Those were the opening lyrics to New Order’s breakthrough hit “True Faith,” but let’s be honest—they don’t have jack shit to do with the frame of mind of Nigel Gibson, the teenage protagonist in Garth Ennis and Warren Pleece’s comic strip of the same name, because he really doesn’t feel anything like “extraordinary” at all. So we’re already kind of grasping at straws with the whole New Order “angle” already, I suppose, but bear with me.
As perplexing as it may seem to readers of the so-called “millennial” or “post-millennial” generations, there was once a time when name-dropping the fact that you were a New Order fan was short-hand for saying “I have pretty sophisticated (even if I do say so myself) taste in music.” What can I say? This was long before they recorded “Love’s Got The World In Motion,” and in all fairness, we just had no fucking clue how lame they were going to get once their transition into full-blown sell-out rock stars was complete. Yeah, “True Faith” was a staple of Top 40 radio in the spring and summer of 1988, but by the time Ennis and Pleece borrowed the title the following year, New Order was still, for all intents and purposes, a “certified cool” band. They used to be Joy Division, for Christ’s sake! How could any of us know the depths to which they would later end up sinking?
I know that if I were creating an independent British comic strip in the waning days of the 1980s and wanted it to get some traction by giving it an instantly-relatable title, calling it True Faith would seem like a smart move to me—especially given that the name actually makes sense within the context of the story itself. Sure, it’s nowhere near as good a song as, say, “Blue Monday,” or “The Perfect Kiss,” but it was miles ahead of its then-contemporary competition on the pop charts, and hey—remember the video? It didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but it was definitely pretty avant-garde stuff in comparison to everything else in the MTV rotation (yes, kids, they actually used to play videos on that channel) at the time.
Let’s get back to young Mr. Gibson then, shall we? He’s of legal drinking age in the UK, as we see fairly early in the story, so I’m going to pin him as being 18. He lives in a nameless London suburb and attends an equally nameless suburban school. He certainly doesn’t fit in with the “jock” crowd, but he also appears to be something of an outsider among the larger “outsider” crowd, as well. In short, while he seems to have at least a few less-than-close “friends”—as in, the kind of guys who bust his balls plenty but don’t actually seem to give much of a damn about him (nor, in fairness, does he seem to give much of a damn about them)—it would be a real reach to say that he “fits in” anywhere at all. Like all guys his age, though (all straight guys, at any rate) he sure does like the young ladies—and the object of his less-than-disguised obsessions at the time our “festivities” begin with the double-sized (14 pages as opposed to the seven-page standard the series would adopt as its regular length) chapter entitled “The Warriors” is a classmate named Angela Hyman (yes, Ennis had a penchant for groaningly lame and obvious humor even at this early stage of his career), a perky young blonde who obeys all the rules, does her homework, and is active in the school’s Scripture Union, which I take to be the British equivalent of a Bible study club.
Hard-ass physical education instructor Mr. Hunt, who’s constantly on Nigel’s case, actually suggests that our rebel without a cause join up with the Scripture Union himself, and while Ennis hints that Hunt’s actually a dirty old man who’s probably hanging out with the campus Christians for the very same reason ol’ Nige would be doing so—namely, to eye up the youthful, female God-fearing “talent”—our prototypical slacker-before-they-were-called-slackers figures, what the hell? It may be going against form to listen to a blustery old windbag like Hunt, but Angela is going to be there, so—
Nigel’s first Scripture Union meeting is a typical bore, of course, but it doesn’t appear to be time wasted, given that when he asks to meet up with Angela at the pub later that evening, she actually says yes! Okay, she immediately follows that up by informing him that all she’ll be drinking is orange juice, but still, a young man can dream, right?
And, of course, a dream—specifically a pipe dream—is all it was along, because Angela shows up with her nominal boyfriend, Mike, along with some other holy-roller friends of theirs, and she thinks Nigel only wanted to meet up with her to talk about saving his soul. Needless to say, the conversation deteriorates pretty quickly, with Mike proving to be a rather stereotypical “jock” who boasts of his achievements on the rugby pitch (that is what it’s called, isn’t it?) and how he’s doing so well in school and is headed for University, etc. You know the drill. He even claims to be a flat-out “better” person than Nigel, who returns the compliment—now we’re into part two, “The Wolf And The Sheep,” for those of you following along at home—by letting Mike know that he thinks he’s “so full of shit” and that Christianity is a “mindless, cop-out philosophy.” When it comes to the subject of the Big Man Upstairs himself, Nigel happily volunteers that “he doesn’t exist,” and lets Angela know, in no uncertain terms, that the only reason he’s talking to her and her hangers-on at all is because he thought he might have a chance at “getting in your knickers.”
And that, my friends, is how you kill a conversation.
That conversation, though, has attracted the attention of a guy who Nigel spotted earlier drinking alone at the bar—a guy who seems to have a lot on his mind, and takes it upon himself to come over to the table that our ostensible “hero”—along with Angela, Mike, and a gaggle of other unnamed Christians—are seated at and offer up his own two cents’ worth. He talks a lot of crazy shit. He talks about God not giving a damn. He talks about “disappearing around the ‘S-Bend’ and God still hasn’t shown up with a half-inch wrench and a plunger.” And then he says that “God won’t be around to crack anybody else’s cistern—because I’m going to kill him.”
We don’t know it yet, but his name is Terry Adair. And Nigel thinks it would be kind of fun to tail him home when he leaves the bar—which is where we’ll pick things up in our next segment.