By Jeff Loveness, Jakub Rebelka, Colin Bell, Michelle Ankley, Gavin Gronenthal, and Eric Harburn
A test to see if a story has a great antagonist is to make them the protagonist. If they have their own wants/needs and can be rooted for in the same context as the “hero,” the “villain” is extremely compelling. That was the premise of Judas, and it shows no signs of slowing down in delivering extremely effective storytelling. Maintaining the heights of its first issue, Judas #2 expands its scope beyond the titular character, becoming one of the most beautifully done comics out there.
Wandering the dark landscapes of Hell, Judas comes across the Lord of Darkness himself. In a narrative focused on telling different perspectives, who better to tell another version of events than Christianity’s oldest evil? Writer Jeff Loveness makes the Devil the main narrator of the issue doing what he does best: seducing. Weaving a sympathetic tale of his fall from grace, Loveness leaves a cold edge to him that clearly differentiates him from the painful self-reflection shown by Judas. The distinction is only made clearer thanks to Colin Bell’s lettering, giving the Devil’s pitch-black balloons that depict a more sinister element to his voice. And yet, his case is very easy to relate to, bringing together increasing levels of injustice to create a wholehearted plea for reason.
The Devil’s story portrays the premise of the series on a much grander scale. Using figures throughout the Bible such as the Pharaoh and Goliath, he shows the punishments of those that are guilty only of being chosen to be damned. The best part of Judas has been the handling of these characters as more than just the binary classification previously given to them. They’re treated as real human beings, creating a very sorrowful tone for the book when they are seen as the victims. Challenging the roles of God and the Devil as to who has humanity’s best interests at heart is another idea that, while it has been done before, still feels fascinating when presented here.
None of this would be nearly as captivating without the art of Jakub Rebelka. Many pages feel like they could be on stained glass, able to depict the anger, pain, and sorrow of the story on their own. Satan’s battle in Heaven is painted with bright red, packed with chaotic action and billowing flames of war. This is contrasted well with his defeat and entrance into Hell, changing to cooler blues to get across feelings of loneliness and loss. Further accentuated with a fitting Biblical quote by Bell, this is a powerful panel in an issue filled with great ones. The same sadness comes across in the issue’s final reveal, raising the stakes of the series in a vastly enjoyable way.
It’s unfortunate that Judas is only going to be four issues. Its first half has been an interesting look at the personal cost of Christianity’s overarching narrative of good over evil. Initially content at being just that, it’s apparent that Judas is going to be something a little more for its final chapters. Whatever it tuns out to be, writing and art this inspired solidifies this as a series that is well worth a look.