Religion can be just as interesting a topic as it can be a hotly contested one. Why not utilize it in comics? I mean, after all, it certainly worked for 2012’s Punk Rock Jesus. This year, we get another brilliantly crafted dose of finding God, but in a very different path from the more grounded PRJ of last year. Horror mastermind Clive Barker, the man behind films such as Candyman, Lord of Illusions and of course Hellraiser, brings us Next Testament; a story about an atheist who seeks God…and finds Him.
Barker, along with writer Mark Miller (no, not the same one behind Kick-Ass…that’s Mark Millar) combine to become the driving force behind Next Testament. So far, only the first 3 issues have been released in what will be a 12-part mini-series. I’ll try to set the premise without divulging too much on the story. Let me just say that so far though, this title rocks it out. It is graphic, and by graphic, I mean gore galore. The story feeds readers enough details to keep their attention spans occupied while retaining enough to keep you wanting to know not what happens in the next book, but what happens on the next page.
We are introduced to God, or at least someone who is a god-like being. Events can unfold by the unearthed being merely thinking about them on a whim. The outcome of those events are usually quite grisly as they play out. Meanwhile, the scholarly man, Julian Demond, who found this god, has become the being’s tag-a-long, if you will. He certainly can’t stop the deity from doing whatever it is he or it will do, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned with the outcomes, generally speaking. Demond’s son and daughter-in-law to be are about to do anything in their limited humanistic power to stop the unlikely pairing.
The story is gripping, macabre and ultimately horror influenced. It is a combination of emotional aspects that have been utilized time and again, but are pulled off here in a breath-taking manner. The art, courtesy of Haemi Jang (Hellraiser comics), provides a very well done visual layout that include detailed lines and a color palette that always fits the mood. Some of the opening panels feature vivid browns and blues of a desert landscape while low-lit sequences are appropriately subdued with shades from the darker end of the spectrum. However, the most eye-catching aspect of them all has to be the book’s mysterious god-like figure. ‘He’ is an anatomically neutral figure whose coloring looks like someone went nuts with oil paint. This method even carries over to the character’s word balloons which adds quite the fantastical touch.
Okay, so we’re only a quarter of the way through this series, but I have to say, reads like this one do not come along often. It is deep, pure and simple, and is the substance I often crave when I dive into the pages of a story. Clive Barker’s Next Testament is a gem (at least so far) and one can only hope the high level of consistent ‘wow’ that has been provided thus far carries over into the rest of the series. We have quite the way to go before we come up on the end of this title, but if Barker and Miller continue to write as well as they have in the first three issues, then I am waiting with baited breath for the big finish.