Even those unfamiliar with scripture know that the events in the Book of Revelation are the stuff of nightmares and catastrophe. The Beast, the dragon, the curses, the destruction, the blood—John’s vision plays out more powerfully and horrifically than any Hollywood film. However, adaptation of the letter to script or screen is rare. As visually compelling as the descriptions of the end times are, it’s difficult to portray prophecy, especially when carried with tough questions: Which of the descriptions are symbols and which are to be taken at face value? How many of these events have already occurred? And will I be alive when the seals begin to open?
Yet that’s the challenge that NEXTmanga accepted when developing its most recent release, Manga Majesty: The Revelation of the End Times! Published by Tyndale and continuing the success of five previous works beginning with Manga Messiah, Manga Majesty is the shortest in the series at approximately 150 pages, but perhaps the most ambitious. Starting with an introductory section that contextualizes Christian persecution in the mid-to-late 1st century, Manga Majesty then dives head-first into Revelation, illustrating it from beginning to end, including both the specific messages to each of the seven churches as well as prophecy. It is centered on the apostle John, who is portrayed (rightfully so) as being overwhelmed by the experience and given voice as he tries to understand all that is occurring, both the visions and especially at first when he cries out to God in the midst of the great persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Along the way, the manga provides readers a new and exciting way to look at the book, while highlighting themes of “victory, hope and grace.”
Of course, the striking nature of the original text demands that any visual representation of it be likewise compelling. The artwork in this series lends itself well to the material—in full color and demonstrating the brand’s commitment to manga-style art, the illustrations capture the majesty of Christ on one page and then the horror of God’s punishment on the next. The artist’s use of color is especially striking, adding a sense of energy and movement that’s absolutely necessary in such a powerful work. The epic characters in this tale—angels, riders, Satan, the beast—are given designs that are scripturally accurate and in line with what readers of both graphic novels and manga would expect. Even better is the progression of artwork between Manga Messiah, released in 2006, and Manga Majesty, the fitting conclusion to the franchise; the latter is crisper, richer, and more modern in style, and ultimately more involving for readers. The artistic choices are also notable, particularly in how the mangaka chooses to show the prophetic events. For example, the portrayal of the woman Babylon and her fall is illustrated particularly well, almost as a story within a story; I could imagine it being brought to life during a flashback scene in an anime.
Although I’ve noted a progression since earlier releases, Manga Majesty isn’t perfect; some editorial lapses and one particularly awkward drawing mar an otherwise beautiful presentation. Christians readers, however, may be more concerned about whether the manga takes liberties with scripture. I’ve already mentioned the use of John in the story, with his thoughts and context for the vision supplementing the work, but the Book of Revelation itself is presented accurately—a doubly good thing since the words of Revelation themselves demand an accurate telling! I also encourage readers to remember that Manga Majesty is an adaptation, a resource, and an accompaniment to scripture. One of the best choices with this volume and previous ones is to provide footnotes recording the chapters and verses from which each page is adapted. It’s a resourceful way to encourage readers, both longtime Christians and those reading about Christ for the first time, to go to the inerrant source. The footnotes also add a sense of distinction to the manga, while never proving intrusive.
Another addition is just as substantial—the volume ends with several pages that read like an extended infographic, a timeline that shows the order in which the prophesied events are to occur. They are accompanied by illustrations from the manga, and help place this epic story into perspective for readers should they get lost in the extraordinary events described therein. The additional elements help support the mission of Manga Majesty—it’s more than entertainment for Christians and a curiosity for non-believers; this work has the potential to introduce readers to Christ and encourage Christians to spend more time praying to and reading about God. Tyndale also developed a discussion guide, a nice inclusion that I hope encourages the faithful to see Manga Majesty as the resource it has the potential to be.
The accurate connection to scripture, combined with the love and creativity with which the comic is crafted, is ultimately what makes Manga Messiah a most significant work. It cannot be understated how closely the manga adheres to scripture; in doing so, the groundwork had already been laid for a tremendous retelling, a story that needs no flourishes, as it is already based on material that is God-breathed. Revelation is compelling on its own—not only through the often frightening prophecies within, but in the greater themes of encouragement and fortitude that fill it, in the “message of victory, hope and grace” as the manga itself describes. As with My Hero Academia or any currently popular read, Manga Messiah is captivating, but it’s all the more consequential because of its representation of words from the Alpha and Omega. While other series will similarly keep readers glued to its pages, only Manga Messiah will have them also down on their knees in praise, honor, and veneration of the one who deserves all glory.
BENEATH THE TANGLES RECOMMENDS MANGA MESSIAH: THE REVELATION OF THE END TIMES!
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