There is nothing more classic and timeless in story’s theme than the impending doom of demons breaching the gates of hell and then entering and meddling with the affairs of the world as we know it. This is a theme that the creators of Filipino Komiks, Mark 9 Verse 47, have sought to explore through the eyes of Visdei, a blind and disgruntled man that’s trying to make peace with himself and with God.
What to expect…
A blind man that’s tasked with saving the world from the devil and his minions. Warring angels. A seemingly impossible quest to find the gatekeeper. The premise itself contains a lot of potential for war and peace, as well as reflections on faith, morality, and the grace of God. The main theme the comic seems to pursue, however, is that of its title (Mark 9:47) “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”
What We Liked
Though these can tend to be dragging, controversial, and too sophisticated for some, they can be somewhat informative. The debate between Visdei and Raphael in the middle of the narrative, for example, is entertaining enough and revealing enough to readers.
For one, it reveals a lot about Visdei’s character, and yet at the same time raises a lot of questions about him and his motivations. After all, why would a blind man, that hates humans because they’re weak, even try to help them?
Fear of God?
Fear of hell?
Which brings us to our second point…
The great thing about this first volume is that it does a very good job in introducing the characters. One important thing when it comes to characterization is the establishment of your hero’s wants and desires, as well as his pet peeves.
In this case, you get enough of a glimpse at who Visdei is—enough to ask questions as to why he is the way he is. And giving readers enough questions about the character is a very good means of keeping him or her hooked. Visdei is a mysterious man, one that you’d like to get to know more of—and which you will in volume two.
The first act of any story is where you quickly introduce everything your reader needs to know about your world. This is crucial, as it’s what makes your story plausible and believable. It gives them foreknowledge of what to expect can happen, and can’t happen in your story.
In Mark 9 Verse 47, the good thing is that you immediately see that Visdei is blind, but not completely. We know that he can see, but his vision is limited mostly to the ethereal plane—which I think is a genius idea. Even better is that this fact was shown and dramatized in the action of the story, it wasn’t just mentioned by a character. That’s a plus for the “Show Don’t Tell” rule.
The rest of the first volume serves as a perfect introduction into the world of Visdei and the archangels, as well as a glimpse of the challenges and trials that he’s going to go up against.
What We Could Have Seen More Of
Engaging Religious Discourse
So this particular element in the comic has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it’s a good discussion on morality and philosophy, but on the other hand, it drags out the narrative of the comic. Not everyone might enjoy the back-and-forth between Visdei and the angels, or Visdei and Mal.
One point I’d like to raise is the invitation of Mal.
If Mal were to tempt Visdei, for example, coming up to him and reminding him of his offer wouldn’t work, of course. Mal would have to actually tempt Visdei in a more material and physical sense. Think Jesus roaming the desert for 40 days.
The devil gave concrete temptations, temptations that directly appealed to Jesus’ immediate situation. He tempted him with food. He questioned his power as the son of God. These are more legitimate temptations, and they’re a mixture of show and tell, which is what makes the scene more compelling.
It actually makes a first-time reader ask, “Will he submit, or will he resist?” Because the temptations given are valid and realistic.
The same can be said of Job. Job’s temptation to renounce God was dramatized in such a way that he had everything taken away from him. This brought Job to confide in his friends. A balance of show and tell.
These surfacing conversations are great conversations between friends, but from a storytelling standpoint, I’m just wondering about how effective they really are at helping Visdei change.
Visdei himself exclaims in Verse 2, when he’s talking to Uriel and Michael, “What’s the point of this argument?” When you think about it more, the likelihood that a person would change his views and outlook on religion and God is not when you prove to him—through debate—that he’s wrong. This never works. Much in the same way it didn’t exactly work for Visdei. It’s a direct reflection of reality.
The only way you could really bring a person to God is when you make that person realize just how much God loves him, despite his sinful nature—which, in a way, is exactly what Visdei symbolizes. But if God appointed angels to appear to Visdei every now and then, and give him a lecture on having faith and being good towards mankind, this isn’t exactly a very effective way for God to operate.
The only reason it could work for Visdei, is because he know for sure that God exists. But the question is: is that enough to convict a person?
There are times when you’re not quite sure what is happening in the panels. This is particularly true in the action scenes. Although you get an inkling of what just happened, you need a second look to truly grasp the situation.
Even the fact that Visdei can see the demons despite his blindness is not 100% clear. You have to read through the rest of the series to confirm it.
The lettering in this comic is obviously done manually, as to be honest, it looks more like writing than lettering. There are times when the word balloon has a lot of extra space, and there are times when the words are all cramped.
Add to that the fact that in some pages, you don’t see the balloon tail, leaving you confused as to which character is speaking the line. Perhaps this is the product of printing, but nevertheless, it spoils the experience of reading what could otherwise be a very engaging comic series.
It has to be more polished because you want the reader to be immersed in the world of your telling. Little details like this draw them out, all of a sudden, and may even turn off some that expect higher quality.
Mark 9 Verse 47; Vol. 1 has a great premise with lots of potential for epic battles and scenarios between angels and demons. It shows promise, and could be even more enjoyable if the art and lettering could be improved upon. At this point, the way it was put together looks like it wasn’t well thought-out—and perhaps even rushed.
Don’t let those details discourage you from buying a copy, however, as this is still one story that Hawkers recommends.
Check out their art: