Kingdoms #1: Coming Storm

Kingdoms #1: Coming Storm (2007)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Biblical / Politics / Action ]

Author - Ben Avery
Artist - Mat Broome

Publisher summary: When the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco kills Judah's King Josiah, it sets off a clash as to who will become the new king of Judah. When the unrighteous Jehoahaz is selected as the new king, Josiah's head advisor grieves for the path to exile that they have unwittingly begun to walk.

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 2 December 2007

Of Zondervan’s biblically-based titles, Kingdoms is the best written and most involving. The art style is distinctly American and of a variety that some will like and many will hate. Overall, however, it does a solid job of creating a story around the information given in scripture.

Regardless of general thoughts about art style, it does suffer from some more serious problems. The characters overall are too similar in design and many of the men look nearly identical. With a multitude of beard styles to work with, this was entirely avoidable and makes many of the discussion sequences difficult to follow. But the battles were far worse, with panels barely seeming connected and character positioning that fails to make the action flow. Hopefully this will not excessively harm the story, as the focus will likely be on politics.

The first volume is told in an unusual style. It is convoluted without a good justification, shifting from Isaiah to Josiah to young Josiah as a frame narrative for David, and so on. With characters and events barely established in the first volume, this is a chaotic mix (made worse for anyone unfamiliar with the biblical narrative). Worst of all, this was unnecessary: they could have had an Isaiah prologue, moved to a younger Iddo and then introduced Josiah. This would have created a much more flowing narrative and let us get to know Josiah before he is killed (does that count as a spoiler?). Theoretically this problem will smooth itself out in future volumes, as they cannot maintain this pace and remain within Iddo’s lifetime.

Due to timeframe-hopping, this volume has little character development for the most part. Iddo’s family seems interesting in what little time they get and are mostly characterized well and subtly (though Berekiah’s tear is quite overblown after a sequence that already expresses the family divide well). Again, one would hope that the central characters will become more obvious as time goes on. The most striking presence was Isaiah, so it is unfortunate he is unlikely to appear again.

It was good to see historical research go into creating a deeper political narrative, and this part of the story is overall satisfying. I am uncertain how well an uninformed reader would pick up on the political situation, but at the very least it is not overbearing. The politicking was well written and enjoyable, though sometimes dialogue overwhelms the panels.

One incident was rather jarring, as the story of God delivering Judah from the Assyrians was presented as if the Almighty came down and personally slaughtered the army. Ignoring the plague explanation in Isaiah 10:16 seems a remarkable oversight and weakens this aspect of the story. While God could certainly bust a cap on the Assyrian army, I find a Lord sovereign over all events more meaningful (and biblical) .

Perhaps the best scene in the volume is when Iddo communicates with God. Choosing to present this without God speaking makes it address human doubt and suffering in a far more significant way. It is unfortunate that it suffers from poor panel flow, because some readers may not care enough to realize the solid symbolism there and instead skim.

Panels could also have been used better in other instances, particularly given how the volume ends with a rather small panel. Given the amount of time given to Isaiah in the beginning, they certainly had the space. A two-page panel of the people cheering for war would have been a far more powerful ending. However, it is worth waiting for improvement in this series as it continues to follow a rather depressing course of history.

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