“We may have fallen into the intellectual deep end here. And if you try to grab on to me, we’ll both drown.”- Tracy Morgan’s character on 30 Rock
The above quote is from a conversation about the origin of religions. Considering both the comedic nature of the show and the wacky character, it was successfully played for laughs, but also served as an unlikely source of cautious wisdom about respecting differences in beliefs. Thanks to 101 Questions About the Bible and Christianity’s outlandish depiction of a T-Rex sharing the cover with alien spaceships, I was expecting something similarly satirical and poignant.
I was mistaken.
Religion is a topical minefield best avoided in general conversation, lest someone gets offended by opposing viewpoints. However, seeing as how 101 Questions About the Bible and Christianity is exactly what it says on the tin, that discussion is inescapable.
The purpose of 101 Questions is to analyze some vague Bible elements and, by filling in the blanks with supplementary sources, offer theories to answer these uncertainties. Several pages even supply specific footnote Bible verses, adding a subtle interactive element that encourages the reader to research and follow what the illustrations are referencing.
As many of the non-Biblical references are either scientific or historical, adjacent panels often jump quickly between different eras. In lesser hands, this, coupled with the fact that each question-based segment is unrelated, might make for a disjointed read. However, Mario Gully and Fabricio Guerra’s art keeps it together while suiting the comic’s goal. Strong color contrasts and bold inking suggest that, while the subject matter is fantastical, it’s also a serious affair. And cleverly, small but noticeable elements from previous panels, ones associated with singular ideas or historical recounts, are collaged together at a few segment ends, adding appropriate visual flair whenever an answer is proposed.
Before I continue, it is important for you to understand this: This comic is published by Kingstone Comics, a comics imprint dedicated to comics from a Biblical, Christian world view. With that as it's stated purpose, this book definitely accomplished it's goal. But I am reading it as someone outside of it's target demographic, and therefore my review will be skewed by my view of the source material. But reviews are personal opinions, so it is my prerogative to read this way.
With that being said, let's continue.
Considering the source material, it’s difficult to discern any hard truths and, as expected, 101 Questions doesn’t attempt to give any scientific answers to what’s asked. At its best, the comic provides enough evidence to support a plausible hypothesis, but no more than that. These instances are rare, though, as religious beliefs make their way to the forefront.
To its credit, 101 Questions initially attempts to restrain its religious message. So for the average, non-Christian reader, it's less like jumping in the pool as it is like easing down the steps. It begins inquisitively, respectful of other ideologies, imparting its own ideals without becoming outwardly critical. A few of the sections present information that simultaneously defend and contradict the Bible’s teachings, and these moments are when the comic is at its most engaging. With various sources interspersed throughout these scarce sections, contemplation is encouraged and a connection is seemingly established with the reader.
Eventually, any ideological questioning falls by the wayside. When the later segments lack any effort at presenting conflicting ideas, the conjecture becomes based solely on the differences between unambiguous faiths. And since there's little in the way of character dialogue to ask questions that the reader might have, what began as a thoughtful discussion slowly devolves into a sermon. But, again, Kingstone is very open about its goals, so it's hard to really be surprised or object. You know what you signed up for coming into the book, it's just a bit of a disappointment after the first half of the book was such an engaging multi-faceted conversation to have the latter half be so hard-line.
The first volume of 101 Questions randomly focuses on trying to answer five questions that the Bible allegedly doesn't. When these answers make an effort to present theories plausibly with scientific and historical sources in addition to religious ones, it at least promotes minor active critical thinking. However, when the reasoning is based solely on specific religious beliefs, discord is the likely result for the theological debater.
We’ve fallen into the intellectual deep end here and 101 Questions is doing its best to grab on to me…
TL;DR A title from an openly Christian-centric publisher, the first third of 101 Questions About the Bible and Christianity offers a strong discussion with multiple references, but the rest relies on religion alone and bludgeons the reader with sermon rather than debate. The art does a spectacular job of offering tangible visuals to the fantastical theories.
Written by Art Ayris and with art by Mario Gully (Pencils/Inks) and Fabricio Guerra (Colors), 101 Questions About the Bible and Christianity is published by Kingstone Media. You can purchase the first volume on the front page of their website.
A review PDF of 101 Questions About the Bible and Christianity was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher, Kingstone Media.