This stream of consciousness was brought to you by my less than articulate brain after reading the final installment of The End Times of Bram and Ben. I mean, how do you really put into words how you feel about a comic book that respectfully and critically looks at religion, is outrageously funny, and a beautiful display of artistic talent? Well…I guess I just did that, didn’t I? Whatever, just go read it! There need to be more people in this world who know the awesomeness that is this book. Yes, every word of this is soaking in hyperbole, but that doesn’t make it any less true!
Okay, Sam, keep it together. Put on your Reviewer Hat and examine the issue critically…
Take your time…
Don’t be fooled by the well-timed, comical pop culture references and various puns…
Of course the Anti-Christs live in Las Vegas, it isn’t called Sin City for nothing…don’t read too much into it…Though I wonder if Penn and Teller are aware of this? Hmm, someone should inform them that we’re on to them. Or not. Better to act surprised than to spoil it in the end.
Wait, the angels and the Anti-Christs? Heaven and Hell? Multiple afterlife’s? A Rapture debunking A-Team? A demon named Lydia?!!
Fuck it, this book is amazing!
Okay, I promise to give you something to go on here. Continuing my ace analysis from above, when I was reading the issue a few things popped into my head that struck a chord as to why The End Times of Bram and Ben works for me on so many levels. One is its similarity to Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Focused on the pending Apocalypse, Good Omens also features the machinations of Heaven and Hell to bring about the end of the world. Hilarity ensues, of course, but the practical and very British way that Pratchett and Gaiman treated the Apocalypse didn’t deter them from treating Christianity, and religion in general, with a modicum of respect. Bram and Ben, does the same though it’s very clear that writers James Asmus and Jim Festante are taking shots at Old Testament and current religious hypocrisy with gleeful gusto. The second reason this book, and this issue in particular, hit home for me is something my late grandmother (my very Catholic grandmother) said to me years ago. Knowing that I was going through a crisis of faith as a teenager, and that I wasn’t exactly the poster child for a devout Christian what with my opinions and questions and the like, she very sagely said, “I don’t care what you believe in, so long as you believe in something.” Years later and I still think about those words from time to time because it makes more sense to me than anything an organized religion could convey. I can believe in something, I can have faith in something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to coincide with the tenants of any one religion, let alone one that purports itself to be the “One True Religion.”
And that’s the point of Bram and Ben, I think. Though the plot is predicated on the Christian Rapture, what does the supposed End Times mean in the context of a world filled with people who have different beliefs? Why is the Christian Apocalypse the true end when, realistically, Christianity is like the middle child on the theological family tree? If we go back to the first issue, one panel perfectly sums up what eventually becomes the book’s most significant revelation. Christians all over the world are being Raptured, but in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, it’s nothing more than a Tuesday, possibly a Wednesday. No one is Raptured because the Muslim concept of the afterlife is ultimately different. Not wrong, not right, just different. Where do those souls go? For the answers, you’ll have to read the book.
Of course it wouldn’t be Bram and Ben if there wasn’t a lot of violence and humor cutting into the highfalutin ideas of religion and moral ambiguity. Thankfully, Rem Broo masterfully brings a joyous amount of energy to every single page. Watching Tipul massacre demons, angels, and a zombie Bram (I refuse to elaborate on that one) with child-like delight is as funny as it is fun to watch. This man has been waiting for the Apocalypse and he’s going to enjoy every damn minute of it! And by proxy, we get to enjoy it along with him. Every panel is worth a second glance just on the off chance that you missed some little tidbit or nuance Broo added because it suited his fancy within the context of the story. Whether its realistic, cartoonish, or grotesque, Broo knows how to get the most out of Asmus and Festante’s words.
Final Thoughts: Best. Apocalypse. Ever!