Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: N/A
Written by: Mark Millar
Penciled by: Peter Gross
Inked by: Peter Gross
Colored by: Jeanne McGee
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Dave Land
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Few writers have been so haphazardly prolific over the past few years as Mark Millar. Perhaps his only competition in this category comes from Ultimate Fantastic Four co-scribe Brian Michael Bendis, yet in many ways Millar is threatening to surpass him. While Bendis has found his niche in gritty crime drama and innocent super-heroics, Millar seems to be far more willing to shake things up. We’re talking shaking from his Bruckheimer blockbuster The Ultimates to the sinister world of Hanna-Barbara-from-hell that is The Unfunnies, not to mention tales of a communist Superman or a horny teenage Ben Parker and May Reilly. Whether or not Millar is still trying to find his one true voice or he simply wants to try and avoid getting pegged down to any particular genre remains to be seen. What is clear is that he should not be underestimated and that there is quite simply no story too big for Millar to at least attempt to get his drunken hands on. And yes, he is drunk. He is drunk right now. I know this because I am Scottish too. I can sense it. Like cats sensing the use of a tin opener. So, when he announced that he would be releasing a three issue mini-series chronicling the Second Coming of Christ to modern-day, small-town America, who knew what we could expect?
Well, thankfully, so far Chosen has been handled with a great deal more care, sensitivity and dare I say, passion, than most people would have expected Millar to be capable of. The premier issue concerned itself with showing the first developments of Jodie Christianson’s powers. Up until the point when he emerged unscathed after an 18-wheeler fell on him from a bridge he had merely been a regular teenage boy primarily interested in girls, comics and getting out of as much schoolwork as was possible. Naturally, there has since been a slight change in priorities since his mother informed him exactly what the reason for that miraculous escape was.
Although last issue ended with a slight glance at an adult Jodie (33 years old, to be exactâ€¦ oo-er) heading to Israel for what will presumably be his final stand, this issue continues to focus on Jodie’s teenage years in the immediate aftermath of that revelation. Determined to find out if there is any truth to this theory, Jodie first turns to his local priest, Father O’Higgins (who, it has to be said, bears a more than passing resemblance to Foggy Nelson of Daredevil fame). Unfortunately for Jodie, O’Higgins has far more interest in clarifying his world-weary stance than in dispensing any real advice. This spurs Jodie and his naturally inquisitive teenage friends to try and bring about some minor miracles of their own, which don’t seem to be going anywhere until a non-believer gets up in Jodie’s face, at which point a bunch of bottles of water are turned into red wine. From this point onwards, things snowball at a tremendous pace until Jodie is bringing back the driver of the truck that crashed onto him from a coma that seemed certain to claim him for good. Can there be any doubt remaining that Jodie is in fact the son of God?
Well, Father O’Higgins remains skeptical. After catching up with Jodie again at the end of the issue, he steadfastly refuses to believe that Jodie is anything but a kid after some attention or, worse still, that he is simply nuts. At this point, Jodie latches onto some strange psychological connection with O’Higgins, chastising him for his impure thoughts, dredging up some horrific details of his youth, reassuring him that all the terrible things that have happened in his life are part of a larger plan, and just generally sounding like he is gearing up to unload some Old Testament style wrath. It is actually one of the few things about this book that reminds us exactly who and what Jodie is meant to represent, how powerful he can become and the ramifications it would have for the world at large.
You see, Millar delights in downplaying the religious aspect of the story for the most part. Instead he puts most of his focus on what is essentially a teenage boy discovering he possesses some sort of superhuman powers, which is hardly a groundbreaking area for a comic book to cover. After decades of being bitten by radioactive spiders, discovering your true alien heritage, being blinded by radioactive isotopes or being one of several bazillion mutants coming into fruition, this reads as just another coming-of-age tale for the most part. Throw in the dysfunctional parents, school bullies and irksome authority figures and we are hardly left with an original tale. Thankfully, Millar manages to convey a genuine sense of sweetness and naivety to Jodie and his friends to keep us hooked. The scene with Jodie lying on his bed, reading and name-checking some fine comic books of the time and being rather hot and bothered about how his room overlooks that of his good friend Maggie Kane’s is indicative of the high quality of this book. And here’s hoping that name is nothing more than a red herringâ€¦
Anyway, quite apart from giving us another seminal though typical origin story of yet another superhero, Millar seems to have something truly memorable in mind for the third and final issue of this series. After all, this is the original superhero, right? And that last page reveal coming hot on the heels of the first hint of Jodie’s darker side during his confrontation with Father O’Higgins is nothing short of chilling. I won’t ruin the shock of seeing that stunning piece of artwork from Peter Gross, which is totally at odds with the rest of the series and thus stands out even further still. What I will say is that it is such a logical and necessary part of the progression of this tale and yet I was so absorbed in the carefree antics of Jodie and the gang (particularly the use of Star Wars as a metaphysical biblical analogy for the series itself) that I was blindsided by it. Now if that is not the sign of a writer doing a two thumbs-up job on his tale then what is?
Here’s hoping that Chosen will manage to satisfy in its third and final act. There are still plenty of plot threads to be tied up and I do have my doubts as to whether or not three issues is enough for Millar to satisfy my insatiable appetite for this story. Perhaps if I could catch up with him in a pub somewhere I could convince him to turn this into an ongoing over a Guinness or twelveâ€¦