The Action Bible by Doug Mauss and Sergio Cariello was released on September 1st, 2010 by David Cook Press. (Hardcover, full-color, $24.99, 752 pages).
Disappointment. I’ll lay that out right there for you so that you’re aware of my position on this book from the start. I was disappointed, even angry, with this book. That is not a judgment on the Bible in general; that’s an issue I won’t touch in this blog post. But this specific edition hasn’t won my approval.
First and most immediately annoying to me is the fact that this revolutionary new edition is hardly so. The idea of the Bible as a graphic novel was, I thought, a brilliant one– until I discovered that there’s nothing particularly new about it. Doug Mauss, the editor, is evidently no scholar of the holy text. The stories herein might as well be presented word-for-word as I heard them in Sunday school. They stick to the familiar plot points and concepts. They do not present an understanding of moral grey areas. I left the faith when I was ten, and did not learn any new stories in reading this book. The Apocrypha, which would have been interesting, are inevitably left out. And the “Bible figures as action heroes” premise falls flat because no one has powers, or any sort of singular trait at all. All of the good guys do their good by the grace and for the glory of God. The male bad guys are presented as weak-willed, greedy and stupid; the female ones are conniving temptresses. And most of the Old Testament seems to be that every thirty years or so, the Israelites (they’re not called Jews here, because Jews aren’t Christians) forget the true God and are warned by prophets, then duly punished. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But let’s talk about something I can give good news about. The art! It’s quite impressive– 744 pages of full-color illustration. Beautifully expressive figures and facial expressions, good pacing that matches the dialogue. But oh, oh no, what’s this? Something seems off.
It bugged me for about a fifty pages before I realized what it was. Mr. Cariello, I don’t mean to call into question your interpretation of your own holy text, but there are a few things. Actually a lot of things, actually a lot of people. Adam, Eve, Abel (not Cain), Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David (not Goliath)… Mr. Cariello, all of these people, these heroes, are white. Living in Egypt, Persia, Babylon, they are white. And their enemies are not.
I admit that most of the people listed above are given facial features that imply Jewish heritage. But they’re also paler, and tend to have lighter hair, than any one of the unbelievers (or, as luck would have it, any of the women). All of the angels are not only white, but tall, blonde and blue-eyed. Jesus, conceived in Nazareth, then a part of Egypt, is white as well.
Now, Bible figures are traditionally depicted, at least in our culture, as white. But one would think that with 744 pages to think about it, 744 pages otherwise filled with Middle Eastern-ish people, that it would occur to Sergio Cariello that the Bible’s heroes were ordinary men elevated by God, and as such would have been born ordinary. From the same gene pool as all of those around them. In the one case where that doesn’t hold true… well, Jesus was the son of God. I guess God is so absolutely white that it cancels out Mary’s half of the equation.
I’ll say it again–disappointment. The Action Bible carries many faults, even considering that I tended to forgive the ones transmitted directly from its source material. It’s useful as an introduction to the major stories of the Bible, but impressionable minds– like say the children this book is aimed at– will pick up a number of unsavory ideas in the reading of it.