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» October 17, 2023

Cover

Archangel - Comic #02 (ARCA)
Art by Ron Frenz, Charles Barnett III & Buzz Setzer - © 2007 Catholic Archdiocese of New York


Archangel. Comic #02 (ARCA) Art by Ron Frenz, Charles Barnett the Third and Buzz Setzer - © 2007 Catholic Archdiocese of New York

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Commentators: Jessica. Anna. Boudreaux. Mingnon.
CommentatorsCommentators

  Jessica   Anna   Boudreaux   Mingnon  

Jessica

 

Anna

 

Boudreaux

 

Mingnon

 

 
Page Index
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
      23 24 25 26 27      

Commentators Jessica
 

o Introduction

JessicaJessica Once upon a time… in the long, long ago… we took a look at a funny little comic / coloring book produced by the Archdiocese of New York called “Being Friends, Being Safe, Being Catholic”. Back in the mid-to-late ‘aughties, the Catholic Church as a whole was desperately reeling from and trying to cope with the on-going and absolutely unavoidable PR nightmare that resulted from the public revelation that their clergy had been repeatedly touching children in inappropriate ways for decades.

In an effort to combat this unfortunate press, they created the Safe Environment Program whose mission was to create training and resources to both help launder their image a tad, as well as to help protect the young, elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable members within their laity from exploitation and abuse. One would think that if an organization that claims to have an existential monopoly on moral behavior had to create an entire academic paradigm just to prevent its adherents from molesting children, they’d be justified in taking a good, long look at themselves in the mirror. Out of this institutional navel-gazing, they opted to partner with Charles Barnett III, one of their parishioners and an accomplished comic book artist in his own right, to create both the aforementioned coloring book as well as another full-sized comic aimed instead at older children and teenagers. Far be it to say, this comic addresses some pretty heavy topics like sexual abuse / exploitation, trauma and suicide. Unlike it's predecessor, it only somewhat holds back on explicit depictions of these subjects to avoid offending the religious sensibilities of its intended audience. Those who have a history and/or sensitivity to these kinds of topics should keep this in mind before proceeding.

So, as we promised all those many years ago, in celebration of the start of the school year here in America, we are finally getting around to breaking down the other, darker head of the two-faced Janus of the Catholic sex abuse comic duo-logy known as Archangel.
   
AnnaAnna I am highly curious and brimming with delight at the chance to dissect such an ‘exotic’ specimen, I do have to temper my enthusiasm with the fact that what the victims went through due to such abuse is not to be taken lightly. Indeed, despite my proclivities towards, shall we say, darker aspects of existence, part of my work is to try and bring respite and solace to those who are suffering, alive or otherwise. And given the topic, I genuinely hope that those who were victims are able to recover and heal from their wounds. That said, considering past circumstances where I’ve functioned as a conduit for the departed, it may very well be that I’ll have scant memory of what may have been said through me.
   
MingnonMingnon While I have been well aware of the Catholic controversy surrounding abuse and even acknowledge the famous docudrama Spotlight, more obscure pieces of Catholic media will more easily fall under my notice such as this comic. I had my suspicions about its content but nonetheless read through it blindly. So you may have to bear with my own critique as you read ahead.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I am looking forward to seeing how this comic will presumably help the Church both cleanse its image, and perhaps clean up its act a bit.

 

oPage 1

Cover / Page 1 AnnaAnna I see one of the characters has what reminds me of the thousand-yard stare, that look of dissociation you often see in victims of trauma. I have met people in life with that same look and at a similar age to her. My heart always bleeds for them, as I want to do what I can to ease their pain.
   
JessicaJessica If you're referring to the brunette, I'm not entirely sure she's even still alive. She looks so gaunt and hollowed-out it's like she's been dead a few days herself.

Just like Barnett did in Being Catholic, he seems to be taking a page out of the Marvel "floating heads" playbook here. His artistic bona fides certainly are showing.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux The blonde and the redhead definitely have a lot of anguish in their expressions.
   
MingnonMingnon Personally from an out-of-context standpoint, the brown-hair girl looks like she’s sighing and saying, “Here we go again…

 

o Page 2

Page 2 JessicaJessica "You know, most depictions of Michael the Archangel in sculpture depict him battling and/or smiting the dragon Lucifer just prior to casting him out of Heaven. Very few have him just standing around stoically like this."

Also, take note of that pigeon(?) perched atop his sword pommel. You wouldn’t assume it, but that bird is actually part of the statue, not an errant, flying rodent just taking a siesta there. You can see it never moves in several pages later on.
   
MingnonMingnon It looks like Michael is just admiring his little bird friend.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I would tend to assume that this statue represents Michael in his aspect of the guardian of the church. Apparently he was especially favored by the orders of Christian knights. If the bird is part of the statue, I don’t get it. I can’t find any association between birds and Michael.
   
