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Archive for December 22nd, 2016

jesus-1

by Sam Juliano

     Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus is electrifying in theme, design and font scale.  Though the subject is perhaps the most visited of any in world history, the approach here is unique in that it showcases the most dynamic interplay between words and illustrations that any picture book could rightly be expected to achieve.  The book’s sole creator, John Hendrix eschews a straight biography of Christianity’s Messiah to focus on the aspect of his life that has fascinated historians and humbled the devout most of all.  In an afterward Hendrix states: “I have aspired to render him as a man of his time and place and not as a construction of western idealism” and urges readers to “momentarily forget about the trappings of religion around (the story) and see the man at the center.  Hendrix also qualifies the decision to abridge the story as the Bible tells it so that the Miracle Man can be the prime focus.  As a result characters like Mary Magdalene and Martha are left out.  Hendrix himself declares he is a follower of Jesus since a very young age, and that his words as documented in the Bible were soul-stirring.  Hence it is clear enough that Miracle Man is a labor of love for the author-illustrator, who begins the story at the time Jesus launches his run of seemingly supernatural phenomenons, and ends it just before the Resurrection.

First up is a swirling tapestry of decay evoking a dusty terrain overcome by drought, famine and disease, a place in dire need of divine intervention.  Hendrix ushers in this harrowing scene after the bleed over of the title – crafted with tree branches, and it exerts some visceral power.  The Miracle Man is then seen in a glorious double page spread that evokes St. Francis of Assisi, who was born almost twelve-hundred years later, but who revered flowers and insects.  The word “alive” is formed by a stunning five letter configuration of butterflies and birds in a metaphysical demonstration of the special power of his words.  This swarm of colorful wings is an ultimate expression of the transience of nature.  A bevy of hungry fisherman, including Simon -later known as the apostle Peter- have nothing to show for their efforts but empty nets, but the Miracle Man tells them “Cast Your Nets on the Other Side of the Boat!” with conviction, and they end up with more fish than they can handle.  The man continues: “Follow me and You’ll Catch Fish of a Different Kind.”  What is amazing in these panels and subsequently throughout the rest of the book is the spectacular word enlargements which are made to look like rock cuts, shapes of buildings, wood formations, and bolts of lightening.  These is not the tame typography one reads in the Bible or in religious stories, these are Christ’s words, imbued as they are with the all-knowing and all-encompassing authority of God.  There is a finality to what is being said and the certainty it will all come to pass. (more…)

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