Well that was... awesome.
Sean Murphy's bracing and immediate tale of the second coming of Christ, by way of cloning and "reality" television is just... stunning, phenomenal, adjective. It's a curious title, one meant obviously to grab attention, and by the time the titular "punk rock" side of the Jesus clone shows up, it's deep into the fourth issue, but the build up to it makes it a worth while name, establishing it as more than just a provocative title. It's punk rock, the kind of anti-establishment disposition with something to say.
But it's the characters are the lifeblood. Chris, the Christ clone, is what the book is built around, but he's not even truly the central figure. It's a genuine ensemble piece with Thomas, the security chief, an ex-IRA terrorist and mass murderer searching for redemption, getting the biggest spotlight. But Murphy gives his cast plenty of room and moments of their own, creating a rich and lived in near-future, one that seems even more fucked up (if only marginally) than that which we live in today. Murphy obviously has a few things to say about the deification of celebrities (going quite literal with it here) as well as the commercialization of religion, the beast of commerce, and the status of America as an increasingly reactionary and divisive landscape, desperately needing to be placated.
This issue opens incredibly strong concluding the flashback in Thomas's IRA past with yet another seminal moment in his life where he realizes that everything he knows is wrong, and the prower of the truth, not only about his history and his lineage, but the very core of his being, unsettles him tremendously... it's something he struggles with from issue one, only it's with this issue that we come to understand why.
Murphy's art is incredible. Beautiful in black and white. Necessary even, like Citizen Cane or Raging Bull, it just has to be this way. Just look at this establishing shot. I spent a good five minutes studying the details in this panel:
All through the headiness of Murphy's story is still the occasional slice of dark humour, frequent moments of surprising blockbuster action, and an intensity that doesn't stop simmering and often boils over. If Vertigo's going down as quickly as it seems to be (with only three books remaining -- Fables, Fairest and The Unwritten -- it looks more and more probable) it's done so with one of it`s most daring and rewarding stories in a long history of them.