Mike Allred has been a staple of the comics industry for more than 10 years. He’s contributed to heavy hitters like Batman, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, as well as creating his own books, such as Madman. He was recently the artist on X-Statix, a dark title that created a storm of controversy when a back-from-the-dead Princess Diana was scheduled to make an appearance, but was retooled in response to the opposition.
So what does a man like Allred do for a follow-up? A comic book adaptation of the Book of Mormon, of course.
For someone with no religious background and no familiarity with the Book of Mormon, The Golden Plates was tough to review. Having said that, let’s make it clear that this is a review of a comic-book story, not of a religion. And as a story—to someone not attracted to nor spiritually affected by the material—it doesn’t hold up too well.
The first volume, The Sword of Laban and the Tree of Life, is pretty straightforward—and, quite frankly, boring. It follows Nephi, the narrator, and his family as they flee Judah before the Israelites are conquered by the Babylonians. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of the conquering. The most excitement comes when the Angel commands Nephi to kill Laban, and he does. This is followed by 40 pages of a magic tree, numerous references to “Gentiles,” the Angel talking and a quick glimpse at the life of Jesus.
Since The Golden Plates is an adaptation of a revered text, it’s hard for Allred to make any kind of creative change, and that’s what hurts the book. It feels as if he’s constrained, trying not to offend anyone by changing anything. But, Allred is a devout Mormon—it could have a little something to do with his own belief just as much as anyone else’s.
Allred’s art is always beautiful to look at, however; it just seems like such a waste here because the subject doesn’t cry out for his visual splendor. The Angel looks great, but it’s a shame that there isn’t more for him to do besides point and talk. Allred’s wife, Laura, colors the book and makes a bunch of people standing around talking about visions quite stunning to look at.
The book has been selling out all over Utah, but according to the Internet—and everyone knows the Internet never lies—it’s having a hard time in other states. Allred has gone through three printings in a month, Deseret Book has agreed to carry it, and the LDS Church has endorsed it, so a sequel seems almost inevitable. Let’s just hope there’s a bit more action next time. After all, it is a comic book.
Fifteen-year-old Ethan Chiles has been picked on his whole life, and he’s fed up. He and his friend storm their school with guns and masks; he ends up killing several people, including his friend, and takes the fall for everything. In maximum security prison, he learns prison life the hard way. There’s a distinct similarity to American History X, and Ethan is a strong, affecting character, but the problem is that he’s 15 and acts much older, talking back and challenging giant Aryan Nation inmates to fights he knows he can’t win. The only way he survives is through a powerful force that isn’t explored, and only leaves unanswered questions. (DC Comics, Steve Gerber and Brian Hurtt)
Warren Ellis set out to see what comics would look like if the industry hadn’t been overrun by men in “pervert-suits” (i.e. superheroes), and he’s done it here with Frank Ironwine. A fumbling detective is forced to work with a new partner, and finds him passed out in a Dumpster her first day. She learns the ropes, but does everything the hard way; Frank, drunk most of the time, gets things done the only way he knows how. It’s set up for a bigger story and a great relationship between rookie and seasoned veteran. The only problem is that it will never be written. Only Warren Ellis knows why, and he’s not saying. (Apparat/Avatar, Warren Ellis and Carla Speed McNeil)