Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Review: The Action Bible
David C. Cook's new Action Bible stands out as the best comic presentation of the Bible I have ever seen and as a brilliant example of Bible Storytelling that builds on rich comic book history while appealing to contemporary aesthetics. Much like eastern and developing cultures, children learn and grow primarily through inductive reasoning, learning general principles through specific instances and experiences. One could argue that this is the most natural way to learn, accumulating experience that form a world view. Illustration and narrative win over abstraction and argument. Sunday school classes and children's ministry thrive on illustration, narrative, storying; it is vital to bring the children into the experience of the story in order for them to grasp the truth. This is the power of art and literature: the ability to bring someone into a visceral experience that brings revelation. This is also why the Holy Spirit must be integrally involved in our digestion of scripture, because words on a page can only become internalized by an experience, both internal and external, that testifies and confirms the truth. Without the Holy Spirit there is only an intellectual comprehension. With the Holy Spirit there is a holistic confirmation that bears witness with our spirit, touches our soul, which in turn can be manifested through any number of physical expressions. Combined media and illustration has the opportunity to access the senses and the heart in a powerful experience that draws into the story and makes us aware of the Spirit's presence.
Jesus approached His audiences with parables and illustrations; he occasionally used props and He always spoke from a powerful anointing, bringing His audience into a visceral experience and revelation of the the truth. The Action Bible brings visceral art and creative storytelling to the foreground by telling an impressive range of Biblical narrative in a succinct and well executed comic book format.
The visual storytelling uses an almost cinematic approach to track the action of the stories across pages of panels and keep steady movement through the Biblical paraphrase paired with the artwork. Sergio Cariello executed the artwork with faithfulness, imagination and a bold willingness to tackle the text in a visual form. The 750 page graphic novel of the Bible presents a nearly comprehensive overview of Biblical narrative and includes substantial summaries of the wisdom, poetic and prophetic books of the Old Testament as well as the epistles of the New Testament. The stories are presented in chronological order and my guess is that most adults and even those highly familiar with their Bible will be impressed at how The Action Bible presents the ins and outs of the history of Israel and the history of salvation.
All the major and familiar stories of the Bible are told with comic book flair, but a high standard of faithfulness and verisimilitude are present, which rarely breaks away from literal faithfulness to the text or ascends into mythic exaggeration of the events.
One of the Action Bible's most impressive attributes is its ability to succinctly render difficult passages of prophecy and poetry by presenting significant images and highlighting the historical context, without attempting to summarize or interpret the whole book.
The presentation of history in a pictorial format is astoundingly helpful in understanding the journey of Israel as a nation especially through the kings and prophets. The Action Bible's chronological telling of the journey to Babylon and back to Jerusalem and into the inter-testamental period can give a valuable education to most.
The presentation of the gospel is given some of the most iconic and stunning graphics.
The comic book format allows the dialogue to carry most of the story, which gives the opportunity for parents to explain the stories to their children and apply the literal story of the gospel in a personal way.
The visual component and the paraphrase of scripture necessitates a certain amount of interpretation, which may not always be ideal, but the content of the Bible remains powerful and impacting. The artistic storytelling is relevant, inspiring and exciting. The Action Bible excels as a comic book in its own right, featuring brilliant art that actively tells a story while remaining subdued enough to move with the text rather than superseding it as so many graphic novels do. Sergio Cariello is to be commended for truly beautiful renderings of biblical imagery that are dynamic but not exaggerated, detailed but still emphasizing movement.
The Action Bible is a phenomenal Bible storytelling tool for both kids and adults. It has the potential to educate in biblical history and narrative in a visceral and active way without taking away from the Word of God, and references the Bible text at the beginning of each story and in a thorough index in the back, lead the reader to seek the details of the story out for themselves. While reviewing this book, I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages with two fellow missionaries discussing the pictorial interpretation of each story and discussing the progression of Israel's history. We could have spent hours in the book. I wish I could buy a copy for each kid I know, and its possible that I'll purchase more copies for future use in discipleship and children's ministry. I am highly impressed and wholeheartedly recommend The Action Bible.
For more information on The Action Bible view the links and the videos below.
Sergio Cariello describes his experience in creating the art for The Action Bible and tells the story of one of the colorists coming to Christ through the project:
My thanks to David C. Cook for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.