With over two decades in the business and an Eisner Award nomination under his belt, writer Rafael Nieves has worked on titles ranging from Marvel’s 90’s reboot of Hellstorm to Captain Action, but his latest effort, The Apocalypse Plan, ably illustrated in subtle yet stunning greytones by Dan Dougherty, is perhaps nearest and dearest to his heart. Mania reviewed the book upon its release last month, and we were so smitten by its unique interpretation of the Book of Revelations and themes of morality, religion and good vs. evil that we took it upon ourselves to contact Mr. Nieves in an attempt to pull back the curtain and get a more indepth look at the process that went into creating it. And hey… if it’s interesting to us, we figured it might be interesting to you too, right?
The concept of The Apocalypse Plan is simple: What if Heaven and Hell were rival corporations? What if one attempted a hostile takeover of the other? The end result is a supernatural horror thriller that Nieves describes as “… a 70’s Italian action movie based on a John Grisham novel with a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, directed by Dario Argento.”
While the basic elements of the story should be quite familiar (having been inspired by the best selling book of all time), the thought provoking interpretation of characters and events is what grabbed us.
“One of the main story points in The Apocalypse Plan” Nieves explained, “ is that the two companies, Morningstar and Grace, exist the way they do because they want to, need to, keep in step with the advances in our society and the advances of our society. The old ways, the method of bringing religion to the masses, simply doesn't work anymore. In order to influence, you have to assimilate. You have to immerse yourself in whatever it is you're trying to change, because you have to understand what's wrong before you can change it. So in our 21st century world, Heaven and Hell have to embody a 21st century sensibility, a modern-day veil or mask, if you will. The flipside to that is that you run the risk of becoming what you surround yourself with.”
What’s most surprising about the book is that despite dealing with ideas that are traditionally thought of as very black and white, it plays out in a manner that was quite unexpected and introduces a whole lot of shades of grey, beginning with the Grace Corporation (or Heaven) initiating the attack on Morningstar Inc. We asked Mr. Nieves about the genesis of this idea and how it reflected his own views on faith and organized religion…
“For me, it is less a reflection of my own feelings than it is simply a reflection of society's views on religion, as filtered through me. Everyday we read stories about this religion or that religion doing something, acting in some way, that is in complete contradiction to the dogma they preach. I mean, whole wars have been fought in the name of religion. Millions die because their views might differ from what is accepted by millions of others. And yet, to the perpetrators, what they are doing feels absolutely right to them. So, who are the good guys and who are bad? It's a matter or perception.
"I think organized religion is, like any organization, important in the sense of creating community. But just like any organization, it's made up of good people and bad, and people with good intentions who act on them badly. If we as a race of people embody the idea of free will, then we should embrace that free will in anything and everything we do. But we should also be held accountable for what we do as well"
"In The Apocalypse Plan, the head of the Grace Corporation, or Heaven, if you will, does make the first move, the first strike, against his enemy, but does that make him the bad guy? Or has he finally decided to retaliate for all the wrongs that have been perpetrated on him, and I, in the telling of the story, just picked this particular moment to relate to the reader, not showing them all the other skirmishes when Hell has struck first? When I wrote TAP, I didn't set out to make any kind of bold statement about religion; I simply wanted to suggest that, does the bad guy think of himself as bad? And is he all bad? Is the hero all good? Again, perception"
Before you get too worried about a comic mired in deep religious debates and philosophical discussions, go back and re-read that part where Rafael describes the book as an action movie by way of Tarantino and Argento. Make no mistake, there’s enough gunplay, explosions, dudes in black suits and monsters ripping the entrails out of unsuspecting victims to satisfy anyone’s inner serial killer. God knows we loved it. There’s no need to be a Biblical scholar to understand the story, nor should it offend the weekly churchgoer or deeply religious folks; it simply offers room for debate along with one hell of an action story.
"The goal in all my work is simply telling a good story. Will people enjoy this?” Nieves explained, “I didn't set out to write something that was a discourse on the state of religion or the state of our society. I just wanted to write something cool. But my beliefs and my influences are always there, of course, informing my work even when they're not informing me. But yeah, I like to think that TAP, and all my work, has a universal audience, and people are welcome to take away from it whatever they want.”
Combining modern day sensibilities and an Old Testament-style thirst for violence, Rafael Nieves has (along with artist Dan Dougherty), created a book that manages to be thought provoking and action packed all at once. If those sorts of things interest you, it’s worth your time checking it out. Anyone interested in getting more information or ordering the book should go to Transfuzion.biz and click on the Apocalypse plan link.