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Renegade- Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography: Not about the awesome Styx or JayZ songs

October 31st, 1517: Young monk, Martin Luther nails documents to the front door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. On the pages were printed 95 theses defining man's relationship with God and religion. These were tumultuous times and blasphemy is a dangerous game for renegades and suicidal fools anxious to receive the lash.

2017 marks the five hundredth anniversary of this event.  Martin Luther rallied against the Pope and started a revolution in thought that shook the cornerstones of known Christianity. The writing and distribution of Luther's 95 theses, caused ripples in our social structures still in evidence.

Slated for release on 10/08/2017
  • Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography (Dacia Palmerino, Andrea Ciponte)
  • 160 pages
  • Plough Publishing House 
  • ISBN-10: 0874862078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874862072

I have bastardized a bit of this, but bear with me as I am far from being a religious historian. I will leave the hard core cross comparison to those with stronger background experience.

Luther's history is incredibly fascinating. After a classic schooling, Martin Luther was left with more questions than answers. He found himself in dismay, attempting to reconcile his religious beliefs with the world around him. He frustratingly finds that they fail to be cohesive. During a walk in the countryside (I cannot tell if this is legend or fact) a brewing storm sent a bolt of lightning into a nearby tree. Luther took this as divine instruction, changed directions in his life and entered the monastic life.

Martin was in a conundrum, spending multiple sessions every day in confession. He felt that no matter how devout he was, the Church advised that he was a sinner in peril and would never be allowed into Heaven without being even more penitent. His concern for the state of his immortal soul weighed on him and his conflicted feelings increased. How could his soul be always at risk while the Catholic church allowed people to buy forgiveness of sins? If you dropped money into coffers, buying penance for yourself or loved ones seemed very wrong.

Luther invests a great deal of time in solitary study and comes to terms with a belief that is contrary to the teachings of the Church. His belief is that (as the Bible states) his Faith alone is needed to save him from damnation. The Church, the Pope, and all other earthly institutions are nothing more than tools being used as diversions between mankind and God. 

Luther spends time translating the Bible from Latin to German and distributing it to the masses. This allows the Everyman to have a direct relationship with the words and instructions of the Christian God. The direct relationship removes the need to join the cattle call for multiple daily Mass, which served value only as lip service in his eyes. Mass then becomes worship for those who attend.

Palmerino's writing in this Graphic Novel was wonderful. I was concerned at first that this was going to be a chore to read, with the initial pages being presented a bit dry, feeling like the reader is preparing to be lectured on theology. After a short introduction, however, Renegade moves to Luther's ingress to school and branches the story. It immediately picks up in an easy to read manner. Reading this is less like Sunday school and more like a well crafted Hollywood Biopic.

The story itself is paired nicely with some absolutely stunning artwork by Ciponte. The framing of the story with the imagery really brings Luther to life again rather than simply being viewed as a Reformist whose bones are long since turned to dust. Watching the facial expressions change panel by panel as he makes deep personal realizations causes the pages glow with a Human element that must have taken a great deal of passion and forethought.

The artistic design also wavered between styles. In many areas, it was a purposeful rough and divisive; in others, it was almost stream of consciousness, with pages and phrases from the Bible floating around Luther's personal universe.

The words and art have a gentle interaction, taking difficult religious topics and complex political situations and placing them in a highly consumable presentation. A fine example of this is a full page spread showing Martin after he identifies that monastic vows are not permanent life long vows. In this page spread, Luther is getting married, the panels pan outward showing his happy marriage day. As each panel gets further from him and his bride, the final panel shows dark silhouettes of dead hanging from nooses, with the chapel in their background. The imagery and metaphor are haunting.

I would consider this graphic novel suitable for any age group 8 and above and highly recommend it for any history buff, religiously minded or not. As a primer to the topic, this media may have a huge benefit and I would be interested in seeing the Plough publishing house put out more work in this style, even potentially for other religions.

Bonus thought- Did Piers Anthony base his Devil Character in the series 'The Incarnations of Immortality' on Martin Luther? There is a segment of this Graphic Novel where Luther is in disguise and hiding from the authorities. He goes a bit crazy being secreted away and unable to be himself. He feels himself falling apart and in the Graphic Novel, it presents him as being visited by a hallucinatory succubus. The hyper religious 'good man' who is tainted by a succubus is how Anthony's character evolves 'For Love of Evil', being that the best person to keep the goodness in line is someone who loves God enough to be able to set his love aside and play the game fairly. I performed a bit of side research and it looks like this is documented in Martin's writings, so I find the correlation to another series I love to be an unexpected joy.

Disclosure: This Graphic Novel was provided for review purposes by the Publisher. Even a free cupcake is still a cupcake. If it were a disgusting cupcake, I would not eat it and instead, choose to throw it into a trash receptacle. Sometimes, the free cupcake has beautiful pillows of cream cheese frosting piled on top and a moist delicious carrot cake interior. You do not question it, you just dive into the blissful cakey goodness and enjoy the cupcake. Carrot cake is the best. I will fight you at the flagpole after school if you disagree.

Other examples of artwork from the pages.


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