JUDAS #3 frames an insightful and exciting confrontation between Judas, Jesus, and Satan. Loveness weaves the complex duality of Judas' sentiments toward Jesus, which is brought together by Rebelka's phenomenal and ominous illustrations in this issue.
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If you thought “Judas” and “redemption” might be something you would never expect to be in a comic, then get ready for “Jesus in Hell” to take it a step further. In JUDAS #3, Jesus gets a rude awakening to find himself in Hell with Satan, Judas, and a good chunk of Hell’s populace cracking their knuckles to beat him to a pulp. Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka bring readers a new enlightening issue to the limited, four-part series.

There was something about Satan that unnerved me in the previous issue, and boy, my instincts hit the nail on the head. Maybe the red eyes should have been the first red flag before coming to any other conclusions. You can never trust a comic character fully if they have red eyes, after all. In any case, Satan presents Jesus to Judas, who is dumbfounded to conceive the idea that the Son of God would find himself in Hell. The issue reveals answers to the questions that have burdened Judas even after death, and the manner Loveness and Rebelka present this monumental exchange and revelations between the characters is nothing short of extraordinary.

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So Much for the Ninth Commandment

Much of this issue pertains to the evolution of Judas’ character in comparison to his initial introduction. He was teeming with resentment against Jesus, uncertain about his life’s outcome, and frightened over his denouncement to Hell. He was plagued by guilt until death, and it’s only now that Judas is allowed to question Jesus whether his “betrayal” is predestined to be an inevitable outcome. But it’s the exposition of emotions in JUDAS #3 that makes this the best installment in the series. Wisely, Loveness doesn’t begin the confrontation between Judas and Jesus through words, but rather through assessment.

Judas #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Judas diligently guides us through his observations. We experience the duality of his feelings against Jesus and the first inkling of his humanity resurfacing. Judas was fed a lot of tragically laced narratives by Satan, which would aggravate his hostility toward God and Jesus. It’s deliberately well-timed because after Satan concludes his tales, Jesus appears in Hell, much to Judas’ disbelief. Already incensed, the “pity” he regards Jesus with swiftly abates as he remembers his fated damnation is a result of Jesus and God’s manipulation.

Judas #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

This pivotal reflection of Jesus’ discernible guilt illuminates his character. Judas makes a point that he has seen Jesus angry, upset, and tired, but never out of place with fear or guilt-ridden. For someone with a savior complex, the scene rubbed me the wrong way. Not because of Loveness’ narrative, but rather that Jesus, cognizant of his actions and Judas’ intentions, did not experience any prior guilt until now. It’s…lowly and pretty cruel in the grand scheme of things. But even then, despite how wronged Judas felt, he’s not like Satan and the rest. He’s not as angry as he expected himself to be toward Jesus.

Lots and Lots of Blues

Judas #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Stylization skips around a bit in this issue, as it did in the previous issues to the series as well. The renditions of these characters are rough in some panels, especially Satan in some pages. But, as I did before, I looked past it because this issue is on its A game. Hell’s still a beautifully bleak blue landscape, cold and unfriendly, and it really sets the tone the issue plants within the first few pages. In JUDAS #3, something so minute becomes something so powerful: Jesus’ dialogue boxes when he spoke dissolves its color. The red text fades to black text. In Hell, Jesus’ holy identity is irrelevant. He is an average human rather than God’s child. Jesus is now just another individual in the pits of Hell, consumed by the painful and crushing weight of the world’s sins and targeted by the wrath of the damned.

Rebelka’s artistic renderings of the world’s sins flooding Jesus blew. Me. Away. It was raw, aggressive, and horrifying. It’s outstanding. The unbridled ire of Hell’s residents mauling and attacking Jesus stands as its own compositional masterpiece in the issue. I mean, sure, sucks for Jesus, but it’s such an aesthetically striking page. Rebelka takes it a step further with Satan. We completely see the true version of Satan, who seduces us with emphatic narratives of the others, as well as himself, rotting in Hell. The chill Satan should give you is present in this issue when he seizes the opportunity to make Jesus suffer like he has. Satan’s appearance morphs into a picturesque representation of horror. Rebelka absolutely killed it this issue, and I think JUDAS #3 showcases his best work to the series yet.

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Coming Full Circle

JUDAS #3 takes us back to the intended idea Loveness had for Judas. Judas would not be reduced to an abhorrent singularity in religion’s contexts. Rather, Loveness’ Judas is an individual of many flaws with a potential to be good but doomed to Hell to ruminate about his life being snatched by God. The story has built its foundations up to this point where all of Judas’ unanswered questions come to light when he meets Jesus face-to-face in the depths of Hell. Painted as a treacherous man, Judas initially allowed all the sins to catch up with Jesus. He watches the rage of Hell’s people seize and act on their revenge against the Son of God.

Judas #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

The story took an interesting turn when Jesus appears in Hell, especially the implications it brings along with it. Satan elaborates to Jesus he is nothing but a man in Hell, an average human who God cannot hear nor would He bother to protect. Even as Satan spouts explanation Jesus does not want to hear, he accepts the targeted hatred. He accepts the assaults and does not protect himself against those wishing to harm him. Judas comes to the realization that while he harbors his own antagonism toward Jesus, Jesus bears no ill will despite it all. While Judas might’ve wanted his life to play out differently, he comes to the realization Jesus doesn’t deserve a place in Hell. This turning point highlights Loveness’ version of Judas: someone capable of good, someone who understands right and wrong and willing to do something about it.

Final Thoughts on Judas #3

I’m heading to the comic store the day of the release. Even after visiting my favorite comic shops in New York, I was upset to discover that the previous issue of JUDAS sold out within two days. At the same time, I’m immensely proud because it’s a testament to Loveness and Rebelka’s incredible effort to deliver a fascinating take on history’s famous “traitor.” (Proud as I am, I still wanted the issue). I was drumming my hands on my laptop the entire time because this was it. This was the moment. The original concept of the comic where Jesus admits certain people live strung by puppet strings their whole life. However, the polarization between Judas’ and Satan’s sentiments toward Jesus draws a fine and distinct moral line. The theme of redemption has taken root these past two issues and resurfaces thrillingly in JUDAS #3.

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Sometimes, short series make the grievous mistake to rush their series. JUDAS has one more issue before its conclusion, and with great relief, I can say with the utmost certainty the series preserves its incredible quality by maintaining its steady pace. Everything has immaculately aligned itself into place: we understand enough about Satan and Judas. We know enough about those who have also been wronged by God and Jesus. The context has been provided in such a precise moderation that details of the story are never overstated or understated. JUDAS #3 made my heart soar with its complexities and dissection of character. I’m looking forward to how JUDAS #4 will wrap everything together in what’s sure to be a satisfying conclusion.

Catch the newest issue of JUDAS #3, out February 14, 2018, here!

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