Summary: Set in the fall of Jerusalem 70 AD the story picks up Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian as he pleads for the Romans to spare the temple. He then meet Shimon, who tells the story of John the Baptist.
Cover Artwork: The cover art is not that appealing to me. At first look it feels it’s not something about the gospel or any Bible story. It’s just the name “Fujishima” will catch your attention and think it’s a manga. Well I think it is and it’s a worthy read.
Storytelling: This comic gets it’s source from Jewish historical accounts most specifically on Josephus Flavius who’s Antiquities is a great reference for Christians. However, most of the average Christian don’t know nor haven’t read (or will read) this book on Jewish history that touches some key events that are covered in the New Testament and the fulfillment of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Fujishima uses these historical background to create a story drench in turmoil and corruption.
Placing properly these backstory we get a fuller understanding what is like in those days through the pen of Josephus and other historians. The result is a gloomy, hopeless and unsettling Jerusalem. Political and religious corruption abound that can put Gotham City into shame. This kind of Jerusalem is fertile ground for wannabe messiah and nationalist zealots will accept them as answers or fulfillment of prophecies. This kind of mess is the setting for the three year ministry of Jesus Christ and eventually the early days of the church.
I enjoyed how Fujishima portrayed Josephus, the young stubborn Shimon and a weird hermit John the Baptist. He creates this “love hate” and “untrusting” relationship between the readers and the characters. These characters has flaws and all. Fujishima shows through his narration and art that they are so ordinary, average Joes.
The dialogue are well crafted here and you’ll the intensity of every encounter. I love the text in the chapters. The interactions with or without words between characters are brewing with authenticity. That really prepares the reader for what’s in store in the next chapter. The extra stuff at the end of the comic adds help to understand the book more.
Artwork: The illustration of Fujishima is rough but beautiful. Sometimes horrifically graphic and sometimes minimalistically lovely. His artwork in The Reign of God takes you to Jerusalem and it’s black and white set a tone that even if you don’t want that place it grabs you and pulls you in. His sweeping landscapes which are plenty here are captivating even without colors. Glad Fujishima displays these often and not relying on the ordinary face to face close up conversation. It really provides a great back drop for the action or drama to unfold cinematically. Fujishima made much of the blackness, angles and panoramic trick to convey a delightful visual that you’ll appreciate black and white.
Opening the comic with people nailed on the cross and being feasted upon by vulture is quite disturbing. The horror of the siege is explicitly shown here which kind feels it will take much of this comic. But when we get to old Shimon and his story the mood change a bit. So we are transported back to the early days of John the Baptist ministry and how he deals with the Roman empire. Fujishima still employs those dark, brooding scene but the story shift really switch off those sad mood of the initial chapter.
What I don’t like about his art is sometimes the faces of the characters can be difficult to distinguish from the other one. Not a Greg Capullo difficulty to distinguish but enough for you to check back and remember the looks of the main character if you’re confused already. Add to that are the names that sometimes you need to catch up with.
My verdict: A refreshingly dark (I can’t believe that I said that!) take on the gospel account through the eyes of Josephus blended with arresting artwork, this is not your grandma’s Christian comicbook nor your Gen Z son’s too. Fujishima’s manga is a great read. Hoping enjoy read Book 2. But for now, don’t sleep on this book.
5 out of 5
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(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.)