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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.


POPPREVIEW: TESTAMENT
With Jonathan Ellis & Douglas Rushkoff

Click For Larger ImageTESTAMENT 1
Published by Vertigo Comics
Suggested for Mature Readers
$ 2.99 U.S., $ 4.00 CAN


"From the imagination of best-selling author Douglas Rushkoff, one of the most iconoclastic and acclaimed minds of our era, comes a series that exposes the "real" Bible as it was actually written, and reveals how its mythic tales are repeated today.

Grad student Jake Stern leads an underground band of renegades who use any means necessary to combat the frightening threats to freedom that permeate the world of TESTAMENT - a world very much like our own. They employ technology, alchemy, media hacking and mysticism, discovering a modern threat that has its roots in ancient stories destined to recur in the modern age.

With intricate, darkly detailed art by Liam Sharp, TESTAMENT takes place in an unapologetically uncensored Biblical universe, chronicling the grim confrontations between humans and their angry gods. Those horrifying encounters full of murder, magic, monsters, sex and sacrifice, echo the forces at work beneath the surface of today's high-tech and highly ideological conflicts.

In a story as thrilling as it is sure to be controversial, Jake must overcome romantic, psychic, supernatural and epic obstacles on his way to uncovering the reality behind an eternal story in which he, and all of us, are trapped."


In stores today, TESTAMENT issue 1. As a special preview we did a page-by-page analysis with the books author Douglas Rushkoff. The following features pages 1 and 4 to 9 of Issue One featuring art by Liam Sharp and colouring by Jamie Grant.



Click For Larger ImagePAGE 1: Abraham Of Ur: Let's talk about the story that kicks things off, who was Abraham and what was his story? Where does it take place?

I started with Abraham for two reasons. First, he's really the beginning of the story as far as the Hebrews are concerned. He's the guy who makes the deal with the new God. The tradition starts out as a negotiation. That's really the basis of Judaism: this guy negotiates with a new and powerful God, they make a contract - the covenant - and the rest is the playing out of that deal.

He's also really different from how people know him. His story - and those of the people around him - are some of the weirdest in the Bible. Weird sex magick, fighting giants, offering daughters to angry neighbours.

The Akedah is a particularly great place to start because it sets up the Bible's biggest theme: people who sacrifice their children are fucked up. It's time to quit with the sacrifice of the first son and get on with civilization. (Of course, this whole dynamic gets reversed in the New Testament, with God sacrificing *his* first son to *us.*

Is Abraham's tale one of those biblical stories that tends to change depending of which book is telling the story?

Well, he doesn't' really show up much beyond Genesis, except in recaps. While Deuteronomy later retells everything from the perspective of re-instilling everyone with absolute faith in the one and true God, it's not like we really get all this Abraham action described for real again. We simply get some different emphases of what it means that God and Abraham made this deal.

Where we get all the weirdness, really, is in how the story is used over the next centuries. I've already gotten shit for talking about this, but the customary interpretation of this story about the sacrifice of Isaac being a demonstration of Abraham's love of God really didn't come into common acceptance until the Crusades. Many Jews felt it was better to kill their children than have them fall into the hands of the Crusaders, who might rape, torture, or simply abduct them.

But to the first hearers, the meaning of the story would have been very clear: stop burning your children to the god Moloch. There has been a change in management, and you are no longer required to do this.

I mean, look at Abraham. In the original Torah text, he only needs to be asked once to kill Isaac. But he needs to be told *twice* to put down the damn knife!

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 4: Moloch, I guess he's what is referred to as a "Pagan God"? How did you describe the God and the men to Liam?

Well, I found a lot of pictures, for one. Statues and other ancient stuff depicting the god. And I explained to Liam what I would need Moloch to accomplish over the course of the story. I did some cut-and-pasting of research, too.

We went with the most historically accurate appearances. This was before nation states as we understand them, so I wouldn't be able to say "they look Iraqi." Everyone is middle eastern, but we used a few tribal varieties, implying that Abraham's gang is made up of people from a few different regional tribes - which, essentially, it did. He moved around a bit.

As for the god, Moloch, I found all the visual references I could and sent them to Liam. There are lot of statues still in existence from that period.

This is also the first instance in which we see the third narrative in practice, as the God exists outside the panels and is yet bound to the story within them. Religious connotations take on an allegorical essence again, though this time, much like Big Brother.

This was the more important thing for me to describe. I actually pictured the gods much smaller - truly between the frames. But it's kind of fun seeing them dominated the pages like Liam has drawn them. Particularly early on in the series, while they're still so dominant.

The gods are definitely "superior" to the action in that they are not bound by the frames, but they are inferior to it in that they can't go inside the frames. It's really my way of showing how people can still have free will even though there are entities existing outside of time with seemingly infinite powers.

The other limitation on the gods is that they can't appear more than once on a page. They exist outside time, so they can't repeat themselves in sequential narrative. At least not in their own world. We can see them anew on each page, of course.

