Thursday, November 1, 2012


"Barabbas waited on the death row shelf. He had run in a gang. He would die by himself. His muscles were thin, his skin was pale, but then that comes with a stay in jail. He was tough underneath, and rough as well, but he jumped at a thump on the door of his cell." So begins one of the best Arch Books ever. It's about the trial of Jesus, and everything about it is right, from the terrific poetry to the dark art that exactly captures the mood for this event. I would not want this artist illustrating everything from Jesus' life, but for these characters and this event, it is just perfect.
See how the trial before Pilate is shown. The details of the laurel leaves, the Roman crest, and the way the Jewish priests are clumped together. Jesus is the least ugly person in the room, but He is by no means pretty or feminized. Pilate's moral weakness is visible in the shape of his face and body. On other pages, there are pictures of Pilate washing his hands before the crowd, and reading his wife's letter warning him to "have nothing to do with that innocent man."
Just look at those ravens flying overhead in this mob scene! How perfect. They know someone is going to die today. They are carrion birds, like the mob below them. I must say a word about the poetry in this book. It is so different from some of the Arch books, where entire incidents, lines, or interpretations are added, obviously just to achieve a rhyme. Very few words are wasted in Barabbas. The rythym is pounding (rather like the relentless pound of events). The choice of words is solid and meaty. There are rhymes within the lines, such as "he jumped at a thump" and some are onomatopoetic, such as, "They hissed and insisted that several times/Jesus was guilty of terrible crimes." The book ends with a pale, puffy Barabbas stepping out into the light, squinting uncomprehendingly at the back of the mob as Jesus is led away. High recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I had a copy of this book as a child and have been hoping to find it again for years. Does anyone know when i could purchase a copy?

    Many thanks