If you’re a person of faith that is offended by the title and/or content of the new series from Image Comics, The Goddamned, then you’re probably not reading much of any scripture as closely as you should. Written by Jason Aaron with art by R. M. Guéra, there’s loads of coarse language (some–ok, much–of it aimed at God) and rivers of blood. However, underneath this gruesome facade, lie a host of questions about myth, sacred texts, and the Divine.
The Goddamned: Before the Flood focuses on Cain, who, as we all learned in Sunday School, was punished by God for killing his brother Abel and forced to live out the rest of his life wandering the Earth. What our Sunday school teachers didn’t tell us is that he was such a badass. I guess you can hone your fighting skills when you’re virtually immortal (Genesis 4:15). The series feels like the Bible by way of Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino. It has the horrendously hideous bad guys of the former, the whip-smart dialogue of the latter, and the over-the-top violence of both.
1600 years after Eden, we meet Cain as he comes to in a muddy bone pit with a boy accidentally urinating on him (above). He’s naked and unafraid. The boy doesn’t have much information for Cain, aside from the fact that a bunch of thugs are terrorizing his village, and, luckily, there aren’t any Nephilim with them. Cain marches into the village and does away with the thugs in a whirlwind of violence that goes on for nearly seven pages. Cain clothes and arms himself, continuing his journey across a barren, prehistoric landscape. He theologizes as he walks and reflects on his troubled relationship with his “asshole” brother. He’s in search of a way to lift the curse God placed on him…a way to die. As the first issue draws to a close, in a brilliant twist, an unexpected “new” character arrives on the scene.
I’ve seen just about every film and television series based on the stories of the Bible, and The Goddamned feels like a welcome addition to the conversation. With shades of R. Crumb‘s illustrated Genesis and Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Aaron and Guéra provide the kind of theologically honest and aesthetically gritty take these stories deserve. Aranofsky dared to do something similar and was equally praised and crucified for it. Depending on their readers, I imagine a similar reaction awaits these daring artists.
Personally, I’m hooked. The first issue teems with the kind of predatory, survivalist, and unnecessary violence that Marjorie Suchocki writes about in The Fall to Violence. It all takes place against desolate, nightmarish landscapes that will no doubt shape the way readers imagine Bible stories from now on. There’s something interesting about the way these ancient stories embed themselves in our minds (or at least those of us who grew up reading or hearing about them) and how quickly and easily (even diverse) images or representations of them become our visualizations of them. For me, Noah used to be Charlton Heston, but now he’s Russell Crowe (or is it the other way around?). Either way, if the first issue of The Goddamned is any indication, we’re in for both a gruesome and thought-provoking journey.
The first issue of The Goddamned is available at your local comic book store or online through Comixology.