Home > Graphic Novels, review > ‘The Book of Genesis’ by R. Crumb: a graphic scripture review

‘The Book of Genesis’ by R. Crumb: a graphic scripture review

R. Crumb’s illustrated version of The Book of Genesis is a monumental piece of work. I have been working on this for a couple of months, but really sat down to finish it recently. Because Crumb, obviously, didn’t write this, the review will be worked a little differently. In that I’ll look how Crumb approaches the subject, and then the standard art section. Since I feel Genesis doesn’t need that much of a background I’m just gonna get started!

Crumb’s Approach:

Crumb is using Genesis as a Hebrew text. In his commentary in the back it’s obvious that Crumb is atheist/agnostic and is approaching the work from the standpoint of cultural appreciation, rather than religious appreciation. For that reason it feels less that Crumb is aiming at giving us an adaption of an ancient text, which Genesis and the rest of the Torah is, rather than as a religious text. But as a means of conveying scripture this is one of the best methods of understanding Genesis. I feel like Genesis is probably the hardest section of the Torah/Old Testament to convey in this form, considering how far it stretches (starts with the creation and up to right before the Moses story). It includes Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Joseph. It’s a lot of material and Crumb must be praised for his attempt and great deal of success at working with the material. As already mentioned, Crumb provides his commentary on the chapters of Genesis as a means of further comprehending his interpretations of the text.

Art:

Crumb’s art adds a lot into the understanding of the text. Crumb’s art style can be compared to etchings. The etch-like work gives the work a sort of legitimate feel. Similar almost to what you’d see when reading Dante’s The Divine Comedy or similar works. It really gives the work a nice feel. The panels do a good job at conveying the text in their respective panels. Crumb aimed at matching panel art with the text in the panels instead of creating a general sequential story. Normally I would disagree with this tactic, but given the way that Genesis is written I believe this method actually works for it better than the more direct sequential style. Crumb can also be very little with his art depictions, so as the cover claims, this is a work for mature audiences.

Final Opinion:

R. Crumb’s ambitious project at illustrating the Book of Genesis is a success for the most part. Crumb does a good job tackling the difficult subject matter. Though he has a clear bias, that is more designed at whether a certain demographic will read it or not. If you’ve ever been interested in reading Genesis, but have been daunted by the wordiness and difficulty of the text, Crumb’s illustration of it is a great place to go. The text remains the same for the most part (only a few differences in wording), the visual accompaniment makes this a work much easier to access. I definitely found this easier to read than pure scripture and enjoyed it.

R. Crumb’s illustrations belong to himself. Genesis belongs to the Torah and Old Testament.

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