Do You Have a Moment to Talk About Our Lord and Savior Joshua Black?
I want to talk about God for a little bit. Okay, hold on, before you take off I’m not about to get preachy. I’m talking about archetypes here, not faith. Specifically I want to look at the Judeo-Christian mythology as presented in Martin Dunn’s 2014 series Joshua Black.
Angels. Demons. Divine mantles. A singular architect of our world and reality. All matters of personal worship aside, these are the aspects I want to focus on, the mythology of it. The cosmology of it. There is a rich and fascinating supernatural world within the monotheistic traditions of our world and Joshua Black is a comic that looks to explore these concepts through a singularly human lens.
Published by CAE Studios, Joshua Black focuses on our titular character, Josh, as he navigates a depressing home life with his abusive, widower father and a High School experience where he feels isolated despite his close friend and a supportive relationship. It is only after his untimely death at the hands of his own dad, do we discover that Josh was/is actually the latest in a long line of those whose lineage is destined to sit upon the throne of Heaven. His death triggers a series of biblical events which threaten to destroy the world unless Josh takes up his rightful place in Heaven as the new Creator. In other words, Josh has become God and seeing as the last person to do this was Jesus Christ himself, our boy has some pretty large shoes to fill.
No pressure or anything.
So now we have the emotional angst of a teenager doing the fusion dance with the unlimited, ultimate power of the Supreme Being Josh is supposed to become once he Ascends. Metaphors abound!
Of course this isn’t the first story of this type we’ve seen. I’m immediately reminded of Kevin Smith’s film, Dogma. Hell, (see what I did there?) even Dan Brown dealt with the idea of a scion of Christ in The Da Vinci Code. But what Joshua Black does differently is create a central conflict that is not about the classic Good vs. Evil, winner take all, cosmic rumbles that some of these other works do. The central antagonist of this book isn’t some smiling devil offering an apple (though he shows up, don’t worry) but rather Josh’s own inability to come to terms with the hand the universe has dealt him.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question we’re all asked at some point. My personal answer was always paleontologist when I was a kid, now it is writer (I’m still not sure when the whole “grown-up” thing happens). As far as I know, no one has ever answered that question with “God” though.
So we have a boy whose future is torn from him so that he can become the capital G deity. What would you do with that information? I mean, personally I’d cackle for a bit and then start going to town with lightning bolts but I’ve been told I’m a tad unusual. Josh chooses to bury his head in the proverbial sand and while this does create a short term solution (of a sort) it also creates a problem. Because the Seraphim are coming.
While not our main villain (I still maintain that Josh is his own worst enemy), the Seraphim are certainly our central threat. They are a choir of angel (angels come in choirs by the way) so terrifyingly powerful that their mere attention can (and does) vaporize an entire city. Their physical presence can do a whole lot worse and they’re coming to Earth because the new God hasn’t shown up for work yet.
It’s this conflict that I find the most interesting. The end of the world won’t come because of some big apocalyptic battle between Heaven and Hell but because a teenager is having trouble dealing with the responsibilities that he’s being handed.
The layers of metaphor here are pretty wonderful.
The balance of these huge reality-altering conflicts and Josh’s own social/emotional landscape is one of the greatest strengths of Joshua Black. And what an interesting balancing act it is. Because, quite frankly, the character of Josh Black is not all that likable. He’s self-absorbed and unappreciative of what he has in his life, even after being handed the reigns to the universe. More concerned with his own self-created isolation than working in any way to improve it. Josh is a consummate teenager with “Uhg, you don’t understand me!” written across his forehead. And that is where we are at in the series so far.
That is it.
I’ve read the first five issues of Joshua Black and already I can see the cracks in that façade though. There is strength in Josh. There is a want for more. He is a character who is on the cusp of discovering that if he wants real change in his life he needs to go out and do something about it.In essence, he’s growing up (into God, but to each his own).
I was frustrated by this series’ first arc, The Divine Hierarchy, if for no other reason than I was constantly shouting at Josh to grow the heck up already. It’s a terrifying thought that this is what my own father might have felt like, able to see the potential in a young man but unable to skip the bad decisions and inevitable hurt that adolescence brings.
As I said though, the cracks are there, and I hope as this series progresses we see less of the child that Josh is and more of the adult he can become.
That, or the Apocalypse, I’d be cool with that as well.
I’m easy to please.
The first four issues of Joshua Black can be found through ComiXology with the fifth issue due out later this month. I’d recommend it for those looking for a personal tale of growing up steeped in monotheistic mythology.
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