Comicbook Review: “Martyrs” Vol. 1 (Various Writers & Artists of Kingstone Comics)

Summary: A collection of four stand alone stories of Christian martyrdom set in the early part of church history. The book begins with the New Testament account of the stoning of Stephen and the three others came from the pages of the early church.

I got excited with this book because I’ll enjoy four different stories and artworks in one slim volume. Four creative teams doing some comic awesomeness. So I feast my eyes on this guys. Martyrs is a single issue comic. If you want a quick read this one is for you. This reminds me of comics with two or more stories inside like What If..?, Batman Chronicles, Action Comics or an annual issues.

This is also challenging for me as a reader. Will the stories and artwork still be enjoyable given each four stories a limited amount of page? Is a 36 page comic enough to edify and entertain me? Will the stories of how Christians in the past stood up to Christ will help me strengthen my faith?

Actually, I read these extraordinary stories (except for The 40) but will it be a different experience reading it over a visual format? Will the combination of words and drawings bring the heart of the story like words from the books I read this stories?

Cover Art: The cover art is super solid. Definitely artful and the same time penetrating. No need to have this grand sweeping art of people getting eaten alive by wild animals in the arena for their faith just to send the message across. This clean, minimalistic art is enough to send the messages one hundred times. This could be one of my favorite cover art from Kingstone to date.

Artwork: I think it would be better to rank the artworks and stories from the strongest to the weakest including my insights. This of course is my opinion as a comicbook reader. If you want my view as a Sunday School teacher, I’ll give a short perspective on that.

The first story, the Stoning of Stephen that can be found in the New Testament, for me has the best artwork among the four. The creative team utilizes two types of art styles. These styles blend smoothly to each other. Another notable thing is they cut the long preaching of Stephen by presenting a good montage which is a good call.

The Policarp story has the more modern style illustrations in this collection. This should have been on the top spot but some art rendered here are not palatable for me. The facial expressions somewhat off and the shadings are not that good. They have some good colorings but the odd shadings spoils those parts.

You might disagree on me on this but between The 40 and The Greatest Honor I choose the former for the third best. The artwork having a vintage, sword and sorcery style that few might not appreciate it but it really compliments with story. It has it share of flaws (art wise) but still forgivable and the story is a stand out.

For me the second story or The Greatest Honor is the weakest in all four. The account of Perpetua is very facinating however the art doesn’t evoke the drama needed in the story. The artwork is good but it doesn’t live up to what I would expect. The tone or vibe of the artwork should have been darker which is much needed specifically on the dungeon and death scene. There are also parts that are oddly rendered.

Storytelling: The 40 gets the cake for having the best story telling in this comic. The creative team injected the hymns in the story to make it a bit “haunting”. The story of 40 men naked in a biting snow condemned because of their faith in Christ is gripping and gave me that “edge of the seat”‘ experience.

Coming in second is The Stoning of Stephen. Both The 40 and this story, despite of a heavy story ends with a positive note. The creative team here rely with the biblical account on Acts but also included some extras which helped elevate the story a bit. Ben Avery really knows how to write a good story even in a limited space.

Policarp is on the third spot. I like the flow of the story and the creative team flesh out the great moments in the last days of this bishop of the early church. The drama is there and the dialogues are good. However, to move the story, they utilize a plot that seems off for me. The result is a sad ending which shifts the story from Policarp to one of the characters failure. That moment someone stole the thunder from the main protagonist. They could have ended it with the death of Policarp.

On the very bottom is the story of Perpetua or the second story. The writer could have provide more depth of the story if he added some backstory of the character. Of course, the absence of historic account might affect the presentation of the story however if that is the case, they should have inserted a some fictional stuff. I checked their app and found out there is a comic dedicated to Perpetua. I haven’t dig in to it’s content but I’m hoping they did justice to the story unlike the one in this comic.

That last note reminds me something. What source material did they get these stories. Obviously, The Stoning of Stephen is from the Book of Acts but the rest wasn’t mentioned in the book. I don’t want to think they just got it from Wikipedia.

My verdictMartyrs is a good comicbook presenting martyrs for Jesus Christ. Despite of some flaws in storytelling and artwork this is a good read. For a Christian, nothing is more accessible to church history, martyrdom and standing for the faith than this one.

If you ask me as a Sunday School teacher, Martyrs is a excellent primer for teens and adult to get to know church persecution, and you should consider getting this comic. While using this as a teaching tool, it is best to add some Bible passages, more backstories of the stories featured here and updates to the persecuted church around the world. . Use this as appetizer for your students who you want to connect to other meaty resources like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to further enhance their knowledge about this topic and inspire their heart to follow Christ.

4.5 out of 5

Buy this comic by clicking this link or at Comixology.

(Did you enjoy what you read? Did this article helped you? If yes, you can say “Thank you” by sharing 10 Pesos or more at my G-Cash or Paymaya account: Marianito Gonzales – 09163315535. For international friends, head over this link to buy me a coffee.)

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