“And the earth was filled with violence.”
Set 1,600 years “after Eden” in a world filled with wanton cruelty, disease and violence – a world completely forsaken by an angry, disappointed God – this new series from Image Comics hits you right from the very beginning with the sheer visceral nature of its storytelling. Naked, covered in human excrement and furious at a God that seems to be punishing him personally, a mysterious stranger awakens face-down in the “shit pond” with nothing but vengeance on his mind. This isn’t your grandma’s bible story, folks.
Even those of us with little more than a passing knowledge of the bible know about the stories of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark, but this series digs into the in-between phase, revelling in the downfall of humanity following the creation of sin. Our ‘hero’ is anything but, and with the plague of humanity set to be purged from the face of the earth by the coming flood, his angry attempts to get God’s attention are falling on deaf ears.
To be honest, there’s pretty much no way I wasn’t going to like this series. The creators of Scalped, one of my all-time favourite comics, reuniting to tell a biblical fantasy epic filled with violence and wickedness? Yes please! I’ve made it clear in the past that, fanboy that I am, I’ll buy basically any comic that has Jason Aaron’s name on the cover, but it’s reassuring to be reminded that every time I do I’m consistently blown away by the sheer quality on display.
However, Aaron actually takes a back seat here for the most part, handing the reins to artist R.M. Guéra to shoulder the bulk of the storytelling load; something Guéra manages effortlessly as he churns out jaw-dropping panel after jaw-dropping panel filled with bone-crunching, blood-spurting combat and desolate landscapes where you can almost smell the rotting flesh. The violence is raw and unfiltered, with our mainly naked protagonist cutting a swath through his cruel tormentors in about as a direct and brutal a way as possible. Guéra’s artwork is also enhanced immensely by the colours of Giulia Brusco, whose murky brown and orange palette gives the whole book a grimy, dirty aesthetic that almost makes you want to wash your hands after reading it.
The dialogue is kept to a minimum as Aaron introduces us to this brutal world; a few barked profanities from the locals and some mumbled threats and warnings from our ‘hero’, but that’s all this first issue really needs. The story is already established in our heads before we even pick the book up; we know the flood is coming, we know the world has been forsaken by God, and we know that whatever happens within these pages, it’s damn sure not going to be pretty.
Another utterly fantastic debut for a new Image Comics series then, and a welcome return for this particular creative partnership; a team who clearly haven’t lost a step since the conclusion of Scalped over three years ago. Brutal, unrelenting, disturbingly beautiful and in-your-face from the opening page, The Goddamned is an absolutely essential read.