August 22, 2019 Skillet – Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel (Graphic Novel Review)
From the creators behind Andy Black’s The Ghost of Ohio, Poppy’s Genesis 1, Yungblud’s Ritalin Club, and more, comes the brand new Skillet graphic novel, Eden. In collaboration with Frontman John Cooper, Z2 Comics issue this battle for redemption on Tuesday, August 27, 2019.
Clearly, you already know a little something about the band Skillet. The 12x-platinum, twice Grammy Award nominated quartet from Tennessee are one of this generation’s most successful Rock acts. Also making quite a name for themselves, Z2 Comics have been releasing quality graphic novels since 2012, including collaborations with such musicians as Andy Biersack/Black (The Ghost of Ohio), BabyMetal (Apocrypha: The Legend of BabyMetal), Yungblud (Ritalin Club), and more. So, what does one get when they combine the ever-evolving talents of Skillet with the passionate craft of Z2 Comics? Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel, of course!
For Eden, the creative team at Z2 worked alongside Skillet Frontman John Cooper to create an original story that deals with faith and redemption in a post-apocalyptic world. The 144-page graphic novel—which comes in a fairly standard 7 x 10 inch paperback format— was co-written by the multi-talented Cooper along with Random Shock. The book’s overall design comes to us thanks to Tyler Boss, with drawings by Chris Hunt, and coloring by Fred Stresing and Meg Casey. Lettering was handled by Justin Birch.
The story here is an intriguing one. The small, fictitious farm town of Coltonville, Tennessee, might be paradise, but John isn’t happy. Haunted by a recurrent dream of a purple door, he is exhausted from lack of sleep and his nightly perimeter sweeps. You see, this is post-apocalyptic America: this is life in the Aftermath of the Unravelling; a time where bizarre, six-eyed beasts called Rowdies can attack at any moment. Needless to say, John’s wife Korey is worried about him, though she shares in his recurrent dream, a nightly premonition that has led the couple to both exhibit a unique trait—glowing lilac eyes.
Though it’s been nearly a year since the town’s last Rowdy attack, there’s something ominous hanging in the air over Coltonville, and the arrival of a group of red-cloaked strangers with glowing purple eyes does little to calm tensions. The Lilac Lodge, led by the eccentric Harry Trench, create a divisive presence: some want to overlook their off-putting, cult-like appearance and welcome the travelers, while others experience a bad taste about the entire situation. For their part, John and Korey cannot ignore the fact that they share the same purple-eyed affliction as several members of the group.
When the Lodge’s hasty disappearance seemingly paves the way for a deadly Rowdy attack, tensions mount to a breaking point and John and Korey Cooper will find themselves expelled from Coltonville. But just as they have been made outsiders in their group, they reconnect with two estranged Lodgers named Seth and Jen. Together, the four will have to make some very difficult decisions about whom they can trust in this brave new world.
Part superheroics, part apocalyptic horrors, Eden offers a little something for every reader. The plot is original and intriguing, one that raises important questions that cross social, political, and religious boundaries to reach a conclusion that fights for unity. As one of the characters muses, “Walls and fences may keep out some of the bad, but they keep out so much of the good.” In our divisive modern times, Eden offers hopeful insight amidst its bleak, futuristic landscape.
It’s hard not to immediately draw comparisons between the Lilac Lodge and the real-life Heaven’s Gate cult, who, rather than walk through a purple door to paradise, aimed to board an extraterrestrial spacecraft. Okay, sure, there’s a good Kool-Aid crack in the text, which references the Jonestown cult, but there’s still this eerie sense of real-life history in the crafting of the Lilac Lodge. The rest of the story, nope, that’s all original and very Sci-Fi/Horror flavored in its detailing of an apocalyptic event that has led Americans to build walled fortifications, living life in fear of some seriously gnarly beasts called Rowdies. (One might say there is a slight nod to Stephen King’s epic The Stand, but it’s a gentle nod and one without heavy bearing on the plot.)
However, don’t go believing that this story is all seriousness without any comedic breaks. There are little jokes here and there (oh Tammy Wynette), and John’s character certainly has a few sassy moments, but there’s always a fiery zest for showing that what’s “right” is not always what’s easy. The entire band are included in the tale, of course, and poor Jen Ledger gets put through the ringer: a young woman turned part cyborg, she seems to often be involved in the story’s physical altercations—which, due to the post-apocalyptic setting, there are no shortage of, along with a lot of guns.
While there are some errors in the text, namely the spelling of the fictitious element Aionicite (think Kryptonite), that’s pretty much all one could nitpick about Eden. Artistically speaking, the drawings are wonderfully created, with an appreciation for purples and blues throughout the largely neutral color palette. Readers can look forward to full page scenes—including a killer depiction of Jen kicking some butt on a staircase—along with many smaller cells, but no two pages are ever designed exactly alike. As for the creatures, the Rowdies, while they are not the most horrifying thing one will ever see, they are certainly bizarre enough to defy a simple explanation: with six yellow eyes and a bulky body that ends in plumage, they are part alien, part rhinoceros, and somehow also avian.
For Skillet fans, there are some extras that might entice you to enter Eden, and they include a QR code that links to an unreleased Skillet track, as well as a personal introductory message from John that involves underoos, superheroes, bucket lists, and lovingly embracing who you are—even if that’s a comic book nerd. There’s more, but all in all, if you’re a die-hard collector of Skillet material, Eden has a lot to offer.
All of this said, Eden is truly a story about outsiders, trust, monsters, and the apocalypse. If the end of the world is no place for soft hearts, and the first casualty of conflict is trust, does one have to shed their morality in order to survive? Raising questions of faith, responsibility, and so much more, the story asks and answers if our world of violence, bigotry and rage is even worth saving. Is Country crooner Luke Bryan right: are most people good? Well, that’s for each reader to decide, but Eden will certainly provide you a thrill-ride on your journey toward those answers. For this, Cryptic Rock give Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel 4.5 of 5 stars.