While Punk Rock Jesus could have used some editing from a structural perspective, that same touch may have made it less DIY Punk and maybe not as good as it ended up being. It’s a book with a complicated and conflicting series of messages and commentaries. Punk Rock Jesus was, according to a note from Sean Murphy, the creator at the back of the book, a cathartic expression written as he was leaving behind Christianity and becoming an atheist and it is these themes that all of the characters in the book work through as well. While it’s probably a good bit controversial in these times of conflicting dogmas, Punk Rock Jesus is not a perspective that is often or so throughly explored.
Murphy is in many ways at the top of his visual storytelling game. His characters are all individuals and emotive. His panel to panel visuals are leading and compel the reader to go one more panel, every panel. His pages are dire or explosive when they need to be and he knows when a panel should be a page for impact. Murphy also does a great job of mixing media to set tone and wrench one more, previously missing feeling from the reader. Visually, Murphy plays with the comic book medium in ways that many other comic book artists don’t even know exist.
Murphy’s writing in Punk Rock Jesus, while it looks at some generally unexplored territory when it comes to such a commercial medium, it doesn’t have the technical skill that his art does. The POV of the book is difficult to the point of maybe not having the character impact that it could have had otherwise. The story also feels a good bit rushed for the sake of action and fitting it into an allotted number of pages. And while Punk Rock Jesus takes some interesting and funny jabs at today’s pop culture and it tackles the complicated concepts of dogma and fundamentalism on all sides of the war of religion, it comes off as a bit preachy at times. Punk Rock Jesus comes off as a bit too much like punk rock, a conflict of style an substance.
If you’re a lover of punk rock music and/or you want to read compelling book about questioning religious beliefs, Punk Rock Jesus could be the Bible for you.