“Every story needs a villain.”
A couple months ago, I first saw the solicitations for a new mini-series from BOOM! Studios. Having read a few different mini-series that BOOM! has published (like Warlords of Appalachia and Bill & Ted Save the Universe), I was familiar with the quality and attention that goes into their art form. Seriously, a whole comic that isn’t half advertisements? Plus, this may seem a small thing, but the paper quality gives the book a tactile richness that most Marvel or D.C. books don’t have.
Immediately, Judas was a title that caught my interest. Especially that it was a mini-series, which tells me the author has a story to tell. Any story that had Judas front and center is bound to be controversial to someone. Going into it, I wanted to make room for any theological disagreements I might have to try (while also not picking those points apart) and understand the story Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka are trying to tell.
The first panel immediately drew me in.
The gravity to that statement, Did you know it would be me?, lays out the premise for the story. Judas sets himself up as the lynchpin of Jesus’s plan to glorify Himself and rescue people. Judas is wrestling with his predestined path as the fall guy. It all depended on his sacrifice to make God’s plan go forward. Enter discomfort.
Within the first few pages, I found myself wondering what this book is trying to say? Judas begins with questioning, and the tone escalates to accusation. There is a part of that that makes me cringe, and then there’s a part I find as brilliant storytelling. Is this accusation a sentiment that Jeff Loveness shares, or are we only pulling back the curtain and getting into the mind of Judas Iscariot, the most famous traitor of all time?
As the mental movement of Judas dives deeper with each question, it culminates that there is a personal pain that makes each question twist like a knife in his back. We hear the classic thought of God, if you are good, then why is there suffering in the world? None of these questions are unexpected, or even unreasonable for any doubter or seeker among us.
There is one particular series of panels that have Judas evading demons in pursuit of him. What makes this page particularly the most uncomfortable for me is the overlay of Isaiah 53:3-4 across the panels: He was despised… and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The juxtaposition of those words describing Judas and/or Jesus is heavy. Coming to a close that is to be continued, we find Judas at the feet of another in another parallel that sends me back to wondering what is going on.
One thing I wondered about that is not in the comic is Peter. He also betrayed Jesus, but instead of 30 pieces of silver, it was for his own skin and reputation. They were both traitors, yet one of them ran to Jesus for grace and forgiveness, and the other was self-condemned and hung himself. This is something I’d like to see explored more, if not in the series, then at least conversations.
As a graphic and visual medium, the art is wonderfully dark and feels representative of the reeling dizziness in Judas’s own head. Jakub Rebelka has done a masterful job here.
In the Bible, Jesus asks his disciple Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” I don’t think that this comic is telling us who Jesus is, though that Isaiah bit feels like it’s dancing on a boundary for me. I think Judas 1:4 is an imaginative and speculative exploration of Judas. In addition, it raises questions our culture is asking, and I think it would be detrimental to not look those questions straight in the face. Do I have all the answers to every question or doubt that could ever be raised? No. There are gaps in what I comprehend. However, I have every reason to believe, even in spite of those questions, in the goodness and trustworthiness of God. Questions and doubts are not a threat to Jesus. He can handle them. That being said, even if controversial, I feel this book is a good gift. Judas, as a comic book mini-series, is an overlapping of circles. The conversations that can come out of people reading it could be so beneficial.
Judas is a four part mini-series, and I’ve already asked my LCS (Local Comic Shop) to put it in my pull box. I’ll check back in every month as the story unfolds. If you’re reading it as well, let’s talk about it!