cover image Apocrypha Now

Apocrypha Now

Mark Russell, illus. by Shannon Wheeler. Top Shelf, $19.99 (196p) ISBN 978-1-60309-369-9

Russell and Wheeler (God Is Disappointed in You) team up again for this humorous take on the “DVD extras” of the Bible: the Midrash, Apocrypha, and Gnostic Gospels. There’s nothing musty or highfalutin about these sacred stories; instead, Russell careens brashly from joke to joke, gleefully retelling the cryptic stories in contemporary lingo. The Midrash—oral traditions that inspired or supplemented the Torah—adds nuance to familiar Old Testament stories. Readers meet Lilith, Adam’s other wife; learn about iconoclastic Abram’s disgust with his father’s “Idol Threats” emporium; and hear an ant queen discuss Solomon’s ego and lust problems. One of Wheeler’s New Yorker–ready cartoons wittily skewers many biblical characters’ central dilemma: “On one hand it will make God mad. On the other hand, I’ll get laid.” The title is perhaps misleading given that the Apocrypha section, which contains some of the most bizarre stories, only comprises 40 pages. Russell is not writing for the overly pious: Susanna is “slut-shamed,” Daniel resembles a “Jewish Perry Mason,” and Thecla’s jilted fiancé is “cock-blocked.” For the uninitiated, Russell’s cheeky history will shed light on sainthood traditions such as Thomas’s journey to India and Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. Accurate yet rib-tickling, these scriptural riffs are perfect for fans of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. [em](July) [/em]