Written by: Matt Hawkins
Art by: Rashan Ekedal
Publisher: Image/Top Cow
I was incredibly excited to check out The Tithe this week, as the set-up both seemed highly intriguing and also controversial. The set-up involves a group of hackers called “the Samaritans” who rob mega churches and give the money to charity like modern day Robin Hoods. While I was very intrigued by this set-up, I could see how it could be potentially thorny or mean spirited towards any religious folk, however Hawkins himself seems like a very balanced, thoughtful chap in his notes and the end and proves these assumptions wrong by delivering an issue that seems surprisingly balanced in his depiction of theological debates and discussions. There are good people and bad people, but they aren’t defined by their religious beliefs. Religion itself also doesn’t serve so much as a villain, but instead as a tool exploited by the villains. This leads to a very cleverly written and satisfying début issue which set up what looks to be a very promising series.
The opening of the comic is very gripping and set the tone perfectly straight away. We have a very seedy seeming pastor preaching to the masses in what may seem like typical villainous slime, but as someone who has attended similar sermons it is frighteningly accurate. It builds the tension so that when the eventual comeuppance comes at the hands of the Samaritans it’s immensely satisfying. It really opens the comic on a strong note. The pace unfortunately slows down in the second half and the dialogue gets very text heavy with the story starting to lose some of its edge and feeling a bit like a standard procedural drama, however Hawkins sprinkles in some good character interaction between a Christian cop and his atheist partner which sees some of the themes return to the narrative and proves that this story has some intelligence behind it and doesn’t want to be entirely one sided. The main story unfortunately ends a bit abruptly which makes the slower pace seem like more of a problem, but the epilogue contains more good character work which ends the issue on a strong note and leaves great promise for future issues.
The art by Ekedal is similarly great and incredibly well designed. If you’ve never seen a mega church it may seem like more of a satire but his depiction seems very accurate and it’s reveal is very well done. I love the little details he sprinkles throughout the books such as the Jesus masks which push the themes of the book to the forefront and give the book a unique style. There’s not too many crazy things he gets to draw in the issue but he handles the material very well and hopefully he’ll get the chance to prove himself in later issue.
Overall, Tithe was a very pleasant surprise, it’s a story with some real fangs and takes a critical look at modern day religion, while at the same time remains respectful of other people’s beliefs. There’s a lot of smart storytelling going on here and a great hook to the story; most of what’s in this issue is set-up but it shows a lot of potential and I’d recommend the comic to anyone with an interest in the religious themes and I will certainly come back for more.