While the initial inspiration for this tale lies within the pages of the Old Testament, this ain’t your mum and dad’s Bible stories. Not by a long shot.
What Jason Aaron (Star Wars) does give to us, through the brutal yet beautiful renderings of R.M. Guéra (Scalped), is a barren and barbaric Biblical world that is on the brink of apocalypse; a post-lapsarian landscape of futility and ferocity set some 1,600 years after the Fall, and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from The Garden of Eden. And, judging by the liberal use of expletives that runs like a seam of crude oil throughout the 5 issue mini-series (announced as but Book One in what no doubt will grow into an epic of…, well, Biblical proportions, really), the first man and woman on Earth could very easily have been kicked out because of their new found profanity, showing up, as they do, briefly in this collection.
But hey, this is a world full of sinners, killers and cannibals readying themselves for God’s first purge and The Flood and as such our reluctant hero, and only hope, is not much better. But then, he is the high-priest of homicide, Cain, son of Eve and Adam. Maybe we get the heroes we deserve and so, Aaron’s ancient uncivilized civilization get the world’s first murderer as their reluctant rescuer, who wanders the world looking for something he cannot achieve: death. A man who, rightfully so it would seem, is more than happy to call out a God that is far removed from the interfering, wrathful God and more in keeping with the Christian God and His hands-off approach of the New Testament.
Either way, here in The Goddamned, He is an absent landlord who has a strange sense of priorities when coming to choosing the would-be saviour of mankind, Noah and his kin. A beast of a man who seems a far cry from the guy who gave us the world’s first zoo and animals going into the ark two by two. A man who hunts, kidnaps and enslaves others for his own agenda; saving the beasts of the world to start afresh. He’s not a Noah you want to survive. But then, there aren’t many characters who you do. Well, except Cain!
A man on a mission, like all good heroes venturing out on their own heroic quest, he changes, develops and finds a reason to continue. This is a wonderfully realised Mad Max kind of world of tribal feuds, bloody conflict and bizarre predatory creatures and inhabitants ranging on the humanoid scale from Neanderthal-like plunderers to giants amongst men in the shape of mythical Nephilim; apparently the only one of God’s creatures able to kill Cain outright and put him out of his 1,600 year old misery.
Amongst them all, it is Cain who stands out as an archetypal hero, physically at least. He is the Alpha and the Omega, as he stands in stark contrast to the rest of the ragtag humans littering this story. He may not be seeking redemption, but that’s what he gets, whether he wants it or not. Indeed, if anything, Cain becomes all too human considering how he has traditionally been depicted throughout history.
As for the artwork, Guéra, while not that well known in the States, is yet another one of those magnificent all-rounders that mainland Europe produces so well. A mix of Moebius, but with a more feral, scratchy style similar to John Ridgway (‘The Dead Man’; 2000AD) with a hint of Milo Manara thrown in for good measure, minus the gratuitous eroticism. In Guéra’s hands, a depressing world of horrors is fully realised on each page, and in many a double page spread that adds flesh to this dangerous world.
Littered with decay, skeletal remains and mythical monsters, Cain wanders and where he goes, we go too. And, with colours added expertly by the hand of Giulia Brusco, who can deftly add oppressive heat to the scorched earth on one page–all sandy browns and earthy tones–then, on another page, adds a lighter, brighter sheen to the paradisial world inherited by Adam and Eve, before plunging the reader into oppressive darkness. These guys are like the Three Musketeers of the comic book world.
I picked up this trade to glance through and found that I couldn’t put it down, gobbling it all up in one sitting, and I imagine you will, too. This is a great, original take on one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating stories and a topsy-turvy one at that. After all, what other telling of this story ends up with Cain as the sympathetic hero, while Noah is a boorish brute deluding himself? I look forward to how this story develops over further mini-series, and Book Two (The Virgin Brides) can’t come quick enough. It’s a US comic that has more in common with European storytelling and sensibilities and well worth taking a bite from. As to who The Goddamned is, or are, I’ll let you find out for yourself.
As for the extras, they include more wonderful Guéra artwork; sketches, variant covers and Aaron’s script in full form for issue one. All this under one beautiful looking hardcover.
The Goddamned will be released this coming Wednesday, the 25th of October from Image Comics.
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