Whereas later on in the issue it's also a bit more subversive, they're present but their influence is more like that of the butterfly that flaps its wings and sends out ripples which affect them unbeknownst. There's also some very sly meshing of the art in within and without of the panels.

Tell us about the setting, Moriah.


It's a real place. It's where they used to go do this. All you had to do is say you were going to Moriah, and people would know you're gonna give a kid to Moloch. And of course, after that, it was chosen as the site for the Temple Mount - the place where they did all the regular sacrifices, and the place that every religion has been fighting over, since.

It's just one more advantage that the first hearers of Torah have over those of us who have to do research in order to understand what might have been meant.

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 5: Love this page. One of the first pages that made its way to press, it's such a great boding instant that you don't even need to see the previous page to understand what's coming next.

Any relevance to the altar being placed in the womb of the statue?


There's remains of real altars to Moloch, and that's the way they were used. Usually, you shove the baby (still alive and kicking) into the mouth. From there, he falls down into the belly where the fire is going.

I thought of this particular splash page really early on. I love starting the series with it, because it says what we're looking at in the story: a civilization that sacrifices its kids to false ideals. This book is the story about how we liberate from this sad dynamic.

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 6: I heard you mention before that while Jake is important, he has trouble controlling his hormones. Hence all the Bisley-esque art adorning his room.

Yeah. It's a common problem among Israelite heroes. There's actually a good bit of research about Jewish male libido as well as Jewish homosexuality. As well as left-handedness. There's higher incidence of all three in the known descendants of these tribes.

But sexual sin is a required stage in the development of every Bible hero. So I had to work this into Jake's progression. Plus, sex magick is a very significant yet relatively unacknowledged throughline of the Bible, I thought it was particularly important to bring this to light.

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 7: Aside from sacrifice, the story also focuses strongly on family. The father is heavy hearted though fearful and the mother, well in the Biblical story she was either a temple priestess or temple prostitute, so what is she in the present day?

Greta - who plays Sarah, at least in the opening few episodes - turns out to be a psychologist with some breakthrough theories on how the collective unconscious works. So she's still something of a priestess, working in the realm of how we're all connected.

But she's the daughter of a priest/leader from another tribe (just like Moses's and Jacob's wives) - in this case, a French philosopher with some very anti-establishment views. Without Greta, Alan wouldn't be able to become who he needs to be - nor could the story happen. The matriarchs are terribly underestimated, still.

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 8: Here you drop some heavy info, "war on six fronts", the "transparency act". Who numbers amongst America's enemies now? Does the transparency act, or similar initiatives have anything to do with the Fathers job?

Yeah, though maybe not so very directly. Alan is ultimately working for the military - but so is everyone else at any university by this time. So he's not a total military hack. Just a scientist in the modern world. They need their funding from somewhere.

We'll find out later exactly why Alan is so particularly indentured, though.

No fleeing of the draft to Canada? Is it that they physically CAN'T or that they choose to stay and fight?

It wouldn't make any difference. Where you gonna run when most of the world is under the same leadership? I'd like to say they're staying because they are heroes. And perhaps they are. But even if Canada weren't part of the US effort by then, if you've got the RFID tag they're going to be able to find you. You can't run and hide with that thing in you. You've got to take it out.

Click For Larger ImagePAGE 9: Here is the first instance in which we see the chip, how are they being implanted?

The idea is that the chips were implanted in these kids when they were babies. A policy that would have been implemented by the current administration or shortly afterwards. Of course, it would have been sold as a security measure - a way to track down a kid who has been abducted, as well as a way to identify someone in an emergency or disaster. But, of course, now it's being used to locate and identify people - particularly useful now that they're implementing the draft.

Jake doesn't have one because he was raised in France - so now putting one in is a form of sacrifice. I had to make it more the equivalent of the binding of Isaac, which didn't happen until Isaac was a teenager, even though most first-born sons were sacrificed to Moloch as babies.

I wonder if you purposely chose the waterfront as a setting because water symbolizes rebirth.

The waterfront was more logistical than thematic - maybe for the sake of the drama, too. It's just nice to have Amos chucking his tag into the East River. A lot of important things in Bible happen along the river. Freedom is one of them, for sure.

I'd also just like to point out what an excellent job colourist Jamie Grant has done with these pages.

And yeah - Jamie Grant has been an inspiration to us all. His work adds a whole lot more than color; it dimensionalizes the whole project. A number of the buyers from stores and other industry types they give previews to only "got" the comic when they saw it in color. So that says a lot. I think it's because the stories are so much more dense than the usual comic story, it's really important to have as many levels of communication as possible. By using different palettes for each reality, Jamie can make the parallels and distinctions much more discernible and compelling at the same time.

Be sure to pick up your copy, in Stores TODAY.

For more info on Douglas Rushkoff be sure to visit Rushkoff.com and for more on Liam Sharp be sure to visit the The Art Of Liam Sharp.

 


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