AnnaAnna To nitpick, the halo not being stone and being metal seems to imply that it was an afterthought when making the original statue. And why do four of the five panels have flocks of birds depicted? Are you implying that Michael is stoically repelling a bunch of demons disguised as birds?

 

o Page 3

Page 3 AnnaAnna To my knowledge, Saint Michael always keeps an eye on and stays close to the faithful at all times, as does God. They don’t need to be reminded of this by you. And I’m going to call out your lack of manners. You ought to say please and show gratitude, on principle alone, not just because you want a favor from them.

San Miguel is ‘Saint Michael’ in Spanish, so the parallel between the two and the associated actions are quite clear, as you will see later in the story.
   
MingnonMingnon Nice that the comic acknowledges the use of nicknames, culturally based in this instance. But on the note of the lower panels, was Melissa supposed to say something before the “Yeah, yeah, yeah”? It seems kind of disorienting to me.
   
JessicaJessica Yeah, I didn't pick up on that. It seems like Shelly should be responding to something Melissa had said, like "Oh, a play sounds really interesting!". I wonder if something got lost in proofreading their first draft or something.

 

o Page 4

Page 4 AnnaAnna *sigh* Considering the people of Texas, Mississippi and New York all speak American English, I’m not exactly sure how your ‘joke’ works. Granted, if you were surrounded by say British students, then your ‘joke’ might work. Of course, I imagine they’d then counter with the same ‘joke’ about teaching you how to use and speak British English. For example, aluminum to aluminium. And then you can all debate about what salted and fried potato snacks are called.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I imagine that it is referring to regional accents. In the South, speech tends to be slower and words can get really stretched out. When we listen to someone from rural Texas for example, we are amazed how many syllables can be fitted into a short word. And there are regional colloquialisms like y’all instead of you. Here is a bit of an example.
   
AnnaAnna That doesn’t earn it any reprieve. It is still a terrible ‘joke’, even more so because it's still the same base root language (American English).
   
Jessica JessicaPresuming this takes place in New York, I can't imagine these high class, white-bread, suburban kids would take very kindly to the kind of Southern drawl you'd get from a recent Texas/Mississippi transplant. At the same time, these kids no doubt have their own accents that sound equally as ridiculous to non-New Yorkers. You know, normal people?

 

o Page 5

Page 5 AnnaAnna *sigh deeply* So you see an adult male get quite intimate with high school girls, including wrapping his arms around the shoulders of both of them, one of which you know is his daughter and the other is her friend. And you do not find that weird? That does not scream at you that something is off? You are deserving of any and all misfortune that befalls you for enabling it, whether through your blissful ignorance or deliberate fault.
   
MingnonMingnon First the upper-right, then the lower-right. I was already starting to sense that something was skeezy, but this basically confirms it. IF people were trained, or practicing how to notice the subtleties, they would notice this as well. In highly controlled circles, unfortunately, this becomes way less likely.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I would imagine that the “always has fun” bit is something of a foreshadowing as well.
   
JessicaJessica "Oh, certainly Robert. I'm just here to 'pick up' Melissa, if you catch my drift. And how could I not have fun? What with all of these Catholic school girls in these absolutely salacious little plaid skirts? Why, wild horses couldn't drag me away from this neotenous, All You Can Eat buffet by my dick!"

 

o Page 6

Page 6 JessicaJessica Derby can friggin' CHOP WOOD with that absolute unit of a chin he's got going on there. Does he need to shave with a belt-sander? Why were they inspired to give the leering adult the most defined lantern jaw imaginable? Are we supposed to be attracted to this guy?
   
AnnaAnna I’m inclined to think it is meant to be thinly veiled allegory. Like how Lucifer was beautiful before his fall and can still take the form of beautiful things in order to deceive people. Same sort of idea with this depiction. As for his lantern jaw, if he does get sent to prison, give him a few days in there. Doubt his jaw would be so defined, particularly since he might be kept away from the general prisoner population because of his crimes to protect him from being killed in prison.
   
MingnonMingnon From the thought bubble, it would seem that Jose recognizes Derby for some reason. Has he seen the man someplace doing something shady before? Or maybe he just recognizes the kind of inappropriate attention that’s being given to Susan. Or in the most crazy scenario, Jose fought Derby as an archnemesis sometime in the past.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I suspect that it is the case that he recognizes Mr. Derby’s behavior as something he has previously seen from others.

 

o Page 7

Page 7 AnnaAnna So essentially, despite having a much bigger venue (school grounds, including an auditorium), you decided to let it all happen at Mr. Derby’s house. Why? Even with your rationale that the gym is being renovated, you can still use the auditorium, or outside on school premises, like around the building on the grass. The first reason I can think of as to why you would agree to something this idiotic and irresponsible is because you get a commission or cut from Mr. Derby. And if it’s not a monetary cut, then perhaps it's a cut of illegal material. Mr. Derby strikes me as the type to use a hidden camera to record after all.

