Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guéra, Giulia Brusco
Release Date: 1st June 2016
After a painfully long wait (has it really been three months already?), Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra’s dark, depraved bible tale is back with a vengeance. When we left things, Cain and Aga’s attempt to rescue Aga’s son Lodo from Noah’s camp had gone fairly badly, with a gargantuan, hammer-wielding giant bearing down on Cain. However, rather than fear, all Cain feels at this moment is peace and satisfaction from the knowledge that finally, his journey in exile will be ended by a quick, ignominious death.
As we’re rapidly learning however, nothing in this sick, twisted world is ever quick or painless, and this issue sees Cain dealing with Noah’s wrath in a variety of cruel, drawn-out ways. It’s interesting the way that Aaron has subtly tweaked the established bible stories we’re all familiar with into something truly disturbing without actually changing any of the key points. Noah in particular is a truly intriguing interpretation; a man who sees himself as being “above” the people who are raping and murdering their way through the world, showing a complete disregard for their lives as he uses them for little more than feed for his menagerie of animals, leaving a trail of shit and bones behind him.
As strong as Aaron’s writing undoubtedly is though, it’s artist Guéra who really makes this world resonate. With unapologetic brutality and a murky, horrific style where you can practically smell the rotting flesh on the pages, this is one of the most visually striking books since… well… since Scalped, really. His layouts are truly impressive too, taking the reader by the hand and leading them slowly through this cesspool, making sure that they soak up each and every dark, troubling detail along the way. Splash pages are used sparingly and to scintillating effect, and Giulia Brusco’s colours only enhance the visceral nature of this shit and blood-stained world.
That said, for all the truly disturbing, genuinely shocking moments throughout the course of this series, Aaron and Guéra are doing a hell of a lot more than merely playing “can you top this?” with depravity. The characterization of Cain is the driving force here, and over the course of these first four issues the swirling contradictions in his personality are making for some truly gripping reading. When we first met him he was nothing but a solitary outcast, wandering the world that he effectively destroyed. And perhaps rightfully so. After all, we are talking about the “inventor” of murder here, the one who brought the paradise of the world crashing down when he killed his own brother in a fit of rage and jealousy. But more recently, the cracks are beginning to form in that facade and we’re beginning to see the real man buried beneath. As I said, it’s genuinely gripping stuff.
Overall then, while its bleak, unrelentingly violent approach is undoubtedly what makes it stand out, The Goddamned is turning into a damn fine character piece. Aaron and Guéra are two of the truly transcendent talents in their individual fields, but when you put them together, the result is nothing less than sheer visual poetry. Once of the most engaging and shocking series in recent years, and an absolutely essential purchase for all. Let’s just hope the wait until issue five isn’t quite as long.