Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Artwork: Jakub Rebelka
Letterer: Colin Bell
Release Date: 29th August 2019
Every story needs a villain, right? And in the case of Judas Iscariot, his role as one of the greatest bad guys in the “Greatest Story Every Told” has been well documented. But in BOOM! Studios series JUDAS, writer Jeff Loveness and artist Jakub Rebelka have opted to take an altogether different look at the man whose very name has become synonymous with betrayal.
Picking up the collected edition of the four-issue series, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Granted, there are books that have managed to subvert or adapt Bible stories into something fresh and different – Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s The Goddamned, for instance – but really I wasn’t sure from the get-go quite what approach Loveness and co. were going to adopt here, and quite how successful they would be.
What’s perhaps most interesting is the way the story gradually evolves and shifts over the course of its duration. This isn’t a hard-nosed critique of Christianity any more than it is a cloying attempt to espouse its virtues. Instead, what Loveness and Rebelka have crafted is an exceedingly well-balanced and character-focused study on the nature of faith. Are we cast into the roles we play without having a say in the matter, and is there truly a bigger story being told that we’re little more than helpless characters in?
Right from the very first page, there’s a real understated beauty to the artwork of Rebelka, where – without wanting to damn with faint praise – the sum of the parts far exceeds the individual parts themselves. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of eye-catching detail and expressive characters on display here, but the real strength of JUDAS is the way everything hangs together so beautifully, with a frequently murky palette and more than a passing nod to classic Medieval Christian artwork throughout.
Loveness uses his dialogue and narration sparingly, never drowning us in words but instead letting the story gradually unfold at its own pace. Dialogue is also kept to a bare minimum, with the troubled narration of Judas himself doing the heavy lifting in terms of delivering exposition and moving the story forward. It’s a remarkably light touch for what is a fairly heavy subject matter, but Loveness nails it perfectly, working in seamlessly alongside the visuals of Rebelka and the masterfully unobtrusive lettering of Colin Bell to create an utterly captivating read.
There’s also something wonderfully thought-provoking about the way the creators tie things up here. The questions asked throughout the course of the book aren’t necessarily answered in any decisive way, but hey, isn’t that sometimes the best way? There’s a wonderful character arc for Judas himself, and the final page adds an emphatic underscore to the whole journey, providing a small amount of retribution for the renewed faith of our leading man.
A work of art both visually and narratively, JUDAS takes the established Bible story and gradually unpicks and expands upon its themes, delivering a fresh, raw and engaging look at one of literature’s greatest villains. Highly recommended.