I must profess my gratitude for making my suspicions even more pointed towards deliberate fault on your part. Ignorance is a very weak shield in the eyes of the law and breaks quite easily.
   
MingnonMingnon My own guesses are that the principal and Derby are like really, really good friends, or Derby must have paid a massive bribe or dug up some blackmail material.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Most likely laziness on the part of the story writer. They needed to get the kids off campus, and used a flimsy excuse to make it happen.
   
JessicaJessica "Girls, now what do we do about the boys?"

Three words… sequined banana hammocks.

 

o Page 8

Page 8 AnnaAnna Might be my distrust of humanity talking, but this is why if I ever use a bathroom, I lock whatever door/s I can and/or manipulate the environment to barricade the door and then move it back to its original position when I’m done.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Mr. Derby is certainly being pretty blatant in his skeeviness. What possible reason would he have to talk to her inside the bathroom, when he could have just as easily asked her when she came back outside? The author certainly didn’t want you to miss all the foreshadowing.
   
JessicaJessica I agree. Who just lets themselves into an occupied bathroom like this, even in their own house? And this doesn't immediately set off alarm bells for her?
   
MingnonMingnon I secondly agree. Most people would just say ‘Oh sorry’ and then immediately close the door. This seems to tell me this isn’t the first time he’s doing this.
   
AnnaAnna Indeed. People can ask how you are doing and if you require anything without needing to enter the bathroom. If they are insistent on entering, then at the very least, given my tendencies to lock and/or barricade the door to bathrooms out of distrust of humanity, there’s time to prepare any sort of object to use as a weapon, or use a knife or other tool that I happen to be carrying on me.

 

o Page 9

Page 9 JessicaJessica Your fingers are so slender… so feminine. They are far too tapered for the sink you are using.
   
AnnaAnna If you say "No", and they don’t listen, the next move is to yell loudly (since you appear to be somewhere with a lot of people), and fight back to where you can run away safely. If you do have that instinct and happen to be carrying some sort of weapon or tool (like a knife for example), take it and use it (if it’s something like a folding knife, have it deployed in your pocket already or hidden in your hand so you don’t give away you are unfolding it). Do not hesitate and try to hit a vital point at least once. If necessary, lull them in and then strike. Strike as many times as it takes for them to abandon the idea of assaulting you and focus on their own survival, or until they stop moving.

Last point to mention. Do not weep for them, or have any sympathy. They chose their fate by their actions.
   
MingnonMingnon EW! EW EW EW!! Also he didn’t even care about how the cat might feel!? Now that’s how you can tell early on he’s a monster!
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux The perv wasted absolutely no time moving in for the kill. And one would wonder how he has never been caught before, since he seems to choose locations where there are lots of potential witnesses around.
   
JessicaJessica Five bucks says that bathroom has at least one camera in it.
   
AnnaAnna A tempting offer, but I tend to avoid betting on something that is fact.

 

o Page 10

Page 10 JessicaJessica They certainly missed the opportunity to show Derby zipping up his fly as he fled the bathroom there.
   
AnnaAnna That they did, though her attitude seems to be that the facade pushed by Mr. Derby that he is a kind and caring soul has just been shattered. I would hope that you decide on a plan of action to make Mr. Derby crumble.
   
MingnonMingnon I’m just looking at the lyrics and I’m not really sure there’s any real rhythm to them… Seems like something out of a middle school production rather than high school. And I’m not sure how it could be set to Jazz, of all things.
   
JessicaJessica "𝆕 They're always standing next to me… always dancing next to me. Tryna' feel my hump, hump… looking at my lump, lump. You can look, but you can't touch it, if you touch it, I'ma start some drama… 𝆕"
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Susan certainly had no problem connecting the dots and reacting appropriately.
   
JessicaJessica You'd think she's pissed about him taking advantage of Melissa. But never fear… the twist is coming.

 

o Page 11

Page 11 AnnaAnna I might be wrong about timelines, but this seems like it goes from summer to fall to winter with spring one month away. I’ll be generous and say it’s a minimum of 5 months passing. It took Ms Wilcox saying he’s amazing at handiwork for you to be convinced of his skill despite such a period of time passing? I imagine quite a lot of people would be amazing at handiwork (among other things) if they had the power of time-lapses and plot requirements on their side.
   
MingnonMingnon The whispers are that it will be the best [play] ever…” Given what I’ve said about the lyrics above, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux We do indeed see that stone bird keeping its vigil on the statue…
   
JessicaJessica Now that I think about it, what even is this play? Is it some sort of amateur production of Oklahoma!, or Li'l Abner, or something? We never get a title, but between the decor and the music, it's giving me some serious Hee-Haw vibes.

