that is appropriate for this story of an average American small town rocked by a possible Second Coming.
At the end of issue 2, the town is paralyzed by a mix of awe and fear. Because if God and Jesus are real, then so is their judgment; and so is Satan and his Antichrist. That fear is what issue 3 is all about.

The local church is filled now only with non-believers. Those that refuse to follow Jodie as it becomes more and more clear that he is performing genuine miracles.
Chief among the non-believers is Father Tom himself, who is angry at God for taking his brother away in a senseless accident years before. He has held on to that anger his entire life, and become so bitter towards God that the sacraments of the Church are empty ritual.Father Tom is always drawn angry, his eyes rimmed with dark circles, his brow furrowed. You could imagine a chubby Billy Bob Thornton in a blonde wig. This is a man who has given in to his hidden rage and doubt.

When Jodie is approached by his teacher to heal his sick mother, he refuses. "Trust me," he says, "She'll be fine. You're the one who has to live down here among all the squalor and dirt." Even the old woman is at peace:Outside, it's a far different story: "Avert your eyes!" screams a voice from the crowd as Jodie emerges from the house. The adults in town are a terrified rabble, with bowed heads and grey faces.
The only rational calm in the face of the hysteria are Jodie and his 'disciples', all his school friends who were the first to believe his abilities and whose doubt has never wavered.
Even Jodie himself lacks any fear. Children have a remarkable ability to just accept whatever life presents them. Fear is a learned behavior, and Jodie has a complete confidence in his faith and in his powers.

Father Tom, meanwhile, is still racked with doubt. Not only about Jodie's powers, but about his role in Jodie's story.So this man of the cloth does what he hasn't done in far too long: he prays for guidance. For a sign.Outside, one of the first recipients of Jodie's powers is hitting a towering home run, aided by his newly perfect vision. The ball lands in the street and bounces, attracting the attention of Father Tom's dog. He gives chase, right into the path of an oncoming car.
Devastated, Tom takes the dog to Jodie's. While his mother and his step-father (a pale and fearful worm of a man) begs for reason, Jodie clears off the table and prepares to bring the dog back to life. "I can do this, Dad. Just stand back and don't throw me off."Jodie places his hands on the dog. There is not a shred of doubt within him. He can do this. He believes in himself and in God. But there's something strange about the look on his face, about the power coursing through Jodie's hands as he works.
A red glow spreads throughout the room. Lightning fills the sky.From the narration, Jodie describes the chaos: "Outside, it was like somebody turned the streetlights up until they just couldn't take it anymore and popped like firecrackers from one end of town to the other...children's hair turned grey, people's eyes changed color, everyone having sex orgasmed for a full twelve minutes..."

The dog is healed, and with it Father Tom's faith. He collapses and embraces his pet. If anything, Jodie's parents behind him look more terrified than ever. But no one can ever doubt Jodie's powers again.
Jodie makes the decision to leave home, "They said I could see my parents whenever I wanted, but I just didn't see the point after awhile...there was no malice in this decision you understand. The sad truth was they just didn't even smell right to me anymore."

A Cadillac pulls into the driveway to take Jodie, dressed in his Sunday best, off to his important new life.
"We gotta train you..." says the mysterious woman inside, "we gotta teach you to focus so you're ready for the big Grand Finale twenty one years down the line..."
She tells Jodie that he's off to meet the boss, his true father.
"I'm going to meet God?" Jodie asks.
"No, silly boy, whatever gave you that idea?"
Before the big reveal, two panels down, we see the license plate:
IM 666Jodie himself is the Antichrist he had thought he'd be facing.

We flash forward twenty one years. Jodie is telling this story to a collection of reporters and yes men, his face eclipsed by shadow. He laughs at the notion that he had once assumed he was Christ the redeemer, "It's only natural, I suppose. No one likes to think they're the Grendel to someone's Beowulf."
A woman asks him if his father found it funny that he's assumed he was the son of God.In those horrible lost years, Jodie learned a fear he could never have imagined. Fear that became hate, hate that became a pure, destructive rage.
Jodie, now President of the United States, readies an attack on the Holy Land. He is twisted and dark. We know how great his power is, and it can only have grown in the decades since an innocent and faithful child brought a man's only friend back from the dead, a gift of perfect kindness.
That child is gone forever, replaced by a man built of a deep and awful fear, and filled with power and anger.

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