There are three things that are never supposed to be discussed in polite company: money, politics, and religion. But, when those three things make up the majority of a person’s life, when they shape the very soul and beliefs of a human being, how do you go about ignoring them entirely, especially when you have a whole different side of the story to tell? BOOM! Studios’ newest comic preaches that story from the last person you would imagine: Judas Iscariot. Told from the perspective of the greatest enemy of Christianity (short of the Devil in a bowler hat), we learn that not everyone blindly believed the words of the Prophet and how those words can easily change from self-sacrificing to self-serving. A unique look at a time of Roman conquerors and prophetic madmen, Judas doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions about faith and miracles while pondering that age old question, if the Son of God can perform miracles, why does he allow people to suffer?
The comic opens up on a lost and wandering Judas as he hangs himself off a tree in the middle of the desert. Waking up in a place stripped of warmth and growth, Judas begins to recall the events that led up to his fall. You see, Judas wasn’t always a bitter man. At one time, he was in love with a woman who ended up dying of an illness. One day, as he bleakly makes his way through his town, a man named Jesus approaches him and invites him to join his flock. Though Judas agrees, he can’t help but see and hear flaws in Jesus’s teachings, eventually fearing that he was chosen only for his ability to question his beliefs and make the ultimate sacrifice, to help martyr Jesus while he takes all the blame. Forced to pay for his sins in the afterlife, he wonders if what he did was right and how much of his destiny was pre-ordained.
The comic attempts to re-tell the story of Jesus’s final days. Everyone knows the story of Judas and Jesus; Judas, one of Jesus’s twelve disciples, betrays Jesus to the Romans and gets Jesus crucified. While most people would simply deem Judas as an evil man, Judas #1 refuses to believe that the same man who saw the miracles of Jesus Christ would simply turn his back on him. In fact, that’s one of the great things about this comic. Jesus is never played as a fraud or a cult leader, as is fashionable with most comics questioning Christianity, but is still truly seen as the Son of God. Judas’s betrayal doesn’t come from him ‘seeing the seams’ of Jesus, it comes from him questioning the intentions of man who literally had the power to save the world but didn’t. Instead, he walks on water, feeds a village, and has Judas rat him out and martyr him. It’s kind of shady when you think about it.
In fact, the whole work asks questions that have never really be asked before. Why did Jesus pick Judas to martyr him? Did he know that Judas did not have the same level of belief as the rest of his disciples? Was Jesus trying to change Judas faith in him or was he banking on the fact that he couldn’t? All these thoughts flit not only in Judas’s brain, but force their way into the readers as well. You really can’t help but sympathize with Judas, especially when he’s clawing through the mountains of Hell not really knowing why he’s there. He honestly thinks he did what Jesus wanted him to do. Then again, there is a wonderful ‘unreliable narrator’ angle in the story as well, where, despite what he says, one can’t help remember that he freaking killed Jesus! Even he is forced to realize that he did something pretty horrendous, hence the suicide in the beginning. Maybe he really was just an evil man? How do you justify killing God?
Now that all the theological ponderings are out of the way, let me say, this comic is actually pretty gruesome, especially the art. Artist Jakub Rebelka takes inspiration from the Good Book itself and draws angels as described in Revelations, that is, covered in eyes, having four arms and four faces, and their wings touching each other as they walked. While most would struggle to even conceive what that would look like, Rebelka actually manages to draw it out, making the creature’s kind of look like fleshy bugs with bunch of eyeballs. He also does a wonderful job with small details, such as giving Judas a black halo once he enters Hell and Jesus having, like, the NICEST hair ever. He also does all the coloring and skillfully uses the shadows of Hell and the contrasting light of life to help establish mood. Though he does seem to have a bit of a problem with perspective, his eye for layout and character creations helps smooth out any bumps.
Highly recommended for those who want something deep to chew on, Judas #1 is out in stores now!