When you’re hurt by a story, it can be difficult to find value in it. Religion is the most obvious example of this. Sure, it does good and preaches love, but what about the more tangible effects? What of the corruption of the institution, the imperfections of its teachings, or the wars fought in religion’s name?
These are the questions that the titular disciple confronts head on in the fourth and final issue of BOOM! Studios’ Judas. After having been damned to Hell, Judas Iscariot found himself questioning everything he believed. He’d been destroyed by the religion he followed, forced to play a preordained part in a play he didn’t have the script to. In previous issues, he was courted by Lucifer, who told him of his similarly fated role, and was joined by Jesus, who was cast into the Pit, where Judas has followed. Now Judas is forced to choose whether he will turn his back on his supposed savior or forgive him for keeping the truth from him.
Pulling from apocrypha like gnostic gospels and the Divine Comedy, creators Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka present readers with a version of the infamous traitor that is more complex, more tragic, and immensely more human than any interpretation before. There are no easy answers in this finale–no lazily succumbing to or insulting of tradition. The story seeks to find both the truth in what Judas believed before the betrayal, and also the truth in the suffering he was unfairly damned to endure. Can there be answers found in both?
I won’t ruin the ending for you here, but it’s a subversive and operatic one. Rebelka’s artwork elevates a story that could have seemed like fan-fiction into one that feels like a lost, sacred myth that has been waiting to reveal itself. His characters are beautiful and mysterious and legendary, but also full of pain and humanity. Every panel is given just the right amount of detail, pulling back for quieter moments, but unleashing explosions of color and intricate imagery for events of more cosmic import. The complexity of emotions that Judas–and the reader–experiences over the course of this issue could have been lost in the hands of a lesser artist, but Rebelka’s art sings on every single page.
This is not a series for everyone. Not every non-Christian reader will connect to the subject material, and not every Christian reader will be happy to see some of the most sacred moments of their religion given new meaning. But if you come into Judas with an open mind, you’re in for an incredibly unique, thought-provoking, and beautiful comic book.