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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #203 by Drew Barth

A Kind of Truth

Some comics get meta. How many time has Grant Morrison appeared in one of their stories at this point? Injecting a bit of our reality into the universe of a comic is a fun way to approach character interactions. Some meta narrative strains go deeper. When the characters in the book start telling a story within a story, we spiral right down in Will Morris and Holley McKend’s Gospel

Gospel opens straight-forwardly with a continuation of the cover’s narrative as a giant boar chases Matilde of Rumpstead through her village during the time of King Henry VIII. She dodges children and rushes through markets before the boar crashes into and collapses a small trade building. As the chase continues, Matilde impales the boar on her sword from above.

Here the story zooms out to show the man telling this story. Another man tells the tale of Matilde of Rumpstead’s encounter with a much smaller boar and the subsequent destruction of a potter’s home as she chases the boar from house to street before it escapes without ever being touched. And the story zooms out again to a more modern setting as Mr. Fisher tells this story of a story to Gita Karan, a civil servant checking on if Mr. Fisher needs some kind of guardianship.

As a first issue, Gospel strikes that delicate balance between revealing too much about its story and the story of the story that we’re diving through. Morris and McKend’s craft nesting narratives, every part entwining with another. Pitt, the storyteller for Matilde that Mr. Fisher tells us about, has to contend with these stories becoming too real as the actual Devil appears on a hillside. These layers call into question exactly what Pitt is seeing and if the story Mr. Fisher is telling is even real.

Sixteenth century stories never feel quite real despite the historical records and accounts that we have. How many of these stories are historically true and how many are mythologizing a moment of national pride that persists for centuries? In Gospel, so much depends on who’s telling the story.

Get excited. Get historical.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.