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All comic books feature splendid art by Fred Carter!

"ALBERTO" Review! (Crusaders #12) Jack claims he prayed long and hard before printing this comic. The fact that The Lord gave him the go ahead proves that either Alberto is true, or that God has a very warped sense of humor. (Or maybe both.) The comic opens with Alberto being left at a Spanish Monastery by his mother. A few years later, she gets sick and dies screaming about demons. Fast forward to San Diego, 1979. Some secret service-looking fellow phones Tim Clark and asks if he'll watch over Alberto for a while. Once in the safe custody of the Crusaders, Alberto reveals he was nearly driven off the road by someone. Who would want to do such a thing? Why, the Vatican, of course. Alberto wastes no time explaining how many feathers he ruffled once he saw the light and broke away from the "Catholic System". Being an ex-Jesuit priest, he knows where all the Vatican bodies are buried... literally! (Baby bodies, no less-- page 12.) Other juicy gossip includes homosexuality and promiscuity in the Holy Orders, torture and murder during the Inquisition (complete with graphic images), and predictions of a new holocaust for all heretics once the Vatican's super computer completes the list of Catholic enemies. Several pages explain the ongoing espionage that Jesuits and their operatives conduct against real Bible believing churches. Alberto was one of the undercover agents sent to destroy such churches, and he outlines the clever ploys used to discredit preachers who dared speak out against the Pope. The best dirty tricks seem to involve young women agents. Some of the panels are pretty suggestive! One of the less titillating but unintentionally humorous scenes shows how Alberto "corrupted" the other Bible college students by merely holding hands with a female in public. Old maid teachers look on in outrage and one declares, "well I never!" Haw-haw-haw!

But then agent Alberto has doubts about his mission. He starts to read a New Testament without the Official Roman Catholic Seal of Approval (Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur). Sure enough, the truth sets him free. He becomes saved and all hell breaks loose! They toss him in an Insane Asylum, give him drugs and electric shock treatment, but eventually give up and let him go. Like most retired insane asylum seekers, he moves to California. Flashback to 1979 and Alberto reminds the Crusaders that Roman Catholics do not go to heaven but to hell, and someone has to warn them. James Carter asks, "who would have the guts to preach that?" Alberto exclaims, "I do! Because I love them." The inside back cover makes the final plea: "THIS IS NO GAME-- IT'S WAR FOR YOUR SOUL! Either it's total commitment and submission to Christ or lose everything forever by going on with Satan and Baal worship." (Satan meaning the Pope and Baal worship meaning Catholicism.)

This comic is rather wordy, with several panels devoted entirely to text. But there's some sexy scenes and torturous violence to keep things moving, and of course, a world class conspiracy theory at the heart of it. This is the first of six Alberto comics, and it promises readers they are in for a thrilling (albeit risky) ride with Alberto as he reveals the dirty under-belly of his former masters. Grade A- for Alberto! Return to Comic Index.

"THE BIG BETRAYAL" (Guest Review by Steve Trainor!) In the early eighties, long before "graphic novels" were the rage, Chick outdid himself in presenting this 64-page blockbuster adaptation of Charles Chiniquy's old anti-Catholic book FIFTY YEARS IN THE "CHURCH" OF ROME. With what is arguably Fred Carter's best art ever, Chick moves Father Chiniquy's long meandering narrative along at a breakneck pace and proves that he is one of the most underrated ideological propagandists of the entire 20th century. (Judging from his scant autobiographical references, I think even he would consider that a compliment.) I don't care if you disagree with every page of it-- if you are honest, you WILL concede the utter greatness of this comic as effective protestant propaganda. Chick's goal was to resurrect Chiniquy's old fundy cult favorite (even house like Revell and Zondervan had published it periodically) and present it in a way that would give it the greatest number of readers possible. On this level, Jack succeeded magnificently. The story is basically that of a priest who rose from humble beginnings in Canada to worldwide fame as a temperance crusader and eventually was converted to protestantism. (Contrary to what you read sometimes, Chiniquy was very much a real, historical individual: I once saw a detailed bio of him in a very old ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA which gave particular attention to his temperance efforts in Canada.) Jack spends a great deal of time developing Chiniquy's relationship to Abraham Lincoln and his theories about Abe's murder in this adaptation: they actually comprise a much smaller part of Chiniquy's original book. Still, they are very entertaining-- at least as much as Oliver Stone's JFK and equally as dramatic! Mention must be made of Carter's artwork, which is amazingly precise in its period detail and epic in it scope. I think that the BIG BETRAYAL and TITANIC are his very best work and truly showcase his awesome power as a sequential artist. My choice for best panel: Carter's depiction of the exact moment of Lincoln's fatal wound! It was so real I thought I HEARD the deadly Derringer go off! If you've never read this one, brother, I actually envy you! You've some great entertainment to look forward to! Grade: A+ for Alcoholic Jesuits!

