Once upon a time, contemplative monks sat for hours, pen in hand crafting pictures to compliment the word of God. Today we apparently have a similar monk filled with that same passionate devotion to truth, but I suspect his late medieval brothers of the scriptorium would be both shocked and puzzled by the work of Brother Amadeus.
“The Truth is Out There” and “The Big Picture” are two graphic novels, or comic books of significant size, that walk the reader briskly through the essential questions about life, the universe and everything beginning with the profound, “why are we here Erc?” all the way to the poignant and paramount “Where was his mercy when you were dying??”
Since these are comics, set in outer space, laid out in panels and speech balloons, I chose to read them in an appropriate setting: lying beside a swimming pool roasting in the summer haze. But these are not thrill-ride adventures; they are very intense apologetics displaying exemplary reasoning with very honest and incisive challenges to the propositions of Christianity.
Yes, that’s right, apologetics in comic book format. It is an odd juxtaposition. Generally when one reads graphic novels, one expects the action to be fast paced, but in these two books, it is the ideas that fly by while the characters spend much of the book physically still. The focus is on the journey of minds rather than bodies as one man searches for, and another resists finding, the answers to Why.
Brother Amadeus did some excellent things within these vibrant pages. First of all they are exceptionally sound and well-articulated philosophy and these may be the first graphic novels ever to receive an imprimatur! Secondly, the characters are likeable and relatable. I really appreciated the persistent and strong objections of the character Erc, which allows the stories to address the most common and emotional objections and complaints one typically finds in cynics and unbelievers. Finally there is the visual component. The monk is skilled; he varies his layout and even his depiction of characters to further the ideas he’s presenting. There is a marked difference in the general look of Adam of Eve, for instance, depending on whether he is showing them before or after that fateful bite of fruit.
I suspect that these books might be just right for a high school philosophy or apologetics course or useful in RCIA classes. I wouldn’t however hand them to your eleven-year-old nephew unless you intend to follow up the gift with many conversations. I suspect he’d only be puzzled as to why there’s way more talking than fighting and very few things getting blown up, unless of course he’s a very precocious lad indeed.
As for me, I enjoyed the books immensely and am glad I invested the time and money. Here’s to Br. Amadeus and the Maronite Monks of Adoration who supported him in his labor of love: may their faithful contemplation of the Divine Presence and the work of their hands bring many souls to a happy ending.