Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Goddamned, Volume 1: Before the Flood Review (Jason Aaron, RM Guera)

Jason Aaron and RM Guera get Biblical with The Goddamned, their latest collaboration that puts the Thump in Bible-thumper!

1600 years after Eden… 

Paradise is lost. The world is a wasteland of atavistic, wretched humans and among them all walks Cain. Cain: Adam and Eve’s son, the man who invented murder, the man cursed never to die. Suicidal, Cain has tried everything to end his suffering to no avail. But he has one last hope: the giants called the Nephilim, the sons of angels - and these days they hang around with a holy man and warlord called Noah. He’s building a boat or something and bad weather is apparently on its way… 

Believe me when I say I wanted to love this - Aaron and Guera’s last series, Scalped, is one of my all-time favourite comics so I was nothing but pumped for their reunion… and I was left disappointed with The Goddamned. 

Like Scalped, this first volume introduces us to our angry shitkicker of a protagonist who’s another bad son - but the characterisation this time around feels tired. Cain comes off as the first emo kid, moping around saying everything is crap and wishing he was dead. I found it really hard to like or care about this dude because there’s nothing to him - he’s just a selfish and immature bitch! 

That moody sullen tone permeates The Goddamned like an eggy fart in an elevator. Our protagonist is an anti-hero, the usually good and righteous (Noah and the angel offspring) are portrayed as corrupt and sadistic, and God is uncaring, spiteful and petty. Ooo, what an edgelord you are Jason Aaron! I think I’m just jaded of jaded comics. This ain’t your father’s Bible! Whatever. Maybe this dark interpretation of Genesis will have more of an impact on American readers where Christianity is a bigger deal but it’s not like this approach hasn’t been done before. 

It doesn’t help that I’m not now, or ever been, religious or that interested in Christian mythology. It was fun about ten years ago when every comedian had an anti-Christian bit though it’s been done now and gone back to being dull and trite. I couldn’t care less about stories set in Biblical times. And what’s the point of this series anyway - Aaron’s saying that everything sucks? The whole book reads like a gloomy teen’s scribblings, it’s so lame and unengaging. I’m not sure where the series is headed but I hope it isn’t going to continue retelling the Old Testament in “metal” fashion. 

The story is very one-dimensional: Cain wants to die and sets out to do just that. Whichever enemy he encounters, he defeats because he’s the uber killer and he can’t die anyway which makes the action predictable and boring and there’s a lot of it. He goes through a clich├ęd change to make him heroic and then it’s over. It really isn’t that special and reads like Aaron phoning it in which is weird because I thought, given the quality of Southern Bastards, that he saved his A-material for his creator-owned stuff. 

I loved RM Guera’s art - it’s epic, detailed, terrifying, otherworldly, apocalyptic, and hellish. He draws some really awesome grotesques and sells the violent, fast-moving action superbly; there’s real passion and energy in these pages. And the landscapes were eye-catching in their brutal starkness. The artistic vision is powerful. 

Besides Guera’s art, I suppose Aaron’s misery-drenched story is compelling in just how unrelentingly nihilistic it is and the story is coherent, if somewhat archetypical and flat. To be fair, it took me until Volume 3 to really fall for Scalped, and when I went back and re-read Vols 1 and 2 I didn’t recognise the criticisms I made about them in the first place, so maybe in another book or two I’ll have completely changed my tune. But right now for me The Goddamned, Volume 1: Before the Flood was a decent but flawed and unexpectedly unimpressive beginning from a creative team that I expected much better from.

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