OK, I’ll weigh in: I really, really like the new R. Crumb new version of Genesis.
When it was announced that the legendary underground comic book artist was going to take a crack at the Book of Genesis, I’m sure that many expected it to be an exercise in post-modern Biblical irony. They needn’t have worried. Crumb has reimagined Genesis like nothing I’ve read/seen in a long, long time.
Some might quibble with his rendering of certain episodes (and I do), but I don’t think anyone can reasonably call this a novelty version. Crumb has definitely done his homework – and while he admits in his introduction that he does not regard the Bible as the word of God, he clearly has a healthy respect for its mythic power:
(The Bible) is a powerful text with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective unconsciousness, our historical consciousness, if you will. It seems indeed to be an inspired work, but I believe that its power derives from its having been a collective endeavor that evolved and condensed over many generations before reaching the final fixed form as we know it during the “Babylonian Exile,” circa 600 BCE…
If my visual, literal interpretation of the Book if Genesis offends or outrages some readers, which seems inevitable considering that the text is revered by many people, all I can say in my defense is that I approached this as a straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes. That said, I know that you can’t please everybody.
Though it seems like an unlikely project for him, Crumb’s earthy, hyper-realistic style actually serves the Biblical narrative quite well. Many will undoubtedly regard his graphic representation to be reductionist or even idolatrous (the most obvious example being God rendered as a stern, old bearded man). I personally experienced his effort as “visual midrash” that has intellectual and emotional impact in virtually every panel.
There have been a number of worthwhile reviews of the Crumb Genesis. If you are interested in reading up on the critical reaction, I highly recommend Biblical scholar Robert Alter’s recent piece in The New Republic.