Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 78


by Jason Brubaker
Genre notes: adventure, fantasy
2 vols
ISBN: 0983114900 (Amazon)

Religion in literature is hard to do well. One of the greatest struggles for a literary work concerned with faith in the unseen is negotiating that breach between Why Should I Care and Hey You’re Preaching At Me. The borderlands that lie between the two are filled with deep and often satisfying conversations—or at least ones that help readers to recognize the breadth of perspectives that naturally hover across the human landscape. And then consider even those works that don’t press us to think seriously about what it means to be human in the face of all else that exists—if they resonate with us without dogmatizing, we tend to appreciate them a bit more. And this is a phenomenon unique to the realm of fiction.

When picking up a brick of text called Beliefs Of The Coptic Church, one would likely be disappointed if the book hemmed and hawed and only vaguely laid out what the Coptic Church might believe. We not only excuse blatant and direct reference to a particular theological dogma when reading a reference work discussing that dogma’s merits—we expect it. Fiction, on the other hand, long ago ceased its comfortable position as a vessel to convey a distinct and particular moral. Such overtly displayed lessons as found in “The Fox And The Grapes” are largely seen as reliquary, a nod to a long-passed and primitive kind of reader. Nowadays we, for good or for ill, are embarrassed by fictions that wear their heart too immodestly exposed.

At least we are when we’re not members in good standing of the particular choir that is being preached to in a work. Christians who read Doug TenNapel’s CreatureTech seem a lot less fidgety around the book’s very very Christian climax. Atheists and those who’ve fled fundamentalist Christianity seem much more willing to overlook Craig Thompson’s rather weighted evaluation of churchgoers in Blankets. The problem with each of these works is that we feel a little too handily that we are being preached at. It’s an uncomfortable thing: first because whenever the author’s agenda overwhelms the story, we lose sense of their world being a real kind of place; and second because fiction is so well suited to discussion that most contemporary readers will find its repurposing for monologue a bit jarring.

Happily Jason Brubaker’s reMIND doesn’t, I think, fall into this trap. It has things to say about belief, questions to ask, but it does so with enough humility that one can easily forget that it was even about a question of faith. And really, maybe it’s not about that. Maybe religion is just part of the world he’s unveiled for the space of this story and maybe the book is about living, and so naturally treats our beliefs in unseen possibilities.

In any case, while Brubaker employs direct reference to a divine entity ("The Invisible") and even some less overt clues as to whom the Invisible might best represent, he keeps it oblique, allowing readers to make their own decisions about his characters’ cosmogony. In CreatureTech, Doug TenNapel wallops readers over the head by having his non-believing protagonist actually flatout encounter the divine and witness crucifixion. It’s a crude hammer the size of Mjolnir that TenNapel uses to pound two-penny nails into an Ikea version of faith and belief. Brubaker’s path is more thoughtful and more considerate and more enjoyable and hits less like the eighteen-wheeler of belligerent proselytizing than TenNapel’s. reMIND‘s characters have no direct encounter with the divine. No vision. No dream. No voice in the midst of fire or storm. Their Invisible remains invisible and if they continue to believe, they do so out of faith, out of a hope in things not seen.

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