"THE BROKEN CROSS" Review! (Crusaders Vol. 2): This story reads more like an episode of X-Files than Christian church tales. There's plenty of foreboding, rain soaked atmosphere, and subtle clues that our two agents (of Christ, not the FBI) pick up in order to solve the case. Did I forget to mention sex appeal too? The very first panel has a sexy 14 year old girl who is "fully developed" and is wearing a revealing halter top. (I'm no pedophile, but if this is what the 14 year olds of today are looking like, I better not tutor any high schoolers!) She hitch hikes and is picked up by a van full of Satanism who grab her and inject her full of drugs. Soon she's on the Pagan alter getting sliced to pieces by cloak covered Devil Worshipers. Her body is found without "a drop of blood in her body!". Our biracial God-squad immediately recognize this as the work of the occult. But a pot-bellied sheriff tells black Tim "Hey BOY, stay out of this if you know what's good for you" in fine Southern style. Do you think they listen? Of course not. They charge straight into the mystery and outsmart all the experts. Naturally, they ruffle a few feathers along the way. For example, there's the sinister Pastor Cooley who reads the misguided Common Bible and doesn't really believe in the resurrection. He calls Tim a religious bigot and proudly proclaims that he's a liberal pastor. Once they're gone, he lights his devil candle for revenge. Then there's the little old lady at the Library. She seems to know a lot more than what she admits about the missing occult books. And of course, there's the street person they pick up in the road gnawing body parts. (A rather ripe human hand I believe. Which just goes to show that mom was right all along: Chewing finger nails really is a nasty habit.) Fortunately, they also meet some nice people. Or at least an open minded witch they are able to turn into a nice person with a quick bible sermon and an impromptu prayer session. Unfortunately, when the other devil worshipers see her on her knees praying with our heroes, they instantly slate her for death. Fast thinking and the power of God save the night in an ending straight out of X-Files, or at least a Scooby-Doo cartoon. All the town's big shots are found hiding beneath the cloaks when the cops arrive. (And they would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those snoopy Christians!) A friendly neighborhood Book Burning and Ouija Board Bar-B-Q round out this tasty little tale of terror. For sheer action, adventure, mystery and malevolence, it's hard to imagine a better Chick comic than this. Grade A+. (To read Chick's open letters defending John Todd, go here. Todd was the source of information used for this comic, as well as Spellbound and Angel of Light.) Return to Comics Index.

"FOUR HORSEMEN" Review (The Crusaders Vol. 16): What a book! Full of all sorts of Catholic dirty laundry. The Nazis, the inquisitions, the undercover schemes... You'll have a hard time sitting still through mass after reading this one, beloved! Let's face it-- previous Popes could sometimes be big time Bad Asses. Actual torture sequences are given in graphic detail. You'll need a strong stomach to finish it too, especially when the women are brutalized for sins as insignificant as not turning in family members for reading the Bible. (Up until the last century, lay Catholics were not supposed to read the Bible.) Of particular interest in the section (page 24) explaining how the Pope is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Chick brings up some pretty amazing trivia. Check it out and you'll see what I mean. Lots of photos as well as art in this one. Conspiracy buffs will have a field day with this comic. A gripping read. Grade A for Apocalypse. Return to Comics Index.

"JONAH" Review: This comic book is special for several reasons. It's the only Chick comic currently out of print. The high cost of producing it on glossy stock made it too expensive. Other Chick comics feature Fred Carter illustrations with color added. Jonah features full color Carter paintings and the result is colorful indeed. According to those who spoke with Chick about it, Jonah was orginally slated to be a movie. Fred Carter paintings would relate the story, almost like a slide show with music and narration. But Chick decided to expand the project into a movie about the Bible in general. (That ten year project should be completed any day now.) The paintings from the abandoned Jonah movie were used to comprise this comic. So readers can basically get a "sneak preview" of the movie by viewing the comic book. There are several pretty gross scenes. Jonah getting digested inside the shark, and Jesus getting crucified are both rather graphic. (Jesus is practically sliced to ribbons.) Also of interest is the crossover images used from the tract of the same topic (First Jaws). At least ten panels reappear in the comic. Carter probably painted over these illustrations, because they look identical except for small details. The most glaring example is when Jonah is tossed into the sea (comic page 11, tract page 9). In the tract, readers can see Jonah's shipmates in the background tossing him in the ocean, but in the comic, the background is ocean waves only. The tract was ©1985, while the comic was printed in 1994. The early version of the tract cover uses an overhead shot of Jonah as the shark approaches from beneath. Later tract covers (probably after the comic was completed) use a side profile of Jonah being swallowed, the same image used on the comic book cover. This comic is well worth having to compare to both the tract, and other comic books. It gives a good idea what Chick would be producing if unbound by fiscal restraints, plus an exciting glimpse of what we have in store for us when the movie is completed. Grade: A for Awesome Artwork. Return to Comics Index.

