Trouble with Comics, Everything Dies Reviewed by ADD

Everything Dies Reviewed by ADD

Box Brown's cheerily-named Everything Dies has its mind on some weighty philosophical issues. Three stories are split into multiple chapters across the two issues, one called Heart of Stonework that focuses on a Buddhist monk and his student, another called The Book of Job that recontextualizes the Biblical tale into modern times, and a third split into chapters called Alpha and Omega that sort of straightforwardly depicts the core conceits of various beliefs from voodoo to Christianity to Mormonism and Zoroastrianism and, seemingly, everything else in-between.

In the notes at the back of the issues, Brown says he learned most of what he includes in these stories by reading Wikipedia, which I find kind of a pleasingly whimsical way to immerse one’s self into blood and guts of the world’s various and bizarre belief systems. It’s refreshingly loony in Alpha and Omega (the best of these three narrative journeys)  to see Scientology’s tenets side-by-side with all the other crazy shit people have chosen to believe over the history of the world, and to include atheism and science as just two more of those systems is both daring and extraordinarily sensible.

I don’t really know what Brown is trying to say with these comics, other than, “Here’s a bunch of stuff people have believed over the past few hundred thousand years.” No one belief or religion is really singled out either for its virtues or its lunacy; everything is simply presented matter-of-fact in Brown’s appealingly open cartoon style (which is firmly in the same part of town that Seth and James Kochalka call home). No grand points are made, although I admit Brown did stop me in my tracks with the panel on atheism that points out that “atheism is the lack of belief in God. Therefore athiests do not share a singular belief in anything by definition.” Whether he got that from Wikipedia or came up with it himself, you have to admit it’s a good observation.

The student in “Heart of Stonework” also learns some important philosophical points, through object lessons from his master that Brown conveys with convincing wisdom and sincerity. I guess Alpha and Omega and Heart of Stonework are the two works that really appeal to me most in these issues; it’s interesting that the Job story is kind of off-putting for the same reason the Biblical tale is: ultimately the point it makes is that God will let Satan fuck with you for his own reasons and all the piety in the world will not change the damage done in the process. Faith is its own reward, for better or worse, or both.

I don’t know if Brown created these comics as an investigation of a faith he believes in, or as a skeptic’s exploration of philosophy and religion. Really, I don’t care why he made them. They’re entertaining and thought-provoking in probably the exact manner he intended, and if a suspicious old athiest like myself could get as much pleasure out of reading them as I did, others will probably find them of interest as well.

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