Both scarier and funnier than a library full of only Left Behind novels, Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam’s Therefore Repent!: A Post-Rapture Graphic Novel asks the disturbing question: “What if the religious right… are actually right?” Set in a post-rapture world, when Heaven’s non-elect are left behind to pick up the pieces after the “chosen” have ascended to their just rewards, Therefore Repent! imagines a world in which magical powers become commonplace and the same pre-rapture biases and prejudices rule the day.
Where else but Canada could such a work come from? First published by No Media Kings in Canada and now brought to America by IDW Publishing, Therefore Repent! takes aim at the fundamentalist foibles of the American Christian Right with withering satire. When “Dubya Almighty,” as one character calls him, appears on a television news broadcast to discuss his post-rapture tour of the Red States, Bush spins wildly in response to the question of why he himself has been left behind. When Bush refers to the faux Jesus beside him as “Mr. Christ,” it’s laugh out loud funny as well as cry in your pillow sad, especially if you’re an American surrounded by the consequences of conservative “religion.”
One good aspect of the post-rapture world is the availability of good housing vacated by the chosen. Raven and Mummy, the two main characters of Therefore Repent!, find themselves a new home in the chaos of the aftermath (above). Although basic services are spotty at best, a number of “splitters,” those who believe in a second round of rapture to pick up those who needed to atone during the “tribulation” period before ascending, keep hope alive and the wheels of society turning to a degree. Munroe and Maxim Douglas (Salgood Sam’s real name) create a credible incredible world of “radical splitters” performing the miracles of Jesus, talking dogs, and sibylesque figures who replace e-mail with “she-mail.” Like Milton’s Lucifer in the early sections of Paradise Lost, this depiction of “evil” seems infinitely more interesting and fun than the world of the holy rollers. If you’d “rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints,” post-rapture Earth and America seems not so bad, at least for a while. Douglas’ edgy, almost grimy black and white images compose the perfect atmosphere for this magical realm set in all too familiar places.
Unfortunately, the powers of religious bigotry remain strong after the rapture, and perhaps even gain strength in the vacuum of legitimate authority. Military figures with angels’ wings (above) wreck vengeance on the unfaithful practicing “black” magic. Militiamen calling themselves “God’s Faithful” decide who lives and dies based on their personal creed. In these passages, Munroe and Douglas reveal the roots of the destructive tendencies of the Christian Right in America and their ties to other wings of conservatism such as the militia movement and just how deep those roots go. Of course, Therefore Repent! is fantasy, but only in fantasy can you find the license to connect the dots in such profound and illuminating ways. Therefore Repent! is social commentary disguised as fantasy literature. “It’s just a comic book,” they say, allowing these ideas to get under the radar in a way that more mainstream media no longer provides.
Therefore Repent! begins by quoting the Bible passage from which the title is taken. “Therefore repent!” says Revelations 2:16. “If you do not, I will come to you soon and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” In Therefore Repent!, Munroe and Douglas use the “sword” of their mouth and pen to fight against those crippling America under the weight of their right-wing prejudices codified in religious language. Those who need to repent are not the sinners but the “saints” who have taken their country down a very strange and twisted path leading to the violence of illegitimate wars and legitimized torture. In Therefore Repent!, we receive a valuable Bible lesson that questions the nature of what it is to be God’s chosen and who has the right to do the choosing.
[Many thanks to IDW Publishing for providing me with a review copy of Therefore Repent!: A Post-Rapture Graphic Novel and for the images above.]