Art and Story: Ted McKeever
Review: William R. Davis Jr.
"As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers."
Ted McKeever is David Lynch crossed with Fellini. He is also the creator of some of the most thought provoking comics you will ever find in your lifetime. Miniature Jesus is a commentary on many oft debated sociological-themes like spirituality, the plight of the recovering addict, and how individual perception defines our reality. His work reminds us that while great art (especially great sequential art) can be highly entertaining, it can also at times challenge, and even construct through its pages a new tableau of the world as well. Any that possess a love of dark, contemplative surrealism will find themselves captivated by the art and story both. Almost every panel contains detailed, brooding landscapes. and at times McKeever will distort that world to reflect the thoughts and vision of the characters. This is something that only the great artists can do, and while it seems like most artists out there today are confined by their own limitations, McKeever's stylistic subtleties are evidence enough of his talent and originality.
The is also true of the writing. Miniature Jesus begins with the above quote from Whitman's: "As I Ponder'd in Silence". The plot itself is centered around a recovering alcoholic named Chomsky and his attempts to appeal to the better angels of his nature, albeit unsuccessfully in issue one. This has mostly to do with the proverbial angel on one shoulder being absent, and in its place a second devil instead. His self imposed exile has him conversing with dead cats and demons both within the first five pages. If you liked Meta 4, Plastic Forks, Metropol, and Mondo, you will love this book. And if you love this book and have not read those titles you should pick up the trades right away.
The controversy right now in comics revolves around sex. Both Saga #12 and the aptly titled Sex by Image have dominated recent conversation and raised some real censorship issues. This book may do the same, as in the last few pages an actual "Miniature Jesus" comes off of the cross and thwarts an attempt at being stepped on by the resident preacher, a preacher believing this idolatry personified to be a work of the devil. At this point the plot is delightfully confusing, and this refreshingly blasphemous tale has yet to unfold. Knowing McKeever and his work its entirely possible that a linear narrative could even cease to exist through this five issue series. Mondo is a good example, and if anything one should expect the unexpected when picking up a copy. Beautifully drawn, written, and formatted, Miniature Jesus is a book that will probably sell out of its first printing very soon. It only came out yesterday, so run to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of issue one as soon as possible. Call in sick if necessary.