"OPERATION BUCHAREST" Review! (Crusaders Vol. 1): The very first Crusader comic goes to great lengths to create a dramatic "spy" atmosphere. Of course, the Crusaders are not spies at all... just Christians out to deliver Bible "micro-film" behind the Iron Curtain! (Insert dramatic music flare here.) But this minor detail is quickly forgotten as the KGB sets out to foil the Crusaders (former Green Beret Timothy Emerson Clark and former drug dealer badass mo-fo James Carter (who's black and looks just like Fred Carter the artist)). How does the KGB find out the Crusaders are coming? Gertrude, the Jewish passport clerk tells them. Meanwhile, on the Politically Correct side of the isle, Chick seems to support inter-racial sex by condemning Russians who are angry at Cater for appearing to date a white girl. Pretty saucy innuendo for 1974 (the original copyright date). Needless to say, the Crusaders sneak the micro-film to the Christian Underground (by hiding it in a cigarette) and leave a path of converted communists in their wake. Included in the "saved" count is the sexpot Sofia. She tries to seduce Tim and gets the gift that keeps on giving (born again). She declares to the Crusaders "I'm ready to lay down my life for Jesus" (they respond "we'll see you in heaven".) She's gets sent to prison in Siberia for her betrayal but manages to run outside in the snow and pray "Dear Lord, thank you for sending Timothy and Jim to tell me about your love and for the beautiful future you have planned for me." (I guess the snow beats the flames of hell.) Super Carter art and fun Russian/Spy stereotypes. 32 pages of fantastic color. Grade A- (only because they improve even more over time.) Return to Comics Index.

"PRIMAL MAN" Review (The Crusaders Vol. 6): This full color comic features superb art by Carter. The story starts off with a cave man scene. Just when you think Chick is about to reconcile Evolution with Creationalism, it turns out it's only a TV show. Then the REAL story begins. A Creationalist tries to convince a Hollywood producer that Evolution is bunk. With The Crusaders praying for him on the sidelines, God runs interference keeping the lite-in-the-loafers director and bitter old Biology expert away long enough for the message to "get through" to the producer. After hearing all the holy testimony, he (of course) recognizes that Evolution is a hoax and contemplates killing the series. This story has what you might call a "survival of the fittest" ending. Any one who's ever worked in Hollywood (and I have a long history of never doing so) can tell you this is EXACTLY how it operates! Straight A! Return to Comics Index.

"SPELLBOUND"Guest Review by Dave! (Crusaders vol. 10): This is a great comic! Just look at the cover. A row of cassettes surrounding a candle with moths being drawn and consumed by the flame. (The original 70s version featured 8-tract tapes forming the circle of Stone Hinge.) The story starts out with an exciting car chase. (Fred Carter can really draw action scenes when he wants to.) Jim the black crusader is almost deliberately ran off the road by Bobby Dallas, rock star. (Motive? Just for kicks.) Instead, Bobby's car crashes and Jim saves his life. Bobby returns the favor by inviting Jim to "a little get together at my pad" complete with food, booze, grass, pills, coke (not the liquid variety) and the usual assortment of Rock artist inspirational substances. The Crusaders and their dates abstain. (The girls cling to their manly dates, terrified by the weirdoes that surround them.) The wholesome foursome find a quite table to sit down at and say grace. Guests stare at them and one remarks, "It looks like we've got some aliens with us! I don't like this one bit!"

We are also treated to a detailed lecture on the history of various occult objects, all because one dude wears a small piece of Egyptian jewelry. (It doesn't take much to get Chick going!) In case you're worried that having these symbols in your house in comic book form might attract demons, fear not. Chick's footnote assures us: "Witches believe that only occult symbols in 3 dimensional shapes such as jewelry, statues or books pushing the occult can be used for casting spells... so you need not burn this book." (What a relief.)

But inviting the Crusaders to the party proves fatal to Bobby. It seems that one of the characters from a previous adventure is there and recognizes them. Bobby is soon found floating face up in the pool. (Oh well, he would have died anyway if Jim hadn't saved him, so he's really no worse off.) We are then treated to a short history of the druids, introduced to Penny (a teen with a lot of 'far out' cassettes), and Lance Collins, whose family were witches and druids FOR OVER 700 years! (Lance looks like a teacher I had in HS whom I hated, by the way). A lot of the history of the druids is actually pretty interesting. Did you know the Beatles had a "druid rock" beat? Or that witches have a language similar to truckers CB talk? But wait, it gets even better...

We get a short study of the recording industry. Favorite Panel Award goes to an ominous looking Master Tape waiting to be blessed "by an evil force (to a Christian, this means a curse)"! It gets even wilder: witches file into the recording studio to perform their demonic ceremonies. (Chick notes: "The witches perform this ceremony skyclad (nude), but we've clothed them for this story". (Bummer.)) A ghost like blob of blue ectoplasm appears. All this is revealed in Lance's blistering Sermon/ flashback. He shares an anecdote given to him by a missionary in Africa about Rock being the music used to call up demons. Things climax in another exciting car chase and a victorious record burning. I think we see a cameo appearance of the druid cop from the Broken Cross! (These comics can be as densely layered as the X-files... I half expected to see the cigarette smoking man appear in the corner.) The story ends with the liberal media giving a big thumbs down to the record burning and the newscaster trying to decide whether the Christians are really Nazis or Klansmen. Not too far from the liberal media's views on Christians today... Grade: A+ Return to Main Page.

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