I think any of us who were gawky adolescents growing up and reading about super-heroes fighting super-villains all had dreams about being those super-heroes. We were Superman or Captain America fighting Lex Luthor and the Red Skull to the bitter end where we would always come out triumphant in the end. Of all the comic writers or artists out there, I get the feeling that Mark Millar was just as gawky and geeky as the rest of us, jumping around in his Underroos pretending to have the powers of his favorite heroes. American Jesus Book One: Chosen opens up with a scene that may be familiar to many of us– walking through the woods with friends on a fall day, on the way to find some forbidden fruit like, in this case, a nudie magazine. Maybe it’s this unassuming and even familiar opening that sets up the reader for the shock and puzzlement of the rest of the book.
Jodi is almost your average pre-teen kid, confused about growing up and becoming more observant of what’s going on around him. His parents barely talk let alone do other more intimate activities. His teachers are clueless about what any of their students are going through and the town pastor stopped believing in God or Catholicism years ago and is now just going through the motions. The only people Jodi seems to have any connection with are his friends who are probably going through all of the same feelings and developments. Jodi is a fairly normal kid until the day that a semi truck falls off a bridge and lands on top of him. Miraculously there isn’t a scratch on Jodi. After that accident and an ambiguous discussion with his mother, Jodi comes to the conclusion that he is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Millar and artist Peter Gross’s story about the Second Coming and Jodi’s childhood is a fascinating story. As you watch this kid in the beginning stages of adolescence, he’s not what you would imagine the Messiah to be like but he’s what you would expect a kid in the 21st century to be like. He flaunts his “powers” in front of his peers, turning water into wine just to show off how powerful he probably really is. As he amasses his own apostles and performs miracles on request or command (Jodi “heals” the driver of the semi who crashed on him after being threatened by the driver’s bully son,) everything is focused on Jodi and what he can do. There’s no tipping over the seller’s tables in the Temple for Jodi. Heck, there’s hardly any actual church for Jodi– just Father O’Higgins for whom his pulpit is just a job. We never see the priest in the church, just outside of it while fixing his old car. It’s almost like true spirituality has no place within Millar’s story.
Peter Gross and colorist Jeanne McGee create a visually bleak world within this book. Gross’s sparse artwork makes the world look simple and easy but McGee’s muted watercolors provide a murky depth to Jodi’s life. There’s barely any color underneath the grayish-purple tint that hangs over most of the book. It’s a world of gray that quickly accepts Jodi as the new world Messiah.
Chosen originally came out at the same time as Millar’s more popular Wanted and surprisingly, both stories share some of the same themes, primarily the idea of power being given to the young and inexperienced. Jodi and Wanted‘s Wesley share similar choices when they find out the supposed truth about their fathers and the power they stand to inherit. Millar is one of the most calculating comic writers out there right now- you can almost see him behind each page in every book pulling the strings that will most shock his audience. In American Jesus Book One: Chosen, Millar still manipulates the events and readers reactions but he’s actually a bit subtle here, something that I don’t know if you’d ever day about another Millar-written book. As there usually has to be in these kind of books, there’s a twist revealed in the final pages of this story that is not an obvious plot development but, in hindsight, makes perfect sense within the logic of the story.
American Jesus Book One: Chosen is the first part of a much larger story and ends on a cliff hanger. But as a single story, this book focuses on Jodi’s childhood and his discovery of his true nature and heritage. Millar’s spiritual story is self-centered and prideful, two characteristics which are strong clues to the true nature of his main character.
American Jesus Book One: Chosen
Written by: Mark Millar
Drawn by: Peter Gross
Colored by: Jeanne McGee
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
American Jesus Volume 1: Chosen (v. 1) is available on Amazon