Some children grow up with imaginary friends as part of the process of psychosocial development. But Frankie Maxon is different. She grew up with a personal god.
"My Faith in Frankie" is a four-issue comics series by Vertigo Comics that looks at spirituality and religion from a non-Judeo-Christian point of view. In it we are introduced to the aforementioned Frankie Maxon, a 17-year-old moving from adolescence to young adulthood.
Since her christening, Frankie has had Jeriven with her. Jeriven is a god, and he lives to be worshipped by Frankie. Jeriven does things for Frankie, like help her win a childhood game of marbles and save her when she gets in life-threatening situations.
Jeriven is part of a large pantheon of gods. He is the god of heart light, and his mother is the goddess of justice. Jeriven does not spend his days in Godtown, the home of the gods, but with Frankie. As time goes on, his feelings for Frankie change. As Frankie begins to want more interaction with boys, Jeriven discovers he loves Frankie. He does not want Frankie to worship him as much as have a physical relationship with him.
Jeriven moves from god-form to human-form to compete with Dean Baxter, a childhood friend who comes back from the dead to romance Frankie. The power that brings Dean back to life is the god Bragash, which is the god of the underworld. Bragash wants to get Jeriven in a place where he can kill him. In fact, Jeriven's undoing begins when Dean tricks Frankie into saying she doesn't believe in Jeriven any longer.
Kay, Frankie's friend since childhood, is yet another character who enters the plot to complicate things. Kay loves Frankie and desires to be romantically involved with her.
"My Faith in Frankie" deals with many religious themes and seems to have a large hint of Christianity. There are the elements of faith, hope and love. We see resurrection and how the power of righteousness armors the believer. Yet many of the story's elements are what most would consider un-Christian.
Frankie and Kay are typical young adults—unsettled, searching for meaning and purpose. We see them as being savvy in the ways of the culture, but unaware of the larger dimensions of living. They are profane (there is much cursing in the books) and do things that are not morally right.
Jeriven is a god that does not require anything of Frankie except her faith. He tells Frankie that he is a jealous god and cannot stand any rivals. It is her faith that makes him strong, but in the end it is his faith in her that brings about his salvation.
The story brings to the fore some of the changes in Christendom. There seems to be a movement away from the strict holding of doctrinal beliefs and toward the way one lives life. This is very much a part of the story. As mentioned, Frankie is profane, but the way she relates to the world and to Jeriven makes her righteous.
Within the story are vignettes of Frankie's childhood. One shows Frankie sitting under a tree with Jeriven. He is trying to explain to her how she is to relate to him. He says that she is to be pure and devout when she prays to him. Frankie complains about the rules she has to follow, but Jeriven then states that any act can be prayer if offered in the right spirit. Frankie then reaches over and kisses Jeriven on the cheek, which takes him aback.
What the author is saying is that the heart is what is important. Knowledge of the rules may be good, but the better way is having a heart focused on God.
Another interesting point is that the author, Mike Carey, has the characters appeal to God. In difficult or trying situations, the characters are always invoking God or Jesus' name—which makes one wonder why all the work to dispel God from this universe, yet the constant invocation of God.
"My Faith in Frankie" is hard to recommend. Much of its content is profane and morally ambiguous, but it is an important product in the current culture. When I purchased the first issue, the 20-something man at the comic book store gave it a high recommendation. He obviously had read it, and I believe he saw it as a means of trying to find his way toward God and issues of the Spirit.
"My Faith in Frankie" is part of the larger record of our culture's searching for purpose. Most who would read "My Faith in Frankie" would never read The Purpose Driven Life. That is why awareness of it is important to our witness of Christ.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
Also read our reviews of other graphic novels, including "Testament" and "Samson" and "Chosen."