I have enough of a Christian background to be rather skeptical of any new translations of Biblical Scripture. I’ve also never really believed that comics and the Bible mix well. I was proven wrong at Comic Con this year by (of all people) a Greek Orthodox priest.
While I wasn’t excited about a graphic novel of the Bible, I AM always excited by words and language. Father Mark Arey was so excited to talk about his translation work on this project that I could not help catching his enthusiasm. This past weekend, for the first, time, I was actually able to sit down and read The Book of Revelation, as translated by Mark Arey and Philemon Sevastiades, and illustrated by Chris Koelle.
The first thing that hits the reader about this graphic novel is that the language is updated to current English. The oft maligned thee’s and thou’s are replaced by you and the modern are replaces the archaic art. However, I was pleased to realize that the English used is proper, and the style fits the content beautifully. Behold as an exclamation still exists here. The flow is reminiscent of the original King James Version of the Bible, but slightly easier to read.
Certain words have been more correctly translated from the Greek, also. As with anything, an understanding of history must come into how the reader perceives any text from ages past. King James of England was, of course, the head of the Anglican Church, which had split from the Catholic church under Henry VIII. Therefore, a word which would have been most accurately translated priest was instead translated as elder in the KJV. In this volume, it has merely been transposed into English characters as presbyter, which is easily understood by most English readers.
The prose is poetic, and beautiful. I would say that it didn’t even need illustration, except that the illustrations in this novel are gorgeous. Each panel illustrates roughly the amount of text that would be a verse or two in a normal Bible. The pictures depict just enough to fire up the imagination of the reader, and direct it to shape the words into a comprehendible context. As someone who has studied the Bible extensively in days gone by, I appreciate this, because many of the concepts in the book of Revelation are simply too complex to ever be properly pictured.
To fans of the Bible, I would say read this book for the beautiful translation of Scriptural texts, and stay for the stunning artwork. To fans of comics and graphic novels, I say open this book for mind blowing visuals, and let the poetry of the words sweep you away.
If I have a fault with this book, it is that the colors are very limited. After speaking to Father Arey, I do understand that this was on purpose to avoid taking away from the text, but I would have loved to see some of the full page images in full color!
In our rating system, I would give this book a four and a half out of five Death Stars, and would encourage anyone to read it.