Easter Reading: 10 Comics That Grapple with Christianity

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Easter Reading: 10 Comics That Grapple with Christianity

Easter: That magical time of year when a resurrected Jesus Christ pulls a bunny out of a basket full of eggs. Or…something. Listen, we’re going to be real with you—we don’t think that’s what Easter’s actually about. But since so many of us have neglected Bible school fundamentals to root around for chocolate eggs, we’ve gathered together some comics that might help bridge the cognitive gap between this and this. Here are nine of our favorite Christian-ish comics, not to be confused with our favorite Bible-inspired comics.

American Jesus Book One: Chosen


Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Peter Gross
Publisher: Image Comics/Dark Horse

Originally a miniseries from Dark Horse, this Mark Millar and Peter Gross What-If was reprinted in 2009 from the folks at Image Comics. Midwestern tween Jodie Christianson finds out he's the Second Coming of Christ, like, for real, not in the way that most 12-year-old boys believe that they're bigger than Jesus. Gross' art manages to straddle the line between the bright, colorful worlds of children and the line art of Christian religious pamphlets. As always, Millar's dialogue doesn't shy away from the real—while this Christ may not have to deal with Romans and wandering in deserts, he's got his own problems.

Archer & Armstrong Vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code


Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

Best described as a Venture Bros.-flavored take on The Da Vinci Code, the 2012 relaunch of this '90s classic is a great story about religious families, but not the kind you'd see on the Family Channel. Obadiah Archer is the favored son of a crazy religious cult, and immortal target-turned-pal Armstrong is a hard-drinking party animal set on showing the kid what's good in life.

Blankets


Writer/Artist: Craig Thompson
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

We recommend Blankets a lot around here. But for a story about losing one's religion, no one's done it better since Michael Stipe. An autobiographical account of trading the unconditional love of Christ for the strange and changing love of a living person, Blankets avoids the temptation to make a story about the magic of religion, and instead faces many of its realities. How much room do we have in our hearts for love? And when we see the ugly side of something, can we ever love it in the same way?

The Cartoon History of the Universe, Vol 1.


Writer/Artist: Larry Gonick
Publisher: Broadway Books

Everything I know about early Christianity, I know from this book. One of my personal all-time favorites, cartoonist Larry Gonick takes us through the Old Testament from a historical perspective, putting the events in the context of world history and geography. From many dudes named David to the truth about a famous epigram (why Jehovah or Yahweh, when it could have just as easily been YAHOO-WAHOO?), Cartoon History manages to make the events of the Bible seem silly, and therefore, (like seeing your favorite model eat a donut on Instagram), more real.

Chick Tracts


Writer/Artist: Jack Chick
Website: www.chick.com

Talk about problematic. I can't recommend Jack Chick's work for its content, but as a cartoonist, he's sort of a crazy legend. His short, black-and-white comics are hateful to the point of paranoia, upsetting even fellow Christians. His world is a place where Dungeons & Dragons is the gateway to Hell. Firmly in the realm of strange-going-on-spooky, Chick's 92 and still churning out these very odd handouts. You may have gotten one on your car, in your trick-or-treat bag, or in my case, handed to me in a Staples by an old lady concerned with the length of my shorts.

Daredevil: Born Again


Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: David Mazzuchelli
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Are family Easter festivities pulling you away from your Daredevil Netflix binge? I've got just the solution. Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli's 1986 classic is fire and brimstone on the comic book page, with every moment writ against bright stained glass and ink-heavy nuns in black and white. Superhero comics don't often get into the theological, but this is arguably the best it's ever been done. If you're looking for an all new "death and resurrection" story this Easter Sunday, look no further than the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

The Goddamned


Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: R.M. Guera
Publisher: Image Comics

Fun fact: a lot of religions have a story wherein humanity fucks up so badly that a worshipped deity says, "scrap it" and starts over. The Goddamned is the story of just how bad it has to get before he pulls the plug. Described as "Biblical Noir," or "Tarantino meets the Ten Commandments," The Goddamned reads like a hyperviolent lost gospel. Fans of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's gruff, no-nonsense work on Scalped will find a whole new reason to pray for them in this antediluvian crime drama.

The Magdalena


Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Nelson Blake II
Publisher: Image/Top Cow Comics

There's a lot of great action to be mined from the pages of hidden gospels, and The Magdalena [full disclosure: Ms. Howard has written the character previously], like many others, does just that. Existing alongside Top Cow's Witchblade, The Magdalena is another woman destined to wield a magical artifact, as determined by her blood connection to Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. There's a catch, however: the artifact in question is the spear that pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion, and it belongs to the Vatican, who tend to have a certain set of particular rules to be followed. Theological turmoil at its shiniest and most action-packed.

Punk Rock Jesus


Writer/Artist: Sean Murphy
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

In the year 2019, a corporation clones Jesus, implants him in a virgin and raises him on reality TV. Is there anyone better at predicting the future than Vertigo Comics? Modern master Sean Murphy's breakout graphic novel, Punk Rock Jesus, is one of those books with such a perfect concept, one can't help but be drawn into it. Raising a loving lamb on an island with an audience is a great way to make him hate the whole thing, so he shaves his head and goes punk, spreading his own gospel: religion is bullshit. And yet? This book manages to challenge even the sequel to the Son of God, reminding us of why we still (kinda) like religion, even after all these years.

Strange Girl


Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Eric Nguyen, Jerome Opeña, Various
Publisher: Image Comics

Raised in a hyper-religious Christian family, Bethany Black is a little surprised when the Rapture happens...and doesn't take her along with it. She's adaptable, however, and survives ten years in a world ruled by demons as (what else?) a smart-assed bartender. But when she and her demon pal Bloato have a shot at getting away from Hell, they embark on a road trip on the Highway to Heaven. While the book is happily full of foul-mouthed demon scum, the narrative also offers oddly deep theological moments. That's right, even demons rely on that "footprints in the sand" story, sometimes