"With great power comes great responsibility." That is the famous line penned by Stan Lee in the origin of Spiderman. In comics, those with supernatural powers are faced with a choice: Use those powers for good or for evil. There is always a tension between using powers for self or for the greater good.
Samson: Judge of Israel, illustrated by Mario Ruiz, is published by Metron Press.
Predating the modern superhero is the story of the biblical superman, Samson. Metron Press, publisher of Testament, which tells many Old Testament stories, presents the story of Samson in comic form. We are introduced to Samson, down in the Philistine prison, after his fall. The story is told in flashback. What we see is the rise and fall of a man who has great power, but little ability to control his lust, anger and pride.
Samson is a tragic figure. Writer Jerry Novick faithfully uses the biblical text to convey the story of the judge who did not make the right choice in using his God-given ability.
In the book of Judges, where the story of Samson is found, we are told of the cycle of Israel's sin: Israel would sin through forgetting the covenant relationship with God. God would remove his hand of blessing. Enemies of Israel would overrun them. The Israelites would cry out to God for deliverance. God would raise up a judge to bring the people out from under the enemy's thumb.
Samson is a judge, but he does not see his place as deliverer as much as a free agent. As free agent, Samson lives to do what Samson wants. And what Samson wants is to fill his life with wine, women and song. And women will seal his downfall.
Samson's story is archetypal. He is a hero unable to stifle and subdue his own urges. Comparing him to Stan Lee's Spiderman, one can see that Peter Parker was on the pathway to the same kind of life. Parker receives his powers and attempts to use them for his own gain. Yet the tragic death of his Uncle Ben, which occurs because of self-centered ways, moves Parker to devote his life to service.
Samson has no revelatory moment early in his life that moves him to see his powers as a gift for others. Only through blinded eyes down in a prison does Samson come to see his power for what it is: a gift from God to be used for the greater good of all. It is that fall that allows Samson to look up and understand that God is the source of all he is.
Mario Ruiz beautifully illustrates this comic. The only real problem is the characterization of the angel who comes to announce the impending birth of Samson. The angel has a cosmic aura that does not fit well with the story and its background. It is apparent that the angel is otherworldly, but it looks like a cross between Ving Rhames and Laurence Fishburne. The creators are trying to reach an unchurched audience, but this one aspect was a bit over the top.
That is a small concern, however, when one weighs the overall effect of the comic. Metron Press has placed another story of the Bible in a context that many can understand and relate to. It is a wonderful visual presentation of a classic story.
Samson: Judge of Israel provides a means of reaching people with the truth of God's redeeming love and grace.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
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