Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Of comics, probability and God

When you're trying out a lot of new books, it's inevitable that you're going to get some dud stories. Two that I disliked recently were City of Others and Fallen Angel. The former features your run of the mill un-feeling psychopath who stumbles upon a war between vampires and a death-dodoging evil scientist. The mythology of vampires is something that just doesn't appeal to me, so the book was a no-go.

Fallen Angel is about a city called Bete Noire, a realm which can only by accessed by two kinds of people- those who are searching for a certain something and those put there by God. One of these is the Fallen Angel herself, so-called because she over-stepped the boundaries of her remit and interfered in the merry, free-will led lives of men. Now, I like reading books with religious themes- I'm religious myself so I'm always curious to see how different people interpret the many, many themes and ideologies presented. Yet I'm struck by how similiar the treatment of God in relation to his creation is.

For example, in Fallen Angel, when Jude asks the big question,

And the answer? 'The Boss wants out.. . the creation of Earth, and the creatures that crawl on it, was supposed to be his crowning acheivment. . the capper for an existence that goes back longer than you can comprehend. The sum of of all He'd learned. His 'final exam' and once everything wa stabalisied. . once He was sure that mankind could walk on it's own two legs. . He was going to sink into the sweet surrender of nothingness.' Yes folks, God is sick and tired of us and wants out, but we just won't let him go, 'praying to him, asking for things, like children hitting Dad up for money.' And that's not all, so desperate is He to wean Mankind off the teat, 'he's been using  tough love for centuries now. Sending disaster upon disaster, one act after another, hoping that you'll stop venerating him . . that you'll leave him the hell alone so he can move on.'

It sounds like I'm offended and I'm absolutely not. I do however think that a) the idea of God 'leaving' is unoriginal and b) attributing him with human charcteristics just doesn't work. I'm going to be a bit backwards and address part b first. Whether you're religious or not, there are pre-conceptions that you attach to the notion of God- all-seeing, all-knowing etc and perhaps it is these that get in the way of me accepting certain ideas. It's a struggle to apply to God, even as a character, the attributes that the narrative asks. Isn't God the one who has only to command 'Be.' and it is?  And yet, he can't allow mankind to come to it's natural end or administer some other godly solution, because that would be admitting defeat and he is too proud to do that.  Like some erstwhile 20-something at the end of an affair, God just wants to move on

The nature -and the beauty- of the idea of God is that despite having centuries of myth, philosophy and fable connected to it, it is essentially unknowable, which is what allows  thousands of people to have thousands of different interpretations of  it. Creatively, it's a gold-mine- the equivalent of a blank slate with hundreds of wells to draw from, but there are no fresh ideas presented here, or any old ones challeneged in new or meaningful ways. God is well, God,  and 'humanising' him doesn't really work; the whole point of him is to be beyond human thought and comprehension. Obviously it's fairly crucial to have a relatibilty factor, and this is something Mike Carey does to great effect in his Sandman spin-off series Lucifer.

Michael addresses the angels in Lucifer
The devil is arguably the ultimate figure when it comes to theological 'human interest' access points; once a favoured angel, bought down by the sin of pride, who goes on to rebel and seek vengance against God and mankind. These are all very familiar and  relatable emotions and actions. Ever since Milton, the devil has become an increasingly accessible, romantic and even, heroic figure. By making Lucifer his eponymous hero, Carey provides the reader with a character who is neither human nor of divinty, which makes him a perfect conduit for both. Over the course of 11 volumes, he deals with the questions of creation, creater and created with originality, elegance, depth and intelligence. 
Preacher: the angels tell Jesse God has gone on a road trip.
Recently, I read the first volume of Garth Ennis' s Preacher and was somewhat surprised to see it headed in apparently the same direction, albeit in a very Garth Ennis manner. In the first volume, the heavenly host are in disarray as a crisis has risen but God has abandoned them to discover himself on road trip of Earth. It was a good book, but I don't know whether I should bother with the rest of the series if it's going to tread the same narrative path- if anyone has read them and could let me know, I would be very grateful.

In conclusion, (I feel like I've been writing an essay) I suppose as someone with 'faith' the ridiculousness of the idea of God's abandonment to me, simply highlights to others the fantastical notion of his existence. Lakum deenukum waliya deen. Which brings us quite neatly (yes, neatly, thank you) full circle to Jude's big question.  
Mike Carey's God: I'm sure there's some appropriate reference here, but all I get is Fat Controller.

*Apologies for rubbish scanning, still attempting to get to grips with it.*

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