Thanks to Eric Shin and the good folks at Green Egg Media, I have the privilege of doing my first book review! And what better book to review than, well, the Bible!
Green Egg Media has released a series of books called the Power Bible, a graphic novel/manga-style Bible series specifically created for children, but which was pretty cool for me to read too. Gary Kim, the series’ publisher and CEO says, “The Bible can be intimidating for young children because it has a lot of pages and contains deep theological concepts.” I can’t say I disagree, especially to the part about lots of pages making me not wanting to read stuff.
Green Egg might have had some illusions about who I was (in emails, they kept referring to me as “Pastor Nate” to which I immediately vomited). Despite voicing my concerns regarding their overestimation of my theological education, they still wanted me to review the books. Well, Green Egg Media, here you go!
The Power Bible consists of 10 graphic novels. I have Edition 1 (Creation to Joseph) and edition 7 (the birth of Jesus).
First off, the simple creation of Power Bible is pretty awesome. Think about it: You’ve got a manga-style Bible produced by Asian Americans so that children everywhere can enjoy the Bible on an accessible, thoughtful level. That’s pretty freakin cool.
In all seriousness, any rearticulation of the Scriptures is difficult, serious work, especially when you’re reckoning with Biblical imagery and personality. Our youth obviously grow up internalizing a ton of images of Bible characters, and these images are often austere, bearded white dudes who never laugh or have fun, they just… proclaim stuff. Power Bible challenges these notions, not necessarily by depicting the Bible characters in any historical reality, but by making them real, accessible, and, ironically, human. The illustrators do a good job of imagining the Bible characters with just the right amount of seriousness and silliness, maintaining integrity throughout. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Adam, lookin a bit androgynous…
This is the most bad ass Jesus I’ve ever seen!
Power Bible also does an amazing job with the illustrations, bringing the Biblical story to life with some pretty cool visuals:
There is power in an image. Perhaps this is why God’s agency over his self-revelation is so precise: He has no name, he just is (Ex.3:14). And he demands, “No graven image!” (Ex.20:4). And when God incarnates, placing, once and for all, flesh on his eternal is-ness, we meet Jesus, the Son of Man. I think there is a dangerous sort of power that comes from depicting Jesus, and I’m sure our illustrators felt the gravity of their task. I’ll say it real quick and then I’ll leave it, but for a manga-style Bible, this Jesus is still very Anglo in appearance. Next point. There’s a balancing act that goes on throughout the Power Bible, a general tension between making Jesus friendly and accessible and making him holy and mysterious. For example, peep Jesus’ restrained laughter in the scene below. If I had to guess, our Savior is doing what some might call a “fake laugh”…
Nonetheless, the Jesus we see in the Power Bible, is well, powerful. He is mysterious, holy, and thoroughly cool. Any kid reading this would definitely be intrigued by him.
Why does young Jesus look like young Jonathan Taylor Thomas???
Why does the Serpent look like freakin Baby Bop???
Why does Legion look like a rabid punk grape??
Why does Andrew look like he smoked weed and experimented with eye shadow??
And Satan…. Well, I don’t even know…
I was amazed by the complexity they were able to capture in some of the stories while still maintaining an accessibility for kids. For example, the beginning of book 7 paints a serious picture of Israelite existence under Roman oppression, an important contextual note that most adults even ignore. This sets the stage powerfully to display Herod’s evil and Jesus’ significance as Messiah to an oppressed people. That’s the kind of subtle thoughtfulness that gives kids a fuller vision of who Jesus is and what it means to believe in him.
There are other moments where it feels like there is a tension between sticking strictly to the Biblical text and taking some manga liberties. There are silly moments where the characters might make some comic book style noises and jokes, and then there will be this long text box pulled directly from the scriptures that most kids would probably have a really hard time understanding. I imagine this was a big challenge for the publishers and writers, and it points to bigger questions about how we contextualize a very complex Bible in ways that are true, understandable, and accessible for readers:
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to engage with Scripture seriously in ways that honor personhood. I often feel that much of the vocabulary we find in Scripture has been dried out, misappropriated, and co-opted in ways that remove prophetic imagination and instead leave us with a limp, stale Gospel that doesn’t inspire or encourage, but only reminds us of how bad we are and what we should do about it. While I don’t necessarily feel that the purpose of The Power Bible was to be prophetic or to inspire kids to change the world, I feel like it has, in a way, backed into its own kind of prophetic place, a place where Scripture isn’t dry or lifeless, but where it can be taken seriously as art, as imagination, and get us to place ourselves in the stories we’ve repeated a billion times. And any time we can step into this story, any time we can be confronted anew by this man Jesus in his joy and awe, our imaginations will be activated. And I think that’s what this book series does.
The Power Bible does a great job imagining the Bible stories in ways that are inspiring, encouraging, and accessible to kids and adults alike. The illustrations are beautiful, the dialogue is fast-paced, and the stories maintain a thoughtful yet creative integrity to the Scriptures. Oh yeah, and this is the coolest, most suave Jesus you’ll ever see.
Young Jonathan Taylor Thomas recommends the Power Bible!
See it here: https://greeneggmediagroup.com/power-bible/