The Harrowing of Hell

Iron Circus. Jul. 2020. 128p. ISBN 9781945820441. $13.50. Rated: Mature. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Even for the frequent churchgoer, the harrowing of Hell is a theological deep cut. It is more complicated than the Crucifixion, less hopeful than the Resurrection, and its obfuscation speaks to a modern discomfort with the concept of evil. Dahm (Rice Boy) knows this and dives straight in, knowing that Hell is exactly the place to challenge notions of the Christian mission. Here, a recently crucified Jesus, wide-eyed and saddled with the world’s suffering, travels through a loosely Dantean, demon-filled realm to redeem his uncooperative biblical forbearers. In Dahm’s Hell, evil persists microscopically—it’s tragically easy to be set in one’s ways, and macroscopically—Satan demonstrates directly that power corrupts. The radical message at the book’s core is that Jesus’s pacifistic martyrdom challenged earthly authority, but nearly every bit of Christianity’s success has come from hoarding worldly power and warring against its detractors. It’s certainly a heavy task, but Dahm’s thoughtful questioning, as well as his cavernous yet claustrophobic hellscapes, make the story feel immediate and necessary.
VERDICT Crafted to make complacent Christians and disinterested atheists alike squirm, this is a thought experiment in the form of church teaching, in the form of a monster-laden indie comic, a surprising, special book. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s Graphic Novels Preview, “Picture This!” LJ 4/20.]

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