Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Richard Pace
Finisher: Leonard Kirk (Jesus solo pages)
Colorist: Andy Troy (Jesus solo pages)
Letters: Rob Steen
Sunstar has been tasked with helping Jesus Christ become a real man by God. Unfortunately, Sunstar is far from being the perfect alpha male that God thinks he is. The series has shown that Jesus is the more peaceful and thoughtful one has far more to teach the brash superhero. The comic has been an interesting trinity of an unlikeable God, a flawed but sympathetic Sunstar, and a humble and intelligent Jesus all playing off each other.
This issue starts with Sunstar finally listening to Jesus and acting out of mercy. The Ransomer (guess what he does) is a young idiotic superhero that is saved by Jesus’ suggestion that all he needs is some education. Sunstar, rather than beating up and locking up the criminal, enrolls The Ransomer into a community college to make his life better. It is a tactic that seems to work as the villain agrees to the terms and Sunstar feels better about his conflict resolution skills. But our two heroes get separated quickly when Sunstar’s grandmother (who is mentally ill) needs his help and support. From there the comic looks at Jesus and a confrontation with some Westboro Baptist type fanatics, and Sunstar dealing with a very real family crisis without the guidance of Christ. There is also a new character showing up (no spoilers) and giving the reader some more information on God’s possible motives which tips to where the series will go from here.
I love this comic. Mark Russell is perfect at blending real important messages into his stories with wit, humor, and drama. The pacing of this issue from the silly and heartfelt moments with The Ransomer, to Sunstar dealing with his grandmother and Jesus finding out how his message has been warped, brings the reader on an emotional roller coaster. For anyone who has had to deal with a relative or loved one with dementia, you know how hard and heartbreaking this can be. Coupling this with Sunstar going back to his home town and seeing how much has changed brings down the character into a human and empathetic position. Russell has created a larger than life Superman stand-in and made him relatable. I’ve said before that using Jesus as a character could be seen as insensitive and going for cheap shots and laughs. However, Jesus here is seen as a guiding voice and the only person in the comic that knows how to handle things. His separation from Sunstar affects that character and you can see how much he loses without Christ by his side. There are some great moments of Jesus standing up to anti-LGBTQ hate mongers where he can take them to task on their perversion of his message. Jesus wondering who Paul is, and how he never spoke to any Paul, shows that Russell knows his biblical background and pokes holes in certain aspects of faith in a real way. Again Russell uses this humor to lead to some new darker elements in the story and leaves Jesus in a spot where he has no one. While this comic is only standard length he can pack so much emotional weight into just 22 pages.
The art here is consistent as always. This is a real feat as Pace and Kirk swap duties here. Pace finishes his art on Sunstar pages and Kirk is on Jesus. However, Kirk’s work emulates and captures the essence of Pace’s heaven pages from last issue and Pace can capture what Kirk did on Earth. It just shows a real synergy of the team that is unmatched in multi-team comics. I’ve often criticized books that swap between artists and provide a jarring experience. This is not the case here, as Kirk and Pace provide different styles that are thematically important to the story at hand. Sunstar’s brighter and more traditional comic book look lends itself to where the character comes from and contrasts his human story here. The darker and grittier Jesus pages highlight what the character is going through and allows each pop of color to be meaningful. The pride flag standing out bright against the browns, blacks, and earth tones on the page shows where the real light lies and the corruption hides. Leonard Kirk will be pulling off more art duties on the book going forward and it is clear he is more than up to the task of taking on Pace’s artistic vision.
*Update: There was an error in the credits of this comic. Richard Pace did the solo Jesus pages and Kirk finished the Sunstar material with Andy Troy. The original review of the art still stands as it is excellent all around.