) -- religious comics. In the 80s and 90sthere were some experiments with "Christian comics" by Marvel comics (withNelson publishers), in the 70s and 80s there were "Spire comics" which toldtales of interest to Christian audiences. And, of course, EC comics, creatorsof such gems as Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt and Shock SuspenTales (youknow -- the gory horror comics that nearly got all comics banned in the 1950s)got its start as a comics company producing "Picture Stories from the Bible."
There have been other sporadic attempts to make religious comics that wouldappeal to the American market, but none have lasted very long. There is nocurrent publisher that regularly publishes comics aimed at the religiousaudience, though many independent and mainstream comics borrow from Christianityin the same way they borrow from Greek mythology or Hinduism.
Of course, Mormons are quite underrepresented in comics - even with the rumorsthat Power Pack was an LDS super group. Mike Allred has now jumped into thefray, taking time off from his normal work in other comic books to, in essence,try and create a Mormon comic market.
Well, after that brief introduction, the question to ask is: How is it? Theanswer: Pretty darn good. Allred's art seems very well suited to the subjectmatter and the adaptation is fairly faithful.
Want specifics? Okay -- at first, Allred might seem to be the exact wrongartist to tackle this subject. His style is best described as cartoony andgeneric -- but that hardly says it at all. When I say his art is generic, Idon't mean indistinguishable from the great mass of comic artists out there -- Imean it's not heavy on detail. Some comic artists revel in drawing eachindividual leaf on a tree, each wrinkle on a character's face and every rippleof muscle on a hero's well-chisled form. Allred's art style gives just enoughbackground detail to suggest a forest, for example, without having to draw eachindividual tree. And while his characters' faces are distinct from each other,they are fairly neutral as to racial features or age markings. Clothing isfairly simple and lacking in detail. This is a good thing, though, because itlets the story shine through, rather than allowing the art to overwhelm thestory.
There are places where Mike's artistic choices seem somewhat odd at first, butafter some thought, I decided they were good choices. For example, when theangel appears while Laman and Lemuel are beating Nephi, it resembles some sortof scary apparition rather than the angels that appear elsewhere in the work. In fact, its appearance is rather frightening, like when the alien finallyappears on screen in the movie Alien. However, once you realize that this ishow Laman and Lemuel (and not Nephi and Sam) perceive the Angel, then the artmakes sense.
The adaptation itself is fairly faithful. All the narration that appears incaptions comes straight from the book of Mormon, as does most of the dialogue. What original dialogue Mike Allred supplies is generic enough that it doesn'tdate the work or add distracting anachronisms. For example, when Zoramdiscovers that the man he thought was Laban was really Nephi, he says "Please donot kill me!" to which Nephi replies: "You have nothing to fear from me." Fromthere, the conversation uses text from the Book of Mormon ("as the Lord liveth,and as I live" etc.).
Special kudos should go to Laura Allred for her coloring job. Nearly half ofthis comic is focused on Lehi and Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life (this isnice because it also allows Mike a chance to show what the art in upcomingissues will look like, what with the vision Nephi has of his posterity). Thecoloring job on the fruit of the tree of life is amazing. Instead of just beingwhite, it shines in a way that really makes it look like the most desirable ofall fruits.
Also nice are the essays on the inside front and back covers where Mike Allreddiscusses why he is doing the adaptation and also talks about some of theresearch he did in order to make the look of his adaptation reflect the currentstate of scholarship regarding the Book of Mormon, the ancient Middle East andancient Mesoamerica.
verall, this is a worthy adaptation, and it's done by one of the masters ofthe craft. Unlike many recent adaptations of the Book of Mormon, this one isnot made by artists inflicting their painful journeyman's work on us. This Bookof Mormon adaptation is made by someone who has spent time perfecting his craft.
The "most correct book" deserves nothing less, and in this case, it gets a lotmore.
Ivan Angus Wolfe January 11, 2005
© 2005 Ivan Angus Wolfe