This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Release Barabbas
There’s a chance that you may have heard about Barabbas, especially if you’re familiar with the bible and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, John and later copies of Luke. If you haven’t heard of him, then Barabbas was the criminal who, along with Jesus of Nazareth, was presented to the crowd by Pontius Pilate whereby the crowd was given the option to save one man and condemn the other to death. We all know how that turned out for one of the men.
But what about the other?
Well that’s where Liam McKenna‘s Release Barabbas comes in. Billed as “an absolutely nonreligious, yet possibly sacrilegious biblical fairy tale” the 57 page comic tells the story of Barabbas’ life on the day his life was spared – a day that also happens to be the same day Jesus was crucified. If you’re already starting to turn away because you’re leery of the religious undertones then don’t worry because despite being set during a pivotal moment in history, biblical or not, there’s actually nothing to do with religion in the comic, because Barabbas himself seems entirely oblivious to it – and this is his story.
Release Barabbas has a colour scheme that feels immediately historical; the reddish peach of the physical comic lends itself a brilliantly sepia-esque tone that serves as a great tool to set the historical nature of the tale right away. Likewise, McKenna’s stylized art lends itself to a physical comedy that’s reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoons and the sound effects that so often permeate those shows and comics. McKenna’s use of blank space to highlight the loneliness and isolation that Barabbas feels as he navigates his first hours of freedom.
As a story about the death of Jesus without Jesus in it, this is a very enjoyable read about a man unaware of the history unfolding around him – and in many ways that’s a reminder to us all. Just because you’re unaware of the events around you doesn’t mean that they’re not happening. For a comic that seems to be a light hearted tale, there’s a subtle gut punch there – and that’s why this is an Underrated book (and the fact you’ve probably never heard of it).
The comic is available in part here or on Gumroad here in a pay-what-you-want model. If you want to hear more on the comic, there’s an episode of Those Two Geeks you can listen to here. I purchased a physical copy directly from the author a couple of months ago for around $17, and it was worth every penny.
Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.