 

o Page 12

Page 12 AnnaAnna Even if you were of legal age (assuming it is New York-based, this would be 17), at minimum, you are dealing with an older man who is probably in his 40's (judging by him owning a house and the age of his daughter), who is married and engaged in the crime of sexual assault (as it was non-consensual). Otherwise it is all of the above but involving a minor (if she is under 17 as per New York law) at a minimum. Mr Derby looks primed to be bled dry (financially at least, but I would ecstatic if it was literal as well).

As for Susan, I can see that perhaps you are blinded because he made you feel special and that is why you are proud of being involved with him. To that, I hope you are able to heal now that the illusion is breaking.
   
MingnonMingnon Trying to charm him into keeping a secret, even after confessing to that? Yeah I’d just run and tell the teachers ASAP.

Also she says it was a month ago, even though it was barely fall when it happened, I think? And now it’s just snowing. The spring play is supposed to be a month off, but winter as well as fall is three months long. Now all measurement of time has fallen apart, and all because the writer doesn’t know how to check their draft!
   
JessicaJessica This entire school is stuck in some sort of time warp. Either some events are dragging out a heck of a lot longer than they reasonably should be, or everybody here is stuck in the same Groundhog Day loop just trying to prepare for this damn play.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I misjudged the previous panel. I thought it was outrage, instead it was jealousy. This comic is becoming weirder by the moment. And unfortunately this kind of thing happens all the time. This is one of the more notorious cases.

 

o Page 13

Page 13 AnnaAnna Considering his name (Jose Miguel Gonzales) and the thinly veiled parallels between his actions and the presence of Saint Michael, I’m thinking that in one version of this story, he took more ‘direct’ action after he decided he could not keep the secret, attacking Mr. Derby with a longsword while proclaiming “Wretched violator! I will smite thee and cast ye out!

They do say to emulate your heroes after all, and Mr. Derby is a fitting Satan allegory in this story. Plus it’d fit in with what some parents would do if their children were abused, though maybe without the crusading dialogue.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Kind of a weird segue from Jose talking to St Michael in the top of the page, to his father in the bottom.
   
JessicaJessica I like to imagine the "love between priests and Jesus" is meant to be the same kind of love that exists between husband and wife. It brings a whole new meaning to the idea of priests consuming the literal body of Jesus and then getting down on their knees to ask him to "come into their hearts".

 

o Page 14

Page 14 AnnaAnna Is that meant to be headphones or a hairband? And why does it disappear in the second/fourth panels and reappear in the third and fifth? Either way, it sort of reminds me of a cursed item that a friend of mine sells. You had better find a way to get rid of them quickly, else the life of you and your loved ones will crumble.
   
MingnonMingnon No, she’s been having a bad semester. You should really go and check on her. Communication is important!
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Besides owning a pair of magical disappearing and reappearing headphones, she also seems pretty clueless about what her father is like.
   
JessicaJessica "Yeah, Lissa, take it on the chin! It's not like you're the first one of my friends my Dad has gotten all up ins. Is him stripping away the last vestiges of your childhood innocence and leaving you a vacuous husk of a person any reason we can't go shopping together?!?"

 

o Page 15

Page 15 JessicaJessica Are you really just going to take Jose's word on this? He's from Texas for Christ's sake!
   
AnnaAnna *The lights darken as my eyes glaze over. You start seeing faint outlines of what appears to be screaming people slowly swirling around me. Your eyes glance away from me, and you see naught but darkness. You sense that you are not alone in the darkness, surrounded by the sounds of skittering.*

Of course you’d both say that you’ve known Bill (William) Derby for years. Just like I can say that for years, it was your blindness and stupidity that served as catalysts for the abuse. How many beyond the three in this story did he and by extension, you, cause pain to and hurt? But by all means, ignore your responsibilities as authority figures in the school and not give the accusation the seriousness it deserves. Just like I will ignore your pleas for mercy and forgiveness as your minds slowly unravel from the experience of watching you and your conspirators wither and rot away into nothing, the pain searing through you as you are consumed by decay.
   
MingnonMingnon *slowly, just slowly scooches away from Anna*

To be fair, this is unfortunately a very common response. Once an abuser has entrenched themself as a friend and reliable authority figure, the first thoughts anyone has are ‘Are you sure?’ followed by ‘You can’t have made a mistake have you?’, or worse, ‘Are you just lying to get him (or her!) in trouble?’ This is one good reason why the Catholic religion has trouble rooting out, let alone preventing abuse.
   
JessicaJessica Exactly! Combine that with an environment that by its very nature promotes unquestioning deference to an arbitrary authority figure, and you've got a recipe for this kind of abuse to run rampant.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux There are clear legal requirements in cases like these. Not that many people in authority have ignored those guidelines when they so chose to. I still remember this case, many years later.

