Pax Avalon: Confliction Revolution
Steven “Reece” Friesen. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2008. 114 pages.
Christian graphic stories are as old as take-home Sunday School papers and tracts. Classic examples are The Picture Bible and the blunt Chick cartoon tracts. Book adaptations include Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cross and the Switchblade and the Left Behind series. Recent trends skew towards manga (Japanese style comic book art), fantasy, and superheroes.
Writer/artist Steven “Reece” Friesen’s childhood love for superhero comic books grew to the point where he began to write and draw his own. “I was developing a gift from God for drawing his creations beating the tar out of each other. . . . I asked God to take this guilty pleasure of mine away . . . or make it into something good” (preface). The result is Friesen’s first graphic novel.
Pax Avalon: Conflict Revolution is essentially a superhero team story in the same vein as Marvel’s X-men or DC’s Justice League of America. It begins with a public relations newscast introducing the members of Avalon City Special Operations (ACSO) unit during an arson rescue mission. The team is comprised of Samuel “Doc” Baker, Lieutenant Nori “Badge” Yakamoto, Bobby “Mech” Rodriguez, Tyson “Fireguard” James, and Julianna “Pax” Embry. Each character’s nickname denotes an area of specialty. Doc is a surgeon and team leader, Badge is a policewoman, Mech a mechanical genius, Fireguard a firefighter, and Pax an anabaptist gymnast. Friesen describes the ACSO team as “people with radically different ways of solving problems. . . . They want to get along, but they don’t necessarily understand each other” (111).
The primary protagonist is Pax (Latin for peace), a Christian with the ability to heal others by absorbing their injuries. While Pax seeks to resolve conflicts peacefully, other ACSO members resort to traditional comic book style violence to resolve the major crisis of the story. There is a suggestion that the aftermath of this decision will be dealt with in a sequel.
Friesen’s themes are interesting but the execution of his first graphic novel suffers from difficult to follow panel sequences and forced storytelling. Pax’s internal Christian monologue is awkward and preachy. Pax Avalon: Conflict Revolution will have a hard time reaching comic book fans who are looking for more assured storytelling and art.