Manga Bible #1: Names, Games, and the Long Road Trip

Manga Bible #1: Names, Games, and the Long Road Trip (2007)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Biblical / Comedy ]

Writer - Young Shin Lee
Artist - Jung Sun Hwang


Publisher summary: All of god's creatures are talking in bubbles! See the creation of the earth and the parting of the sea like you've never seen them before. With cool artwork and loads of humor, Names, Games, and the Long Road Trip gives the first two books of the Bible a totally different look. It's manga style, where pictures tell the story–and the action moves fast. Everyone–including Adam, Eve, Noah, and Moses–talks and thinks in word bubbles. Who knew discovering the important truths in Genesis and Exodus could be so exciting and fun?

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 23 December 2007

Among its new series, Zondervan also licensed and translated a Korean telling of the Bible. Though this makes it the most "authentic" of the titles, manwha being only a step removed from manga, this does not make it the best.

The first volume covers Genesis and Exodus, including a considerable number of stories but sacrificing depth. As a result it becomes a superficial skirting of events that is mostly shallow and uninteresting. Literary concerns aside, I feel that such a hasty portrayal of biblical events is ultimately disrespectful. When difficult stories such as those in Numbers or Judges are each given a few panels one after another it makes God seem capricious and bloodthirsty.

As a whole the quality was unimpressive. The art is simplistic, the form of the story means there is no need for good dialogue, and any plot lasts only a few pages. There are attempts at humor almost constantly, thankfully not during dramatic stories, but most of these are weak. Rereading the volume for this review was not an enjoyable experience. As the publisher summary above indicates, they seem to be aiming for an audience that has never seen a drawing before and wonders about them funny picture things. While it might not be a good idea to question marketing phrases, what exactly does "The Bible - Larger than Life" mean? The obvious answers seem rather negative and hence unlikely.

Even accepting creative license for story movement or humor, there are numerous problems throughout. It seems out of place for them to include the myth of the Adam's apple being from the forbidden fruit; it isn't as if they lacked events to fill that space. Though their set of stories is selective, they saw fit to include one-panel events such as Mahanaim that add nothing to the overall story while reducing some narratives to a jerking set of a few panels (such as Joseph in prison).

This selection is also unusual in other ways. Some stories you don't hear in Sunday school are actually included, such as the killing of those who worshipped the golden calf, but there are other places where the stories are censored. Most oddly, Rachel hides her theft from her father Laban by claiming she is "sick." What, is menstruation not appropriate for children? At the same time, other things are entirely invented (and I don't mean occasional bits of random humor). Fictional elements are added to the reunion of Jacob and Esau when the biblical account makes perfect sense.

I could go on, but I think what I've said so far is sufficiently representative. Because of my respect for fellow believers attempting to spread the Gospel through their art, I have no desire to mock their work. However, I do note my concerns that this series has little to say for Christian audiences (even children) and is unlikely to positively represent the Bible to everyone else.

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