 

o Page 16

Page 16 Jessica JessicaWell, heck. If he's giving you costumes and equipment, why not give him free reign with your defenseless, nubile student body? Looks like a fair trade to me!

Are these people listening to themselves?
   
AnnaAnna As contrived as it is that it takes such specific circumstances for you to begin to see that the person you thought you know for years is possibly sexually abusing teenagers in your school, be grateful that you began to see your ‘friend’ for what he is and actually decide to do your job as authority figures. Had you chosen poorly, you might have found yourselves dealing with numerous misfortunes, illnesses and other such things, if only so you can experience the harm you had caused a minimum of thrice-fold. And if that were to happen, then you would also find your prayers go unheard.

*The darkness recedes, the skittering ceases and the faint outlines of screaming people swirling around me disappear. You notice the lights slowly return to normal, my eyes no longer glazed over.*

I hope it is not impolite of me to ask, but why are people looking at me in such a strange manner? If I remember correctly, we had just finished discussing a girl and her cursed headphones.
   
MingnonMingnon *awkward throat-clearing* …Yeah. I’m actually surprised that the faculty is doing the responsible thing for once, which is an anomaly considering how, again, deeply-entrenched abusers barely get accusations stuck to them for long.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux In that last panel, I mentally heard the dramatic music: “duh, duh, duhhh…
   
JessicaJessica Oh, so they didn't take just Jose's word on this. His parents needed to come in and back him up.

 

o Page 17

Page 17 JessicaJessica Hasn’t Jose already had enough white, smelly fluid splashed all over him? Isn’t that kind of his entire backstory here?

This poor kid just can’t catch a break.
   
AnnaAnna Way to draw attention to yourself there, Susan. People do notice when you resort to gestures and scream about how someone is a liar and how they promised they wouldn’t tell, and it often results in the activation of the infernal machine that is the rumor mill. At least you had the wits to not say Mr. Derby and add more fuel to that accursed contraption. Quite a lot of good people have been lost due to such machinations, and it always frustrates me that such a machine seems to continue to exist, despite my attempts to dismantle it.
   
MingnonMingnon To be fair, she is blinded by what she thinks is love, worsened by jealousy. To her, she must think that Jose has suddenly turned on her as well, making her feel like the only one in her corner.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Yes, it is quite obvious from the background that the whole lunchroom heard the conversation. And people often do act irrationally in cases like these.

 

o Page 18

Page 18 AnnaAnna I’d be more worried about your sad eyes than the eyes of the statue. More often than not, nothing good ever comes from those sad eyes, and I would be saddened if you were to join others who I am often a conduit for.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Rather more mature response from Melissa here than we saw from Susan. And my impression from reading about St. Michael is that he was quite the enthusiastic Sword Of God.
   
AnnaAnna Oh very much so - I found it weird they said he had ‘sad eyes’, since it’s more contemplative and steeling yourself before a fight in my view, whereas Melissa’s eyes are sad, as I mentioned earlier.
   
JessicaJessica Here we have yet another demonstration of how institutional religion fails its adherents. If you tell people there's an omnipotent God and mighty, benevolent spiritual beings who love and watch over them, then the first thing they think when something terrible happens is "Why did they let this happen to me? What did I do wrong for them not to protect me from this?" How can you not resort to self-shame and victim blaming under those circumstances?

 

o Page 19

Page 19 AnnaAnna *sighs sadly* Contrary to what media portrays, overdosing on drugs (of any kind) is not as painless as it seems. Aside from symptoms often taking a few hours to present, she is missing other common symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. As for the narrative, how much time had passed for the negligent (and co-conspirator principal) to decide to check on her location? And what about you, Ms Wilcox? You saw she did not turn up to class and did not bother to ask anyone if they had seen her, particularly since you are aware that she may have been sexually abused and may be at risk of attempting suicide?
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux It seems my optimism in the last page was unfounded. Derby has a hell of a lot to answer for.
   
AnnaAnna Oh it will be most delightful to hear and see how he will futilely struggle to give rationalizations and excuses for his actions. In my mind, he was never a man, and little more than a worm. Perhaps even dare I say, he is yet another candidate for the same fate as Bobby?
   
MingnonMingnon Though I imagine if they shared a room in Hell, Derby would be the one demanding a change of sleeping quarters.

 

o Page 20

Page 20 AnnaAnna Those clothes don’t look awful suitable for winter weather that has snow. Given the amount of time that would have realistically passed from when she took the pills to when Jose finds her outside, you would probably also have to add hypothermia into the equation. And if so, then her metabolism would be affected and thus there is more to account for. Or a longer period passed before they went to look, if the snow cover on the plants is anything to go from. Unless there happens to be a convenient snow-blower off-screen.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Is it just me, or does the angle of the artwork make St Michael seem far more threatening than protective? But then the Catholic church is especially harsh with regards to suicide.
   
