Robert Flores suggested I post my and Steve MacDonald's Christian Comics reviews on the Forum site. So here they are. I hope you find them interesting. They are also posted on the Main page review section and my CCAS Blog. God bless, Don
The Dreamland Chronicles: Book One, Scott Christian Sava (writer, artist), 2006, 294 pp, $19.95. This is a collection of web comics.
On a brief trip to Chicago in 2003 George Macas, Jr took me to a local comic shop and while there I discovered a comic about purple haired elves, fairies, rock men, cyclops, magic swords, and dragons with gorgeous computer generated art. Later I happened upon the web site for the The Dreamland Chronicles where the creator Scott Christian Sava was producing more pages of this elegantly produced online comic.
The Dreamland Chronicles records the adventures of Alex Carter, a college student, whose dreams take him to a world replete with castles and fantasy denizens like talking animals, elves, fairies, giants, pirates and huge, cunning and malevolent dragons. Alex gains a magic sword and armor and a romance with a beautiful elfian Princess. The story is a delightful fairy tale where the distinction between good and evil is very well defined. Alex alternates between the real world where his brother Daniel provides a geeky, but intelligent foil for the more athletic sibling. The story combines daring do adventure and romance with some philosophical and theological discussions. The Christian elements are subtle rather than overt.
The Dreamland Chronicles is a genuine publishing success with it's wonderful 3-D like art, engaging characters and captivating storyline. The Dreamland Chronicles web site logged on 2 million unique readers by June 2007 (from its January 2006 startup). This all age comic is also one of the most accessible. You can go to the web site and view all of the 500 plus pages Sava has produced so far. Also numerous issues of The Dreamland Chronicles are available for free download from the www.wowio.com
web site. Also there is a recently released second volume that allows you to curl up with a print version. Which ever form you find most enjoyable you are in for a page turning compelling read with characters and a tale that you can honestly care about.
Shelter of Wings,
2006 (1st Edition), Brethren Entertainment Media Group, Lisa Hutchinson (writer, artist), B & W, 194 pp., $14.95.
Spiritual warfare is one of the most popular genre within the Christian Comics movement. Perhaps the most notable example is the popular Archangels: The Saga produced by Cahaba Productions (formerly Eternal Studios). The notion of angels and demons battling like super heroes and super villains for the souls of man is one that translates easily into comic book or graphic novel form. It is one that seasoned and new comic book readers can readily relate to.
Lisa Hutchinson who has developed a very manga like art style has produced an excellent example of spiritual warfare comics in Shelter of Wings. Hutchinson not only draws well but her storytelling dynamics are very highly developed. This book has outstanding page to page, panel to panel action sequences that rival the best of any of its secular manga competitors. For this non-manga comics reader she is teaching me why manga is such a popular form of sequential art. Manga is a "hot" form of comics in the sense that it is very visceral—it packs a surface emotional intensity that, for the most part, western comics lack. The cartoony aspects of manga, the enormous eyes, pointy noses, spikey hair, contorted mouths, over-the-top action sequences combined with the emotional intensity of the characters make for an irresistible read for many young fans.
Shelter of Wings follows the adventures of Jenna Ruth Hadley who has just lost her mother in an auto accident. Because of this tragic event she is struggling with his faith in God as she has gone to live with her grandmother in Montana. However divine providence has plans for Jenna—plans that make her very important to the future destiny of mankind. The demonic hosts are set on thwarting those plans and the angelic realm is there to protect her. Some of the bickering and brawling among the demons add an oddly humorous element to an otherwise serious story. The story is aimed at a tween and young teen audience--perhaps mostly female- however this much older male reader looks forward to future installments of Shelter of Wings.
For those wanting to sample manga style spiritual warfare comics Shelter of Wings is a must read.
, (2006), Next, Hidenori Kumai (script), Kozumi Shinowaza (artist), Atsuka Ogawa (assistant artist), 288 pp, FC, $12.99
is very cool! I got an advanced copy, and if you like manga (and in color. too!) then get this book! It follows the story from all four gospels synoptically; the art is by actual Japanese artists, not just someone drawing in the manga style. The retelling is dialogue heavy, not text box heavy, as in many versions. The characters are given true human dimensions, aand everyone has a distinct look to them. The American publishers know the gospel and are making sure that this is both accurate and evengelistic. Great for sharing with those who do not know Christ but would be willing to read manga. Extremely well done! High marks.
