Review: Modern Testament Vol. 4

The idea behind this series sounds simple enough; how does religion fare in today’s attention deficit society?  What is the relevance of God when the world is filled with atrocities committed in his name?  Truth be told, at least the you know what you get with the devil!

This anthology book tackles the above subject with a good dose of humour to counter the ignorance, arrogance, delusion and lack of humility of the  characters inside, making a variety of good points throughout.  Each story is written by Frank Martin and a trio of  disparate artists, each utilizing their own styles:

“Better the Devil You Know….” (w) Frank Martin; (a) San Espina; (c) Adri  Partama

This story is pretty much life interrupted as we get a slice of the hardships suffered by Steph, her daughter Allie at the hands of Steph’s husband, Jack.  It seems that Jack is always angry and frustrated about the lack of money.  This frustration is taken out on Steph who heads for the relative safety of her mother’s.  Still every cloud and all that; in this case the devil shows up with a deal, a contract and a pretty nifty suit.  This story is to be continued.

Martin writes with a genuine insight in to the family dysfunction on show.  The devil, as always is a charming “soul” out to cajole the unsuspecting.  With every devil story you know the beats; contract, deal, soul, yet Martin covers them off with a great deal of skill, leaving me disappointed at the lack of a conclusion.

The art by San Espina has a dark gritty style that feels like a more structured Sam Keith in places.  Espina is helped out massively by Adri Partma who covers the heaviness of the art with a dark color scheme, alluding to the darkness of the subject matter and the almost hellish life that the three characters have to live through.

“God Complex” (w) Frank Martin; (a) Martin Szymanski; (c) Miguel Marques

In the second tale, Professor Roger Florence in his arrogance is about to reveal the “The Theory of Everything”.  However a conversation with a certain someone carries the weight of greater knowledge, threats and ramifications.

In this story, Martin tackles the question of too much knowledge and the arrogance of human-kind in the greater scheme of things.  This is highlighted throughout the dialogue as a friendly face with a warm voice delivers a few home truths even when questioned about his lack of involvement in his creation.  As a wise Jedi once said, truth depends on a “certain point of view”; here those views are challenged.

Martin Szymanski’s art is probably the most commercially favourable in the book.  Symanski gets to play the characters straight as well as move into the metaphysical, which acts a conduit for his skills.  Panel structure gives way to the greater universal view, ably helped by Miguel Marques who uses various hues to color the various existences on show.

“Than the Devil You Don’t” (w) Frank Martin; (a) San Espina; (c) Adri Pratama

The third tale is a catch up with Jack, Steph and Allie now having had the money that was promised by the Devil.  But it seems that you have to be careful with what you wish for.  In fact, despite the riches promised the suffering for this family continues.  It’s as if the Devil knew that Jack would still fall into his own private abyss. What is surprising is that Steph decided to stay, in fact creating her own personal contract of sorts.

As with the first chapter, Espina and Pratama convey the darkness of the tale through their heavy inks, gritty off centred art and color scheme respectively.

“At Death’s Door” (w) Frank Martin; (a) Anthony Pugh; (c) Julian Dominguez

Repetition at work is always a bind.  It doesn’t matter if you’re football, player having to do reps in order to make the team; the actor having to go through a script or a comic book reviewer having to look at loads of books in a week! Sure there are benefits to each of these, but it can feel like a hard slog, especially if you play for the Browns, have a terrible script or review Marvel books! Now imagine how you would feel if you were Death, one of the Horseman of the Apocalypse. True he has job security, but does he really have to do anything?  I mean that the thing about life is that no-one gets out alive!

Frank Martin gives this idea a run through with Cain acting as the instigator and possible replacement for Death.  To this end, Cain inspires Death to get in shape and possibly retain his job.  Martin’s last story is welcome breath of fresh air, with a high level of humour to counter the darkness in the previous story.

Anthony Pugh provides an artist comic relief  throughout  the pages, that is both clever and at times slapstick.  In fact, I would go as far as to say the art has a distinctive comic strip rather than comic book feel.  The colors by Julian Dominquez go the final way in cleansing the palate.

This volume is an asks some very big questions about belief, good vs evil and the choices we make and how they don’t always fit into neat little boxes.  All those involved should be proud of a such a clever piece of work.

Writing –  5 Stars
Art (various) -4 Stars
Colors – 4 Stars

Written/Created by Frank Martin
Cover by Jonathan Rector
Letters by Ken Nuttall
Interior Pin-Up by Nicolas Touris

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