Punk Rock Jesus TPB - The complete Series
I've made it clear for around 6 months straight that I loved the Punk Rock Jesus series, I've thrown money at it at every chance I could; I have first prints of all 6 issues, but still felt the need to buy the TPB!
So that's how much I love this series. This may be a biased review :p
I'm going to start by talking about the TPB vs the individual floppy copies:
It was $16.99 for the book; the singles together will cost you $17.94 at $2.99 each, so you're saving less than a dollar, typically a tpb will do better than that on savings, but I still think the singles should have been $3.99 each, so it was still a good price for me.
Sean Murphy had said in interviews that he was kind of blindsided by the TPB, so didn't have much preparation for it, but as promised, the TPB does feature some bonus stuff:
-Some additional artwork
-The 6 cover art prints
-2 pulled pages from issue #1
-a double-page sketch
-the promo cards art work
-a McKael sketch
(and my favorite part:)
-A heartwarming letter from Murphy talking about why he wrote the book, some of the story behind it, the evolution of it...and even the evolution of his own perspective of it. It was very deep and rewarding to read as a fan.
Reading it back to back was great too, rather than reading it month by month and having to go back to pick up on bits; there's a surprising amount of content in this book and a lot of different issues, and reading it as a TPB definitely improved my ability to keep up with everything going on. Reading it a second time in a new perspective lets you pick up on things you may have otherwise missed.
Is it worth buying if you already have a complete set?
I thought so, but not for everyone. To me, it felt like a book for the fans, and I did feel rewarded, and appreciated it, but for $16.99 some people may be expecting a little more than some promo art and cover pictures. Some early concept art would have been nice, and maybe some inspirational stuff. It's hinted in the series that Murphy has read a lot of counter-culture literature etc, and it'd have been nice to see some more on that.
What about for new/casual readers?
I'd strongly recommend this for anyone with an incomplete set, or anyone just getting into PRJ. It's nicely presented and the pure pen-and-ink layout works so nicely back to back. It's hard to describe, but it feels like a retro, underground graphic novel, more than a strapped-together comics series. I'd go so far as to say it's better in this format, than as singles. I found at my local store, if I wasn't part of the Wednesday Crowd, I couldn't get a copy, so it'll save you the hassle of trawling for back-issues too.
There's no definitive spacing between the issues, or even page numbers, so it can feel like a heavy read and it's not so easy to go back and forth through it, or reference it, but again, this adds to the feel of the overall book, making it feel like a heavy, punky book.
Punk Rock Jesus
The book itself! Written and drawn by Sean Murphy, this is entirely his creation, which means you're seeing Murphy with all of his creative cylinders firing for a pure, gritty, uncensored and mature book that asks questions and, where it can, gives answers too. The series did really well in reviews, not so great in sales (there were rumors in it's early days that it was going to be cancelled due to low subscriptions), but it has stayed strong and, due to the the fast popularity climb of Murphy and his work, will certainly become a great cult piece.
The thing I liked the most about this series, was that it wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting it to be a deep, controversial book, that in places would get lost in politics and become tiring. It was (thankfully) nothing like this. The book has 2-3 main plots that deal with religion, politics, science-fiction, sectarianism etc, but nothing is rammed down your throat and the change of format/difference-in-kind, means you never find yourself on one track for too long, and never too far from a plot-twist or an action scene. You're always engaged in whats happening.
There's really very few characters in this, so they all develop really well. Personally, I feel this series would have done better as maybe 8 issues instead of 6; some characters could have been built on just a tiny bit. When things happened to smaller characters, I wasn't always sure on how I was supposed to feel about it. That said, the main characters are really nicely done and you'll care about them, hate them and relate to them in all the right places.
The book boldly stuck with black and white, which was another great decision and it means for some great effects. When there's a lot going on, the lack of distinction adds to the confusion and puts you deeper into the scene yourself. Alongside this, there's some awesome chunky onomatopoeia's scattered throughout the book, some of them hiding in the atmosphere, some right upfront, some in the foreground screaming in your face, and some are even jokey and ironic and you'll often find a little satirical smirk on your face when you find them. The artwork very much gives you something to explore, and you'll look at it over and over to soak it all up for it's full enjoyment. Even the page-layout has no rules. You'll be reading the book, top-to-bottom, left-to right, skipping over big thick gutters of ink, zooming out onto full-page-spreads and then getting up close with sunken, inset, atmospheric effects. It's a rollercoaster to look at.
This is a near-perfect book. I grade books on how much you should buy them, not how perfect they are, so a 5/5 from me means if you're a casual reader who only picks up a couple of books, or just want a TPB for the coffee table, this is definitely one to pick up and talk about again and again. You'll get your moneys worth. As a committed regular comics reader, I feel without this book, you'll be missing a great piece of Murphy. He's currently working on big things with Snyder and DC, has a solid base of past work and I'm pretty sure he's on his way up in DC/Vertigo's elite. This is certainly a Magnum Opus that'll define his climb.