JessicaJessica Given the blocking in this particular panel, it sort of looks like Michael was the one who (smitted? smutted?) smote Melissa. Given the treatment the Catholic Church has given some victims of their abuse in the past, I would not be shocked if that was the intended implication.
   
AnnaAnna Perhaps he is a Weeping Angel? Especially with his sword, he’d have far more reach.
   
MingnonMingnon Nah, he’s too busy admiring his bird.
   
JessicaJessica …and here I thought Derby was the only guy in this comic paying too much attention to his "bird".

 

o Page 21

Page 21 AnnaAnna More people standing in the cold wearing unsuitable winter attire. I get it is an emergency, but you ideally want to move her to somewhere warmer while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux And shame is indeed why many victims of abuse don’t report it. Could her upbringing have had anything to do with that feeling?
   
AnnaAnna Perhaps. It also reminds me of the more ‘traditional’ upbringing of men as well, to where they must not voice their emotions or society deems them to be weak. Things like that and the shame felt by abuse victims that deters reporting is but one of many reasons why I distrust society and how such things are considered "acceptable societal norms".
   
MingnonMingnon It’s a can of worms in regards to toxic masculinity, which causes boys to question their sexuality in cases of sexual abuse. And it gets even worse when the outside world mistakenly thinks that any male-on-male sexual contact - even assault! - means that either or both the perpetrator and the victim are gay. Even though it is not the case in this situation and the circumstances get way more murky.
   
JessicaJessica The arguments highlighting the collateral damage caused by religion just keep piling up. When people are dogmatically taught that sex, any sex (even sex you have against your will) is dirty/sinful and sullies your "purity" or whatnot, they're primed to see themselves as pre-chewed gum or some other used or wasted commodity. This is not only extremely guilt-inducing over something that isn't your fault, but it's insultingly objectifying at the same time.
   
AnnaAnna Yet another reason for why I mourn and weep for humanity.

 

o Page 22

Page 22 AnnaAnna *sigh* All it takes is one event and then people start praying, despite having no inclination to show that they are believers. I suppose it can be inferred that they are because of the institution they teach at, but to my knowledge, belief is not a requirement to work there. Complying with their views for teaching purposes and not antagonizing their beliefs are requirements. As for the arrival time of the paramedics, that is extraordinarily fast, given the weather.

I do know that they may have just happened to be nearby, but I am not suspending my disbelief for this, especially since the dialogue between the involved individuals would have been around a few minutes maximum. This is almost like the paramedics were just out of eye-shot, on standby for when the plot demanded that they arrived to save the potential love interest of the protagonist.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux The principal knows damn well who it was, why was that question necessary?
   
AnnaAnna He is still struggling with the idea that his ‘friend’ he has known for many years is an abuser. It is hardly surprising, especially if he is not used to medical emergencies. People often do things viewed as strange when in a state of shock, though sometimes they just freeze. Might also explain why Ms Wilcox was praying earlier - could be due to shock.
   
MingnonMingnon Regardless, he is doing the right thing in supporting Melissa, especially helping her cope with her trauma.

Also for some reason they decided to put in a Star Wars reference?
   
JessicaJessica He goes far out of his way to try to address your abuse and even attempts to save your life when you try to un-alive yourself, and you pay him back by insulting his stature? Sheesh… what a bitch.

 

o Page 23

Page 23 BoudreauxBoudreaux I am still a bit incredulous that his wife and daughter had no idea, but that does happen in real life. More lives damaged by this guy. And he seems to have an awfully cheerful expression.
   
MingnonMingnon It’s actually more likely than you think, given all the true crime stories about husbands/fathers with ‘secret double lives’. Though I think it would be a 20/20 hindsight thing on the part of the wife, as Derby was being a bit too eager for an excuse to be alone with a victim.
   
AnnaAnna You being arrested to face a trial with a jury and having the chance to avoid prison is far too kind. Many centuries ago, there was a district where I had resided in (before the dark times that were the witch trials...) *frowns and sighs before resuming* in which men who were found guilty of ‘ravishment’ (referred to as ‘rape’ nowadays) had their eyes gouged and were castrated, typically by the woman. Some neighboring districts had a difference in said law that if both the rapist and woman were unmarried, the rapist could either marry the woman or face the same punishment (castration and eye gouging).

I found the notion of lessening the punishment via marriage to be quite ridiculous and was absolutely joyous that such a variation to the law was never implemented where I was residing, particularly since punishments at the time were often quite the spectacle, showing the consequences of such crimes and playing into the societal views and beliefs at the time.
   
JessicaJessica He is actively being hauled off to jail to share a bunk with The Booty Warrior and he still can't seem to wipe that Jack Nicholson Joker grin off of his pasty mug. He ain't gonna be grinning for much longer.

