Manga Bible #2: Walls, Brawls, and the Great Rebellion

Manga Bible #2: Walls, Brawls, and the Great Rebellion (2007)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Biblical / Comedy ]

Writer - Young Shin Lee
Artist - Jung Sun Hwang

Publisher summary: God is splitting the ground open–with a Ka-Boooom! You've never watched the earth open up like this or heard the wall of Jericho fall so loudly. From Numbers to Ruth, Walls, Brawls, and the Great Rebellion gives a whole new look to Old Testament books. It's manga style, where cool artwork, lots of humor, and awesome sound effects keep the action moving, and everyone talks in word bubbles. Has learning important truths from the Bible ever been more exciting and fun?

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 16 March 2008

Almost everything concerning the first volume of this series applies to the second. For the most part it will do little good to repeat comments about fundamental issues like art and dialogue. Presuming readers have read the first review, there are a few new things to be said.

This volume takes the biblical narrative to the stage that worried me. In the space of three pages God kills thousands of Israelites for three different (and minor) infractions. These are stories that need to be addressed seriously and thoughtfully, not in a hasty and haphazard fashion. Strangely, after passing over such massive body counts, the authors saw fit to pontificate on why the destruction of Jericho was necessary.

Unfortunately, these stories are presented as isolated incidents, divorced from the overall biblical narrative. One of the greatest strengths of a unified telling of the Bible like this could be to show how a scattered set of ancient writings has a remarkable flow and develops in a certain direction. This volume leaves out the significance of the story and often becomes mired in whatever is exciting, as worst seen in the way they handle Judges.

Though putting the Bible into a visual format is a massive task and cannot possibly be balanced properly, the way their limited pages are spent seems odd. The relatively inconsequential story about Balaam and his donkey is given an entire seven pages, mostly for attempts at comedy. Shamgar, a judge who receives exactly one verse in the Bible, gets 11 pages, apparently just for the sake of action (An ox goad is a quarterstaff? It is now.). Almost needless to say, Samson gets the longest story at 18 pages. While these pages aren’t all bad, they could have gone into giving some context to difficult stories. Or even basic ones, like Ruth, where the book is truncated midway.

Let me also say a word about the advertisement of this series. Many of Zondervan’s titles overemphasize how manga is cutting edge, but this one takes it to strange levels. A sampling: All of God’s creatures are talking in bubbles! It’s manga style, where the pictures tell the story-and the action moves fast. God is splitting the ground open – with a Ka-Boom!

Just who is their target audience? There have been visual representations of the Bible for centuries and western comic adaptations for decades. Yet they seem to expect their readers to peer at the volumes and exclaim, “What are these strange picture books?”

Fortunately, I can end on a positive note. Angels are for the most part portrayed seriously (the Balaam story aside). This is particularly notable in the story of Joshua and the commander of the Lord’s armies. Sadly, in most Christian stories this commander has looked, well, fabulous. A black hood and cloak is a nice change of pace.

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