Zacharias and Slemons give us a graphic novel based on a hypothetical three-way conversation between Jesus, Hitler, and Bonhoeffer - a challenge to the format...
The Lamb and The Fuhrer
Illustrated by Jeff Slemons and Geof Isherwood
Written by: Dr. Ravi Zacharias
96 pages, soft cover
The graphic novel is the ideal format to tell stories involving fantastic concepts that cry out for that special combination of unlimited creative imagery and engaging ideas. The graphic novel, or 'comic book' form allows the reader to engage the experience at his own pace, taking in the artwork and digesting the linear trajectory of the narrative – in effect, becoming part of the creative process. This is what makes the graphic novel different from a book or a film experience – it involves and draws in the reader, inviting him or her into a world beyond reality.
The creators of The Lamb and The Fuhrer have set themselves an extremely difficult task – basically, taking the format of graphic entertainment and attempting to turn what is essentially a conversation into a captivating and engaging pictorial work. The concept of an encounter between Jesus, Adolf Hitler, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer is, in fact, intriguing, but can really only be depicted as a debate, unless you go the Carman route and put them in a boxing ring. Thankfully, Zacharias and Slemons spare us that, and also have the good taste not to turn this into a Jack Chic-like Devil vs. Jesus battle for Hitler's soul. Instead, we are introduced to the idea of the three-way meeting by an American college student visiting a friend in Germany. As they visit certain historical sites, the conversation turns to the subject of the book: what if Hitler, Jesus, and Bonhoeffer could have a meeting together?
Thanks to Dr. Zacharias, there are a good amount of theological 'what if' moments as well as a retelling of the dictator's last minutes in the bunker, Bonhoeffer's doubts, etc. The 'present' in the main part of The Lamb and The Fuhrer centers on the interaction between the three central characters, even though the 'true present' is that of the two college friends who are actually having the speculative discussion that's the core of the graphic novel.
The book is a satisfying experience, though not a dynamic one. Slemons has the difficult task of depicting people essentially talking – or in Hitler's case – ranting. There's not much dynamic action to illustrate and the settings are tightly tied to a depressing reality. The format is more suited to a Twilight Zone script or the late Steve Allen's Meeting of the Minds TV project, where disparate figures in history would meet to talk out their differences sitting at a table. The dialog, unfortunately, is sometimes awkward – this is not really a surprise since there's a certain cadence that a writer needs to develop for writing dialog in the comic book/graphic novel form and – to my knowledge – Dr. Zacharias (who of course is a published author) has no experience at this particular type of writing.
Kudos to Kingstone Comics and Jeff Slemons for tackling an intriguing but very difficult task. Joel Chua and Tom Smith did excellent color work and the book is beautifully printed and put together. I'm looking forward to more work from Kingstone, as graphic novels by Christian creative teams continue to make their way into pop culture.