Next Testament #1
writers: Clive Barker
and Mark Miller
artist: Haemi Jang
Stop me if you've heard this one: an atheist stumbles out into the desert. Driven by a dream, he uncovers a pyramid, each face of which has a large representation of one of the faces of the angels from the Book of Ezekiel. Which he promptly tries to destroy, still guided by his dream.
That can't be good, as his son say back at the family compound, himself uncovering evidence that something has sent his rationalist father round the bend.
What young Tristan Demond can't know is that it's worse than he thinks because he's a character spun out of the mind of Clive Barker, and even the most benign of gods will appear dark and twisted. But it's doubtful that Tristan's father Julian Demond has uncovered a benign god. No, this tie-dyed deity Wick, the Father of Colors, demands too much in tribute, too much in sacrifice, before we have gotten out of the first issue.
Luckily for humanity, Barker does always offer the possibility that good will win; it just has to pay a terrible price. We have seen Barker's vision of Hell, perhaps, with Hellraiser. Now he offers us Next Testament, also from Boom Studios, which does look to explore the need for faith in this world. Because it's clear that even atheists need to hold onto something, and perhaps this is Barker's response to all the current hullabaloo over what and who gets to claim morality in modern times.
Co-written with Mark Miller (okay, more likely outlined by Barker, then written by Miller), the series gets off to an extremely fast start. No real time for lingering dread, and that's actually a clever feint on the writers' part -- for some writers, the pyramid alone would have been an issue of excavation and exploration, its symbology a warning.
Instead, the only warning that young Tristan has is that his father suddenly has a Bible in his private library. It's too late for the macabre to warn him; the mundane gives him the chills.
And he's right. As drawn by artist Haemi Jang, Julian Demond is possessed by a religious fervor that is strangely, obviously, alien to him. The style has a touch of Rick Veitch to it, though Jang also riffs on a more vibrant 1950s E.C. style. Though the story itself feels reminiscent of Veitch's Maximortal or The One, it's obviously Barker. There are darker places to go than those earlier works would have dared, even bathed in the light of the Father of Colors.
Cliver Barker's Next Testament moves like an action film, but it's oiled with dread, And that makes it a perfect summer horror film -- except it's in comics shops, not theaters.