Review by Steve MacDonald
[Note from DinoDon: I agree very strongly with Steve's review of Manga Messiah
. This is one of the very best comic adaptations of the life of Christ ever published. The manga art for this volume has an emotional immediacy and passionate impact that fits extremely well with this gospel retelling. There are also helpful features such as an Area map detailing the places in Israel where the events of the life of Christ took place and Character profiles of the major people who were significant to the gospel stories. Excellent gift to receptive non-Christian manga fans.]
Yun, The Illustrated Story of the Heavenly Man (2006), Monarch Books, Paul Hattaway (co-writer), Rico Rival (artist), 126 pp., $11.99 each.
In 1997 Paradox Press (a DC Comics imprint) published the Big Book of Martyrs
. This book presented stories and legends primarily of early church and Roman Catholic martyrs for the faith. Martyrs and the persecuted church make up a very rich source for Christian sequential stories (comics). The graphic biography of Brother Yun is an excellent example of what can be done within the comics medium with modern persecution stories.
Brother Yun was born in 1958 in the tiny farming village of Liu Lao Zhuang of China's Henan Province. The story follows Yun's life as he was born into a family where his mother was a devout Christian and his father an ex-imperial soldier (who was miraculously healed by fervent prayers of terminal cancer). The book gives some historical background of the Protestant church in China. The rest of the book follows Yun's intense childhood desire to own a Bible and how God used him to teach and preach in the underground house church in China. There are many ups and downs in Yun's life journey as he faced beatings, torture, imprisonment, temptation and conflict within the church itself. This is a story of the triumph of faith and God's love in the face of seemingly overwhelming hardship and persecution.
Artist Rico Rival uses varied panel layouts and dramatic poses to keep the story moving. The inking tends to look rushed—almost as if these drawings were preliminary sketches. Since Rico is such an excellent comics story teller with very smooth transitions from page to page and from panel to panel in a very episodic story is a minor criticism. Still if he had taken more time or had a top notch inker doing the finishes— the art would have been even more effective. Nate Butler and Ed Morris helped in adapting the script to comics format.
The Christian church is facing heavy and increasing persecution many Muslim, Hindu and communist countries. Graphic biographies like Yun, the Heavenly Man
is an excellent way of calling attention (and the need for help and prayer) to our brothers and sisters who are in very real ways suffering for their faith.
Diary of Hope. (2006). Christine Kerrick Images, Christine Kerrick (writer, artist, publisher), $9.95, 56 pp.
This is a graphic novel (period). Many graphic novels are just glorified comic books. Kerrick uses a combination of journal entries, sketches, illustrations and even some sequential art to propel the narrative. This book covers roughly the same ground as her recently completed three issue mini series, Empire
. However while the same characters from Empire
are involved in the same situations Diary of Hope
complements and not just repeats the events of the mini series.
Diary of Hope
brings a greater depth into the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, Hope Mason. Hope is a young woman whose father, along with millions of others, have suddenly and mysteriously vanished from earth without a trace. The Diary documents Hope's life during the five years after the disappearance of her father. During this period she struggles with her own spirituality and belief in God. After much hardship and soul searching she follows the lead of her father, repents of her sin and becomes a Christian. This causes her to lose old friends and gain new ones and eventually leads to her death by martyrdom at the book's conclusion.
Kerrick's theological stance on the end times is a pre-millennial dispensationalist one. This position holds that true Christians will be physically taken out (raptured) of the world before the "Great Tribulation" and bodily return of Christi and the end of history. While not all Christians hold to this eschatological position the books succeeds as a compelling and gripping drama on its own merits despite whether the reader agrees with the future times scenario underlaying the story.
This is one of the best reads and professionally done packages to come out of the Christian comics movement in recent years. Christine Kerrick and batted a home run with this book. Buy it and savor it. Whether you agree or not with the end times scheme you will be blessed.
(This review was written in August 2006)