…and who the hell is Amber Reeves? Did we meet her, or is this some other student we just invented out of whole cloth to make this guy even more oily?

KNOK KNOK (sic)

 

o Page 24

Page 24 AnnaAnna I’d have thought maybe Jose and Melissa would be together by the end of the story, but maybe there was something in Susan spilling milk on Jose’s head that changed the dynamic, if the fourth panel is to be believed. I never did understand social dynamics all that well. As for Jose grimacing in frustration as he tries to murder an innocent violin with his lack of skill in Susan’s house while she watches…

I do not know what the violin did to both of you, but may I kindly recommend you leave it alone? Murdering such an innocent instrument will not undo what has happened to you both. All it will do is result in the pair of you being haunted by nightmares, including one where your intestines are turned into new strings while you are alive.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux That is indeed one strange panel. My take is that she is putting a curse on him to make him play badly. Revenge is sweet!
   
AnnaAnna Please do not call what she is doing weaving a curse or any other sort of thing (such as a hex, malediction or affliction). Those are elaborate works of art, like suspenseful horror in a film for example. What she is doing is the filmatic equivalent of a jumpscare with no build-up or suspense.
   
MingnonMingnon It’s more like she’s pestering him to the point where he’s taking his frustrations out on the violin.
   
JessicaJessica "Susan! Your boyfriend's as tone deaf as an alley cat in heat! Tell him to take that shit outside… I'm trying to read the funny papers here."

I'm also glad Melissa and Shelly were finally able to patch things up in the end. "Sorry my Dad deflowered you. Write to me, 'kay?"

 

o Page 25

Page 25 AnnaAnna Perhaps it is just me, but their smiles and eyes look familiar. It reminds me of risus sardonicus, in combination with the black eyes of evil. Along with the return of the flocks of birds, my mind is brimming with ideas for why the art is this way. Of the possibilities, perhaps one such idea is that the last few pages were part of visions Melissa had as she was dying in the cold, giving her comfort in her final hours. But as Christianity says that suicide is a sin, the grins and eyes are there to hint that she in fact, was sent to the Seventh Circle of Hell and joined the woods present there.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux I fail to see what St. Michael had to do with the story line, other than have his statue glowering at people. At least his loyal bird has stuck with him, so there is that.
   
MingnonMingnon It could be described as the story of Michael saving the day by doing absolutely nothing!

…Yes, it was a lame meme joke. I will excuse myself.

 

o Page 26

Page 26 JessicaJessica You thought this entire comic was centered around St. Michael (Miguel), didn’t you? Well funk dat, bra! This is actually dedicated to St. Joseph, patron saint of the sick, virgins, and presumably sick virgins. In a comic that’s centered around sexual exploitation, that seems to be in extraordinarily bad taste in my opinion.
   
AnnaAnna I find myself in agreement with it being in bad taste. And it’s not like you are charged by the word in prayer - you can dedicate one or more prayers to Saint Joseph, Saint Michael and other saints. Especially since your story is written on the basis of Saint Michael protecting and helping those in need on behalf of God.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux It is indeed kind of a bizarre bait and switch.
   
MingnonMingnon At least do some research, like google ‘Patron Saint of Sexual Abuse Victims.’ I can suggest a few from my search already: Saint Mary of Egypt (of those who feel damaged), Saint Mary MacKillop (of sexual abuse survivors), and Saint Maria Goretti (I believe a saint of child victims).
   
JessicaJessica By the by… that page at the Archdiocese’s website finally went offline somewhere around mid-2019, but you can still take a gander at it in its prime via the Wayback Machine in case you happen to find yourself so inclined.

 

o Page 27

Page 27 AnnaAnna This ought to be swapped with the prior page in my view. Especially since the prior page also has the Program emblem and copyright stamp, which are often on the back covers of printed media like comics and books.
   
BoudreauxBoudreaux Definitely would have been better. And my standard comment about theodicy and the irony about praying that God rebukes Satan, who God allowed to exist and have dominion over the Earth in the first place.
   
MingnonMingnon Yeah, and because of allowing the existence of evil the people who were ‘ruined’ would have a reason to turn away from the faith…
   
JessicaJessica Michael didn't do shit. The Devil didn't do shit. This was entirely that sleaze Derby's (and, tangentially, that dumb-ass principal Mr. James') fault. If you keep blaming evil on invisible boogeymen, you're not going to be able to adequately address the actual source of these kinds of "evil", real flesh-and-blood human beings.
   
AnnaAnna Perhaps they are afraid to look upon their own reflections, given the concerning number of events in the world that can be considered evil fuelled by religion. Far too many to name, but one that I remember all too well were the witch trials. And lest people accuse me of one target, there are far more, even if I restrict the scope to just a timeline within the US. I would also like to show a few such events committed by different individuals of different beliefs. As for such events internationally, cases in point. And have one more. To paint a perspective and question to think about, those are examples of ones that gained media attention. What of the events that do not gain such recognition, that are unseen and unheard?

