Monday, July 22, 2013

Here Comes The Judge!

By now, readers of this blog will have a good idea about what to expect from that banana pudding mixture of Christian fundamentalism and overblown paranoia that is Jack T. Chick. Demons luck everywhere, trying to lead you astray. Your intelligent-sounding best friend might be the Devil in a rubber mask. Reject the Word of God, and death and Hell are only seconds away!

This overly-plotted story, however, is a right turn onto left field. It isn't until halfway through the story that a point begins to emerge.

Chick introduces us to Judge Shelton Barnstead, who "gave to charity and was loved by all," but who apparently "had a dark side that very few knew about." Having introduced his titular character, Chick proceeds to ignore Judge Barnstead for a full eight panels. Those panels tell the story of a mother, Kim Keefer, who returns home with her two kids to see a man killing her husband Kyle. It seems Kyle Keefer was a P.I., who had been investigating the Governor and had gathered photographic evidence against him. The murderer, Lance, escapes with the photos and reports to the Judge. "You messed up big time, stupid!" Judge Barnsy admonishes Lance for being caught in the act, and orders him to "bring me the photos right now!"

Judge Barney gets the photos, but Lance gets himself arrested. In response, the Police Chief plants "a stash of illegal drugs" in Kim's home, then has her arrested for her husband's murder. Kim appears before Judge Barnstead, who gives her 50 years (40 for her crimes, and 10 for calling him a "devil").

All clear so far? The Governor did something bad, Kyle took pictures of him doing it, and the Governor used his extensive list of henchmen and cronies (Judge B, the Police Chief, Lance) to cover his ass. The Governor's next move is to have Judge Barnsy taken care of, and one exploding cafe later the not-so-good judge finds himself in hospital.

And it is here, finally, that the plot... not thickens, exactly, but becomes slightly less runny. Conrad, Judge Barnstead's well-groomed but big-nosed house servant, pays his employer a visit in intensive care. Even though Barnsy treated him "like trash since day one," Conrad feels compelled to tell him "about the awesome Judge you must face after death." Barnsy is unable to speak, having been wrapped up mummy-style, but his fearsome eyebrows make his feelings plain.

Conrad preaches about Jesus, then he goes on to tell his boss about the End Times as well. It's as if Chick stuffed the first half of his tract with his complicated plot, then needed some extra material to fill a few more panels. "So what's your decision, sir?" Conrad asks, and he actually hands the judge a card with Yes and No tic boxes on it! Chick gets in a decent joke here - instead of ticking Yes or No, Judge Barnstead writes "You're fired" on the card. Conrad, and Jesus, take that as a solid No, and anyone who rejects Christ in a Chick tract is doomed to an immediate death. Two panels later a bearded, eyepatch-wearing henchman finishes Barnsy off; his soul "was carried away" and "his muffled screams went unheard." The context suggests the screams took place after his soul's departure; maybe Chick was referring to the judge's agonized cries from Hell. The picture of him burning in flames is small by Chick's usual standard, although his eyebrows aren't nearly so terrifying any more.

Oh, and apparently Judge Barnsy didn't go to Hell for his part in the whole murder/theft/conspiracy deal with the Governor. Chick identifies his sins as that of "stubbornness and pride." Readers are then warned, "Don't make the same mistake!" So it's okay to kill someone and take their stuff, blow up cafes, manipulate the law, plant evidence, send innocent people to jail, and whatever the heck it was the Governor was caught doing in the first place... all that stuff is just fine with the Lord as long as you aren't prideful and stubborn? And how was Judge Barnstead prideful and stubborn, exactly? For rejecting Jesus? How do we know he didn't reject Jesus because he thought his house servant Conrad had gone to the nutty store to buy a pair of crazypants?

Jack T. Chick's tracts are usually obvious to the point of being insulting. Here Comes The Judge is so full of plot that the message is hopelessly lost. You blew this one, Jack. That's my verdict.

Here Comes The Judge
Likely to Convert - 2
Artwork - 7
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - ?

No comments: