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Not too long ago, before Superman died to save the world, rose again, and returned, what you bought at Ray's Comics and at the Agape Shoppe had little in common. Today, religion in general—and the Bible in specific—constitutes comics' hottest source material, especially in works written for adults.

After completing the gleefully blasphemous series Preacher, DC/Vertigo is publishing the (very slightly) more reverent Testament by Douglas Rushkoff, in which the Old Testament and futuristic Logan's Run kind of tales are juxtaposed. (A better collection of retold tales from the Hebrew Scriptures, also called Testament, was published by the American Bible Society's short-lived comics imprint Metron Press in 2003.)

Plastic Man cartoonist Kyle Baker stuck even closer to the Bible for his much-praised (and wordless) King David. J. T. Waldman's astonishing Megillat Esther (Jewish Publication Society), which includes both Hebrew and English text, is probably one of the most original graphic novel adaptations—of any text—in years.

In Marked, author Steve Ross adapts the New Testament's Book of Mark. There's no effort to harmonize the story with the other three Gospels. This means there's no nativity scene, not much attention given to the Resurrection, and a whole lot of exorcisms. "Demons, like angels, provoke some lively debates," he told one interviewer. "And, of course, they're a lot of fun to draw."

Marked is neither a historical depiction ("What did the events of Mark really look like?") nor a purely modern updating ("What would the events of Mark look like if they happened today?"). As with Megillat Esther, Marked requires more than just a familiarity with the biblical text. You may have to read it with the Bible ...

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August 2006

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