People wonder why I distrust humanity, yet also weep and mourn for them. Events like this are part of a list of why.

 

o Conclusion

BoudreauxBoudreaux This is certainly far more palatable than most anything Jack Chick has been responsible for. It does raise the fact that people in a position of authority need to use their position responsibly, that there is no personal shame in being a victim, and staying silent is not the best option. But it conveniently leaves out any responsibility that the Church has had in this whole sordid area.
   
MingnonMingnon I did naively think that it would be a blast riffing on the comic, but once the reality that you’re dealing with the subject of sexual abuse hits, it takes the wind out. Nonetheless, I agree with Boudreaux; people in authority going from the pastors to ESPECIALLY the Pope himself will need to take accountability for allowing such a heinous thing to grow as much as it has. In recent years, at least some small steps are being taken, such as the case with the unraveling of the French scandal.
   
JessicaJessica I will give this comic one thing... it's certainly darker and more mature than it's cutesy counterpart. Whereas Being Catholic vaguely skirted around the direct concept of actual abuse, it instead chose to cloak it in euphemistic terms and imagery like bathing suit zones and the unwarranted giving of gifts. This is no doubt due to being aimed at a significantly younger audience. However, while this comic focused more on the impact of abuse and recognizing signs once it has already occurred rather than methods for avoiding it in the first place, the abuse itself is still kept out of sight behind a bathroom door and only referenced in dialog. While it can be argued that depicting the actions more explicitly could be regarded as being unnecessarily salacious, it's not like Catholic propaganda has shied away from the depiction of graphic imagery for its own gratification in the past. Perhaps they are just less squeamish when it comes to physical violence than sexually explicit content. That would certainly square with their general historic attitudes on the topic.

While both of these comics attempt to address a very important subject (and one that has caused the Catholic Church a great deal of headaches), it fails to recognize how it demonstrates the holes in its own approach even in its own narrative. Being Catholic places the primary onus for recognizing and avoiding abuse on young children, which I recognize can be a worthy goal. Here in Archangel, we recognize the existence of predators being completely missed by the individuals entrusted with protecting the children in their charge. Historically speaking, a much greater issue in the Catholic scandal was those same predators not only being recognized, but irrefutably proven to be guilty and subsequently escaping punishment... their victims being either ignored or shamed. Neither of these works address or even mention this horrible practice, and in this way, this comic sort of comes off as unsatisfying as a ruined orgasm.
   
AnnaAnna The sad state of such large entities is that nothing short of international infamy makes changes happen. Far be it to do your supposed work as ‘responsible’ people (even more so, since it is a core aspect of Christian belief, and something that certain people like Chick love to use in an argument of supposed superiority); rather, you simply choose to shift the blame to everything but yourselves. And do not try to hand-wave it with the ‘humanity is inherently sinful’ argument. Even if they are, it does not absolve you of responsibility or accountability for those in your ‘flock’.

That said… *you notice a single tear forming in my eyes, words full of sorrow about to be spoken* I must also apologize to everyone for any concerning events that occurred during the dissection. I am guilty of particularly intense emotions, given part of my function is to serve as a conduit for the departed. In some ways, I am also a bearer of their pain, that they may have some solace, and I use said pain in other aspects of my life while also bearing it. It tends to be quite useful when dealing with unsavory types, but certain topics can overwhelm me and result in, to put it politely, loss of rationality and drastic measures. But while I may draw some degree of satisfaction when dealing with unsavory types, the potential damage I may cause if I were to be completely overwhelmed is a strain on my happiness, as I never willingly want to hurt innocent parties.

But do not take that to mean I am dismissing my criticisms as part of my apologies. Indeed, the fact that such events are routinely buried due to such entities turning blind eyes to when their 'sheep' engage in such acts, the (frankly) pitiful amount of care shown to victims as pointed out by myself and the other dissectors, and the outright negligence of those in positions of authority is, to be extremely charitable, despicable and a far cry from what said entities regularly espouse and claim.

I think I have said too much, so this is where I must leave. Until our next meeting, whenever it may be, may you have smooth roads and clear skies on your journeys, both in life and dreams. *gives a subdued curtsey before turning and leaving*

 

o Further Reading

  • Dissection of Being Friends, Being Safe, Being Catholic at Boolean Union

  • Coloring, comic books aim to protect students from abuse (January 19, 2012).
    Catholic Review - Archdiocese of Baltimore

  • Catholic coloring book warns US kids of pedophile priests (December 4, 2007).
    Agence France-Presse (via the Wayback Machine)

  • An Anti-Abuse Coloring Book by Jessica Bennett (December 1, 2007).
    Newsweek