Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Author: Clive Barker and Mark Miller
Artist: Haemi Jang
Release Date: 13th August 2014
The finale of Next Testament is impossible to discuss without a (kinda) brief overview of what’s been happening so far. An obsessed man digs up God only to find that this deity, Wick, is the God of the Old Testament. A brutal bastard, Wick sets about toying with and punishing the feckless, intransigent and decadent species that humanity has become. The story plays in waters Barker has been gloriously swimming in throughout his career – no one does divinity the way he does – but while there are many different gods in his fictional pantheon, we get down and dirty with this one in a way we haven’t seen before.
“God’s a prick”, says Tristan, son of the afore-mentioned obsessive, as he and his fiancé Elspeth attempt to escape from/defeat Wick, and he’s not wrong. Bringing every single plane out of the sky at once, subjugating San Francisco, and just generally messing up everyone’s day, Wick is at once charismatic and childishly impetuous. What really drives the story forward though is a sense that Barker and Miller are exploring the reality of a God that is foremost in the prayers of many believers right now, particularly in the USA. This, they say, is what you’d get if the God you believe in were real. Not a God of love and forgiveness, but the kind of capricious deity that turns folk to salt and encourages the faithful to murder their young. A right bastard, in other words.
The climax of the story is a philosophical one – Wick turning on the other members of the Triune he’s revealed to be part of to demand why they would save a humanity that crucified and condemned them, Filt and Unan arguing that humanity is flawed because they, our creators, are also flawed. One gets the impression that ultimately Wick is all talk – he wants to destroy humanity, but needs them equally badly.
The coda shows us the aftermath – things haven’t returned completely to normal, yet life prevails, and there’s the suggestion that humanity is constantly surrounded by the divine, just not in an incarnate form, and only available to us if we know how to see it. A final quote from Shelley about beauty, and a pointed statement about fiction containing Truth seals the parable.
As ever with Barker, we’re left with the original big questions, and this is one of his best qualities. He spins fiction in the tiny gap between everything we know and everything we don’t, yet never spoils us by giving us definites or absolutes. Mark Miller takes the grand scope of his fiction and contains it solidly in the monthly form, and Haemi Jang’s beautiful art lends the whole thing gravitas – at times gritty and violent, at other times bursting with ethereal colour.
Don’t read issue 12 without reading the others, but do seek out the whole series. This feels like Clive Barker by way of 90’s Vertigo, and that’s a fantastic thing. Can’t wait for the collected edition.
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