After a frustrating second issue, this series is starting to feel like it’s really coming together.
Douglas Rushkoff’s epic combination of Biblical legend and a future dystopia has been a bit hit-or-miss for me so far. I enjoyed the freshness, energy and intelligence of the first issue, but in the second, all the disparate elements didn’t come together for me. The second issue felt like a comic quickly spinning out of control under the power of its ambitions. It felt like Rushkoff had aimed too high, and he couldn’t keep the comic from losing control.
I should have trusted the man. Testament #3 is a terrific comic book. In it, readers start to get a feel for the complex morality of both the Biblical tales and the characters of the near future. In the Biblical era, readers see the complex morality of the Ishtatiru, sacred virgin prostitutes (!) to the great virgin priestess of Sodom. When the prostitutes lay with their father, it’s incest, but the incest also preserves and extends the human race. If the women did not become impregnated with their father’s seed, their bloodline would die off. The women are doing wrong and right at the same time, as they have for all their adult lives. In such a world, how can they be judged as either saints or sinners? Do they exist outside of morality, or are they making their own morality?
In the future story, things seem a little clearer. The government has implanted “RFID” tags under the skin of every American of draftable age (the USA is in the middle of wars on many fronts and thus needs every available person to be able to fight). After some college kids protest, the government activates a secret feature of the tags, massacring dozens of the kids and rounding the rest up for evil intentions.
But even in the future, there’s moral ambiguity. Dinah, a sexy 17-year-old, appears to have a connection with one of the sisters in the Biblical past, and Jake seems to have a connection to her father, Abraham. But what is the connection, and who is the naked blue-skinned woman who seems to connect these two worlds? “Come on, Jake,” Dinah says, “can’t you feel it? Like something else is working through us.” “I can feel it, Dinah. Something bigger than both of us.” But what is that force, and what in the world is happening on the last page?
With many comics, the mysteries are shallow and the revelations silly. Here, things are much more complex. The world presented in Testament is complex and bizarre, with connections that need to take time to spell out. The complex morality and peculiar connections in this world are the sorts of things that need time to spell out, that need to be revealed in as systematic and thoughtful way as they were first thought out.
Liam Sharp’s art continues to be a great fit for this book. He’s outstanding at portraying the fallen world of the future, at illustrating the nastiness and grittiness of the world. At the same time, he’s capable of drawing great passion and devotion among the characters, at illustrating the tantalizing strangeness of both the past and the future. His storytelling is also intriguing, with thoughtful page layouts and wonderful juxtapositions of past and future.
This is a comic book like none other on the stands. It’s cryptic and intriguing, thoughtful and a bit sexy. I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.