Where is the line between faith in a higher power and insanity? Between imagination and delusion? Between play and danger? Often the boundaries are blurred, but for the protagonist of Krystal DiFronzo’s Saint’s Love, the’ve been completely obliterated. Caleb’s faith is unbreakable, he is a vessel for god, the lord’s light pours through him and onto others. His humility toward god is greater than yours, he can spot the fakers–including the priest at his school–and he knows that god has blessed him. Caleb becomes convinced his calling is to be martyred like the saints he idolizes, and tries to convince his friend Joseph to witness and commit his execution.
It’s a general policy for me to pick up every comic Krystal DiFronzo writes, since she never fails to impress. Her humor is so over the top, laughter bubbles up out of you uncontrollably. Likewise her serious comics are emotive and sobering. Krystal’s work flourishes at these extremes, and she can execute either mood confidently and to great effect.
In the opening pages of Saint’s Love, it’s really unclear what type of story this is going to be . I wasn’t sure if I should laugh at Caleb and Joseph’s antics, or be concerned for their wellbeing. That discomfort carries through the entire comic, which is the perfect mood for a comic tackling something so subjective and undeniable as one’s faith.
Religion was absent from my upbringing. For me, the idea of a god has always been a fictional one. I’ve always tried to find the balance between confidence in my own secular belief system, and respecting those who have faith in a higher being. Casually, you can brush it off as a different set of beliefs, but really, if you think about it, the two perspectives are incompatible realities. Caleb’s reality is an extreme point on the spectrum of belief, and even Joseph, who ostensibly believes in the same god as Caleb, is troubled by his friend’s assertions of visions. But to Caleb his visions are real and his mission is true.
Krystal mixes her cartoony drawing style -full of bubble eyes, explosive emanata and blobby anatomy- with heavy graphite shading, pulling the goofiness down to the dirty ground. Caleb is clearly as troubled as he is adorable. His baby face and bowl cut disarm us, and while his attempts at martyrdom are comedic, we realize he is fervently attempting to commit suicide.
We are lucky to live in a society in which people of diverse beliefs and world views coexist peacefully, while there are still parts of this world in which religious difference is used to justify terrible violence. Saint’s Love illustrates how thin the line can be between our pluralism and those violent sectarian social divisions, and Krystal DiFronzo executes it with a style that combines the playful and disturbing to be pitch-perfect.