My grandfather is the most religious man I know. A devout Baptist whose time as a pastor and deacon has shaped him into the epitome of bible-thumpers. My dad, on the other hand, is rough around the edges. A believer, true… but man can he be hard to live with. He’s struggled with depression and anger and addiction, but he survives because the Lord is his shepherd. Growing up, my father had many points of contention with his father-in-law. They butted heads over the dumbest crap, but one of the biggest recurring arguments was concerning Judas Iscariot, disciple of Jesus Christ. Granddaddy believes, like most of the church-going population, that Judas was a foul betrayer who selfishly sold his friend, the Messiah, for thirty pieces of silver and that he went straight to hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Dad says Judas was pulled aside by Jesus and was let in on it. “Look bro, you ain’t gonna like it, but you are a part of God’s plan and it will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. In doing so, you are going to save mankind at the cost of yourself.” In essence, Judas’s role was just as important as Jesus’s. They argued at length about this, quoting scripture and church doctrine. Neither budging. Neither yielding.
I think my Dad would like Judas #2.
In the first issue, Judas recounts his whole life, especially the time with Jesus Christ. The doubts and the miracles and the betrayal. He is thrown into the pit after hanging himself and in the end, finds himself at the feet of Lucifer. It was a great book that did not hesitate to push common perceptions to their limit. The second issue is a long conversation with Lucifer, but it is far from dull. Writer Jeff Loveness crafts a beautiful, organic exchange that feels perfect. Judas attacks the fallen angel, claiming that it was he who drove him to betray Jesus. Lucifer counters with a very good argument involving the use of truth and lies and the grand story of God that justifies all the evil that exists in the world; that even he was the greatest victim of all. Having seen the glory of God firsthand, he saw through the cracks and was punished for it. The final few pages are controversial, but I loved it.
My favorite part was a four-page history of biblical villains who were all a part of God’s plan and I think it expresses Lucifer’s point perfectly. First, he talks about Pharaoh, whose role against Moses only served to strengthen God’s narrative, but destroys Pharaoh in the process. Then, Goliath- a soldier fighting on the “wrong” side of history because he was bred into it. The giant was only a pawn. Next, he speaks of Jezebel and her literal fall from greatness, all because of her insistence that God was not worthy of praise. And finally, Lot’s wife. We don’t even know her name, but because she witnessed God’s destruction against his wishes, she was damned. It’s a beautiful explanation of villainy in the bible and how God’s narrative cannot progress without strategically placed persons to oppose his will. To draw a comparison, does Batman have a story if there is no Joker?
When I normally think of comics, it’s all about fictional heroes and monsters and fabrications, but Judas takes actual religious history and crafts the story around it, going so far as quote verses throughout each issue. As with all comics, the art is a main component. Loveness needed the perfect partner to bring his words to life and Jakub Rebelka is just that artist. This Polish creator has a style that favors gorgeous colorful backgrounds and long emotion-stricken faces. Before doing some research, I thought Rebelka was of Middle Eastern origin because he nails the tone of the book so well. Judas is at odds with himself, Lucifer is confident and menacing without portraying the typical devil character. I just love this comic. I love what it has to say and the implications that Judas isn’t just that guy who set Christ’s crucifixion into motion.
I’m not a very religious man, much to my grandfather’s disapproval, but Christianity has shaped who I am throughout my childhood and still impacts my life. I’m writing a novel with strong religious overtones, even if they aren’t exactly positive. Even though I don’t attend church, comics like Judas keep me invested in my roots and in love with the stories that have been passed down for centuries. I don’t always buy comics I review, but I guarantee that I am getting two copies of the trade for Judas from Boom! Studios. One for me and one for my father, so he will have one more piece of literature to reinforce his argument that Judas is not a bad guy. 5 out of 5 Stars!
(W) Jeff Loveness (A/CA) Jakub Rebelka