PREVIOUSLY: American Jesus: The New Messiah #1
So here’s the second issue to Mark Millar and Peter Gross’ long-awaited sequel to their first miniseries Chosen. As I said before, when a sequel was first announced, I’d wondered how Millar would tell this story in such a way that differentiates it enough from the first one. The first issue was unique in that it put most of the focus on the new messiah’s parents, Luciana and Eddie, as the modern-day Mary and Joseph. This issue puts more of the focus on the new messiah. And there is an interesting twist. While the first series featured a young boy discovering his ability to perform miracles and coming to believe that he is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, only to discover in the end that he isn’t, this series shows us the real Second Coming of Jesus Christ, only she refuses to believe that she is.
Yeah, that’s right, I said SHE.
Picking up the story 18 years after the end of the first issue (so around 1992), we learn that Luciana and Eddie have been living in a guarded compound in Waco, Texas, with a group of people who are a part of a larger organization all dedicated to their protection and the safety of the Messiah. Luciana gave birth to a daughter, who is Black, and whom they’ve named Catalina. So right there that’s pretty big change to Biblical lore on Millar’s part, making the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ a Black woman. It’s bold, although it clearly wasn’t his original plan, as in the ending of the first miniseries Jodie, the anti-Christ, and his followers clearly refer to the adversary whom he’s preparing to meet as a “he.” And, of course, Rich Johnston showed the original promo for the cover of the first issue of this series way back when it was first planned in 2006.
But, okay, plans changed. So the premise of this story is that Catalina, now approaching 18 years old, has come to believe that her parents and all of the people at the compound are just some crazy religious cult. She has never manifested any miraculous abilities, and does not believe that she is the Messiah. Despite her parents insistence of her divinity and all of these followers who obey her every word, she just want to live the life of a normal teenager. And with her 18th birthday fast approaching, she plans to escape the compound and do just that, despite the fact that we know this will put her at risk of being found by the anti-Christ’s minions, who want her dead.
So this was an interesting issue, except here is a problem not usually associated with Mark Millar’s writing, and that is this is too brief. All of his other creator-owned miniseries’ have been at least six issues long. But this one, like the previous installment, is only 3 issues long. That was enough to tell a satisfactory tale in the first volume, but with this volume it’s feeling a bit rushed. Right now it feels like this series has skipped an issue, that there should have another one in-between the first issue and this. I wanted to see the story of Catalina growing up in this compound and how she came to question her parents beliefs. I also think it would be extremely interesting to see how her parents and the other compound members have reacted to Catalina over the years.
We don’t know much about these people, including Ezekiel, who runs the compound, but they’re apparently part of some historical organization that has been preparing for the return of Christ for years before Luciana got pregnant. Now however it was that they were lead to believe that Luciana and Eddie were in fact the new “Mary and Joseph” including that Luciana was a virgin impregnated by God, when she gave birth to a girl, that had to have created some doubts among many of the members? While Luciana explains to Catalina that God is neither male nor female, that sounds nice but, let’s face it, that’s now how mmost Christian faiths have ever preached it. And that the girl just so happened to be Black, like Eddie, that further had to create some doubts that this was really a virgin birth and not that Eddie was biological father. At some point, the elders of the group have to wonder if they’d picked the wrong couple.
And then even getting past all of that, as Catalina grew up and never exhibited any of the divine powers that they all expected from her (unlike Jodie, from volume 1, who began manifesting his abilities at age 12), that would have likely seeded more doubt. I think all of that could have made for an interesting story. And, of course, it would have interesting to see Catalina herself experiencing all of this. At what point in her life did she begin to disbelieve her parents? There’s a reference in this issue to her once having to be forcibly drugged and locked up to keep her from running away, we should have seen that!
I think all of that could have been told in a single issue, with the events of this issue taking place in #3, and then concluding in #4. Well, with any luck, the makers of the eventual miniseries will fill in some of those blanks.
Another complaint that I have would be the art. I don’t know what happened, but Peter Gross’ art takes a significant downturn in this issue. It looks quite amateurish, I’d say a bit rushed. His style was never my favorite, but I had no complaints in the first miniseries nor in the first issue to this one, so I don’t know what happened.
Thus, I cannot give this issue as high a grade as the first one, but I still must recommend, as I also plan to stick around to pick up the next issue to see how this ends.