For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. In recognition of that, this month the Tarts pick out what they consider to be the best representations of spirituality in comic books...
Lee: The best treatments of spirituality and of religion don't necessarily equate to the best written stories about spirituality or religion. I have always been interested in fiction that uses religious text and principles to set up conflict and drama, though I hesitate to call it the "best treatment" simply because practitioners of that faith may not appreciate such uses of their religion. My enjoyment of these works comes from my interest in world religions and the impact they have on the cultures that follow them.
But this enjoyment only comes if it is the author's intention to elucidate about a particular religious practice, to question the deeper meaning behind religious dogma, or to hold up a mirror and reflect the superficial aspects of the religion back to the reader. There must be substance to the story, after all. And truthfully, it doesn't matter whether an author is stringently challenging the basic tenets, and casting aside pretensions to dig for the kernel of truth, or updating religious allegories for modern audiences, the authors who write the best stories are those who have the clearest understanding of that religion.
I have consistently found that the best religious stories are by Vertigo. There seems to be a tradition of intelligent treatments of religious themes amongst the writers typically associated with Vertigo, including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Mike Carey, Garth Ennis, and Grant Morrison. Ranging from examinations of the relationships between religious figures (as with Carey's Lucifer) to psychedelic religious pop (as with Morrisons' Invisibles) to angry iconoclasm (as with Ennis' Preacher), Vertigo proves that there is no one way to incorporate religion as either a primary or secondary element into stories. They have proven that if the stories are well written, then the audiences will come.
As for breadth and reach, there is no group that is more thorough. In addition to the more commonly received treatments of Christianity, Judaism, Norse, and Egyptian religions, Vertigo stories have also covered Navajo, Aztec, and Shinto religions. One can imagine an unspoken competition amongst Vertigo's erudite British writers to provide the most obscure doctrine or to bring forth the most forgotten Gods of yore.
Either way, I win.