Portraits in Alienated British Youth Circa 1989-90, Part Fourteen :

I Used To Think That The Day Would Never Come —

And you, dear reader, could be forgiven, what with the uber-sporadic nature of these posts in recent months (sue me, I’ve been busy), that the day would never come when yours truly would finally get around to finishing up these write-ups about True Faith. You could also be forgiven for  hoping that I’d do something less painfully obvious than concluding things with a post where I “borrow” the title from New Order’s lyrics once again. I sort of wish I’d come up with a little something better myself, truth be told. But I didn’t. And so here we are.

And “here we are” is, of course, at the end of True Faith. And my how I do love this comic. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s darkly satirical, it’s incisive, and it’s smart. Above all, though, it’s rebellious. It sticks a richly-deserved big, fat, ugly middle finger not only at organized religion and the church, but on the whole sorry (in my view, at any rate) concept of “god” itself. It calls our supposed “creator” out on his (or, hey, her — I’m open-minded, after all) bullshit and dares him (or, again, her) to do anything about it. And it’s none too kind to god’s supposed representatives on Earth, either — -be they of the officially ordained or entirely self-appointed variety.

It also, in many ways, reeks of the unmistakable aroma of youth, as well it should. Garth Ennis and Warren Pleece were still coming into their own as creators at the time, and in some ways it shows, but ya know what? Occasional un-evenness aside, this is actually pretty accomplished stuff for a couple of guys in their late-teens/early-20s. Pleece’s artistic style has certainly changed a good deal over the years as he’s refined his technique, but in many ways Ennis, for his part, has continued to tackle a good number of the same themes as he did here, and with much the same “balls-out” attitude. We’ve discussed earlier how much of Preacher’s central premise is more or less directly cribbed from this work, but a general “fuck you” disposition tends to permeate almost every comic he writes to this day.  Which probably explains why I still love most of ‘em.

Don’t let the tender age-at-the-time of the creators involved here fool you, though — even though they’re tackling some heavy subject matter and taking aim at popular targets of disdain for young people, the book manages (and with ease, at that) to eschew the youthful trap of taking itself waaaaayyyy too fucking seriously. Truth be told, in spite of the fact that the editorial viewpoint of True Faith is militantly atheistic (with emphasis on the “militantly”), I could actually even imagine a Christian enjoying this comic — provided they’ve got a seriously warped sense of humor.

It’s not all roses, of course — I do see where folks who require an absolutely air-tight narrative might find some frustration with the ending, that’s for sure, but for my part I really dig the open-ended possibilities it suggests. Chances are that any uptight readers abandoned this work in the fairly early going, so anyone left by the time it wrapped up is probably smart or mellow (or both) enough to have some fun figuring it out for themselves. And if not, well — “tough shit” is probably what Ennis and Pleece would say themselves, so I’ll say the same here.

Is it a comics masterpiece? Nah. But it’s really not trying to be. It’s just a rollicking good story that has something to say about some of our society’s foundational blocks (okay, fair enough, more or less all of them) and it doesn’t care who it offends while laying out its version of the truth. And besides, in the end most of the atheists turn out to be every bit the assholes the Christians are.

Like almost all young people, then, Ennis and Pleece seem to be of the opinion that we’re all fucked and hopeless and stupid and full of shit,  but they do allow for at least  a bit of optimism by showing that once you’ve got that much figured out, you’ll know that the only person you can really count on is your own self. Even if you’re as hopelessly and fundamentally flawed as everyone else — which you are (don’t worry, so am I) — at least you know what your problems are and you can’t lie to yourself about them.  Or, really, about anything.

Well, okay. You can. But you shouldn’t. And once you cut it out, things will get a whole lot easier for you and you’ll be a hell of a lot happier.  And I think that, in the end, is what True Faith is really all about. Up next — the little-seen Straitgate, from John Smith and Sean Phillips!

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Ryan Carey maintains a B-movie (with occasional comics-related content) blog at trashfilmguru.wordpress.com, and writes about films and comics for sites such as unobtainium13.com, dailygrindhouse.com, geekyuniverse.com, and now Sequart. You can follow him on Twitter @trashfilmguru.

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