JUDAS #1 BY JEFF LOVENESS AND JAKUB REBELKA
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
JUDAS #1 offers an interesting portrayal of Judas, humanizing the man behind the betrayal of the Son of God. The story is steady, enthralling, and well-suited for the atmosphere the comic creates.
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Trigger Warning: This article contains images of suicide.

Are “Judas” and “redemption arc” two things you never expected to read in the same sentence? Then get ready to be mesmerized by JUDAS #1 by writer Jeff Loveness (NOVA) and illustrator Jakub Rebelka (NAMESAKE). This pair brings you a comic about Judas’ journey through the horrific realm of Hell. Similar to Dante in the Divine Comedy, Judas guides us through the domain of sin. Along the way, Judas encounters some horrific beasts who prey on the weak. These creatures know his identity and are aware of the crime he committed against the Son of God.

Loveness and Rebelka weave a beautifully illustrated story. The plot centers around Judas’ attempts to understand his role in God’s orchestration of life’s events. The story attempts to offer an opposing view to the villainous version of Judas from religious contexts. This Judas acknowledges that there is more truth to Jesus than what he had led on in life. A voice has told Judas a higher truth (which he wants to ignore). Consequently, he sees Jesus for who he really is. Someone who is capable of so much to humanity but incapable of removing the suffering that still lingers in the world.

Nevertheless, there are some points Judas mentions that had me nodding to myself. It helped me understand why he started questioning his former devotion to his faith and to Jesus.

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The Betrayer

The traitor. The villain. The sellout. These are all things that come to mind when thinking about the Biblical narrative of Judas. Whereas, in this comic, his character is much more expansive. In JUDAS #1, you get to see the layers that define Judas as an individual. Additionally, you witness what set him apart from being a complete loyalist. Instead of a hateful figure, Judas is a humane individual who distinguishes the contradiction of life’s mercilessness with the power God possesses to make life prosperous.

Honestly though? It broke my heart reading this issue. Moreover, I’m a sucker for redemption tropes. Even after I finished it and put it away, I thought about JUDAS #1 throughout the day. There is something so intrinsically tragic about Judas on this page specifically:

Judas #1
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Imagine thinking you were set up to be the “bad guy.” That nothing in your power could change your fate. Judas’ self-awareness of himself in Jesus’ life and death does nothing but make you feel for the guy. The implications of Jesus being aware that Judas “never had a chance to be good” really set me off. I felt intense anger toward Jesus, which is a sentence I never fathomed ever writing in this lifetime.

To experience strong emotions immediately for Judas and Jesus really exemplifies the prowess of Loveness’ storytelling. If something from a comic can invoke a burst of feelings, especially anger for the right reasons (like a villain being the perfect villain), then you got a good read ahead of you.

Into the “Inferno”

Judas #1
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Forget the fiery pits! Or flames spilling out from the ground. Or even some incarnation of Satan sitting on a throne with a pitchfork in hand. In JUDAS, Hell is a rocky terrain teeming with gruesome creatures lurking on the ground and in its cloudy-streaked horizon. With carcasses littering the grounds, a sense of danger pervades the lifeless land as Judas guides you through the surroundings.

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This is a sure-fire way to build the right atmosphere for this type of comic. For Judas, considering his backstory as a double-crosser, there is not much of a silver lining. The weight of his crime comes to him full circle in Hell. Also, with the mood established, the illustrations really carry this comic home. It makes this comic as intense and thought-provoking as the creators intended.

Admittedly, the only thing that I found off was the level of detail on the characters. The first half was gorgeous and expressive. However, near the end, Judas starts to lack the finer details of his facial composition. Despite that, everything across the board was fantastic!

What really won me over about the stylization of this issue was the characters’ skin. There are plenty of artistic renditions of Jesus and his disciples. Yet, historically and regionally, it never made sense to me that modern religious art depicts them as fair-toned. Jesus and his disciples traveled. A lot. Usually, sun exposure means darker skin, so those lighter variations never fit well with me. Regardless, to each their own, though! Two big thumbs up for Loveness and Rebelka. I commend them on their interpretation and decision to make Jesus and Judas dark.

Final Thoughts on JUDAS #1

From a religious angle, Judas is an unforgivable and traitorous figure. Likewise, the Bible does not offer much perspective on him after the crucifixion of Jesus. There isn’t much to humanize about a despised religious figure. Regardless, Loveness and Rebelka attempt it. They provide insight into the repercussions of Judas’ actions. Moreover, as readers, we journey with Judas to see what Hell has in store for him. During our travels, we start to grasp Judas’ festering resentments he carried with him for Jesus. It makes you wonder if Judas was right. If, all this time, Jesus knew Judas would sell him out.

I can vaguely recall lessons from Sunday school. Therefore, it is safe to say you don’t need to know much about the religious passages to read and enjoy this! The pacing of the comic is superb. Also, it builds on the character, settings, and plot at the right pace in a single issue alone. Plus, it challenges the concept of Jesus himself. There is this idea how Jesus is placed on a high pedestal as the embodiment of “perfection.” Meanwhile, Judas was always “meant” to fall into place in his role as a renegade.

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JUDAS #1 is part of a four-issue series. While I might have enjoyed the idea of a longer series, I can’t complain. I am eager to read the next installment! Reading about Judas in a modern medium like a comic and without the old syntax of the Bible is refreshing. Furthermore, it makes you consider how much of Judas’ life was predestined and planned in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the comic’s gripping narrative will have you looking forward to next issue!

Don’t miss out! JUDAS #1 hits the shelves starting December 13, 2017.

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