Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review: Mecha Manga Bible Heroes #1: David vs. Goliath

I don't get it.

Mecha Manga Bible Heroes #1: "David vs. Goliath," written by Tom Hall and Joey Endres. Illustrated by Thom Pratt and Daniel Bradford. Backup stories by Dean Rankine. JMG Comics (Flanders, New Jersey): Summer 2008. $2.25.

Some time ago, I posted the press release for this. Because I refuse to be a mere advertiser for anything simultaneously Christian and sf-related, I followed that up in private with some (negative) predictions about the series that somehow ended up getting posted at The Sci Fi Catholic. Now the first issue is out and its creators, in thanks for the earlier postings, have generously sent me a copy for review.

First of all, it's only fair to point out that the target audience for this is clearly very young, as indicated by the general tone. The series retells stories from the Old Testament with almost no alteration besides a dumbing-down of the dialogue and the addition of a few sf flourishes, especially walking robots and powered armor suits, apparently for the purpose of convincing young males to read the Bible.

Ten bucks say Goliath gets p0wned.

After reading this first issue, I'm still asking the same question I was asking when I first heard of this project: "Why?" This issue, "David vs. Goliath," follows 1 Samuel 17.1-58 faithfully except for the additions of the aforementioned sf flourishes, which as a result look like intrusions. Truth be told, I don't get it; it would make better sense to me to create a comic that not only tells the Bible stories faithfully but also attempts to faithfully depict the world in which those stories took place, or else to create sf stories that use the Bible as starting points but take greater liberties with the text.

Because the sf elements are decoration and and not an inherent part of the story, I find them jarring and confusing. For example, when young David relates how he has saved sheep from bears and lions, the illustrations depict him tending robot sheep and fighting robot bears and lions. While reading this, I find myself asking, "What is the purpose of a robotic sheep? Where do robotic lions come from?" In a fully developed sf world, I would expect these questions to be answered sooner or later, but in Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, I'm almost certain they never will be, which again leads me to ask what the point is of putting them in at all.

The only answer I can come up with is gimmick. It's a gimmick designed to coax youngsters to read their Bibles. While I'm certainly in favor of encouraging children and youths to read the Bible, I suspect most of them could detect the gimmick of this comic and would take it as an insult. I also suspect it would give them the wrong idea, suggesting as it unintentionally does that the Bible is too dull or unpalatable to read without a few artistic touch-ups.

The artwork, though not great, is good. The writing is competent enough, but the flow of the comic seems to be off; a few inserted jokes are poorly timed, and I found myself having to stare at some pages for quite a while in order to figure out what's going on. On the whole, the quality is good, but this first issue contains nothing memorable. The two backup features by Dean Rankine, "Bee-Attitudes" and "Green with Envy," are nuisances.

Although this first issue of Mecha Manga Bible Heroes is worth a few minutes' entertainment, it contains nothing compelling and nothing to make me want to continue reading the series. I'd rather go read my Bible instead.


Adriana said...

Of course, they could follow the
Trigun lead and show that they and the robots are colonists from another planet who got stranded...

I think that it is about time they brought in Vash the Stampede.

EegahInc said...

I thought I saw a manga Bible type thing without the mechas at Wal-Mart sometime last year. Maybe not, though.

Obviously, the purpose of robot sheep is to give us something to count as we all slip off together into electric dreams.

(Sorry, my 1980s are showing through again.)

Type4You said...

In principle, I agree with the idea that the "real" Biblical background doesn't need slick sci fi graphical improvements/plot devices. I am hearing stories from the battlefield that is religious education that children don't know these are from the Bible. They think Old Testament stories are all some variant of everyday fiction. Actually, I'm not sure which position this strengthens: the idea that it should be slicked up or the point that it should be authentic.

Sam said...

Why do the Bible stories need to be set in the times they were originally? Surely the most important part of a Biblical tale is the lesson to be learned from the actions of the agents involved; David besting Goliath even though the latter was the supposedly "superior" fighter.

I believe that it is a good thing such lessons are being updated for modern usage, because frankly the actions of a long-dead king mean very little to me and my generation. The importance that lies within the story does indeed mean something, but is it not better to abandon such archaic forms of literature for the more refined wisdom which we of this modern age can produce?

dj said...

The people this comic is targeting are those who don't care about goat herders fighting other goat herders in the bronze age. They're little kids. And little kids would much rather read a "gimmicky" story about robot sheep than Bronze age herdsmen.

The trick is teaching kids that David didn't get off a lucky shot, but that what he was doing he did with the Lord's support. Whether it's hurling a sling at a giant man or smashing a giant robot to bits, if the comic works in God then it works.

And it makes it easier for parents having to explain "why yes hun, it's okay to kill someone if God tell you to" when that someone is a big bad robot rather than a really big bad guy.

Viagra said...

Interesting to make Bible stories into Manga (a bit futuristic but it works fine) I wonder if it is Bible accurate and what other stories are there.