Review: The Goddamned #5
“The Goddamned #5 is the natural, yet perfect, conclusion to a tale of a fallen world, a world that might have always been fallen and might always be destined to be fallen. However, Aaron, Guera, and Brusco give us a tale that’s not unrealistically hopeful or oppressively heavy. In a yarn filled with biblical myths and cannibalistic giants, we get a story that embraces humanity and takes it for what it is, light and dark, warts and all.”
The Goddamned #5
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: r.m. Guera and Giulia Brusco
Release Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2016
If you go onto Image Comics’ official description of The Goddamned #5, in stores today from Image, all you’ll get is the following piece of scripture from the first book of the Hebrew Bible:
“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed.” Genesis 9:6
On the surface, that perfectly encapsulates what’s brewing in writer Jason Aaron and artists r.m. Guera and Giulia Brusco’s final issue of the first arc of their story of the wandering Cain: The first child born of Adam and Eve, after years of traveling the globe, looking for a death that the touch (curse?) of God has prevented for years stretching into decades, may finally get his chance at rest at the hands of Noah.
Aaron, Guera, and Brusco’s version of the ark builder isn’t the kindly countenance with whom we’ve become acquainted with through told and retold biblical narratives over the centuries, however. Instead, the slaver seems to be as flawed and fallen and savage as the humanity Noah claims that the Almighty has told him would be wiped clean from the face of the Earth. Despite not finding death at the hands of giants and leviathans during his travels, in Noah, Cain might actually find relief.
If he still wanted it, that is.
At the end of the previous issue, Cain had decided that there were still good people worth fighting for, in the form of the Bone Boy Lodo and his mother. Rather than acquiesce to Noah and his army of followers, he pushes forward for what he sees as a spark of good still left in the world of horrors that he considers God to have created. However, in order to save Lodo and his mother, he’ll still have to contend with a carnivorous giant and Noah himself, and, maybe, whether his newfound faith in humanity is justified.
One of the threads of the first arc of The Goddamned focuses on have a sense of self and coming to grips with who we are. Cain has had direct interaction with God and may know Yahweh better than anyone else who has ever walked the Earth. His worldview can be traced back to those encounters with the divine and, ultimately, how he views his place in the world. The Earth has descended into a decay since the first murder, which Cain perpetrated, leading Cain to see existence without meaning. With no sense of purpose to his reality, he chooses to seek a death that never comes. It’s only when he has the opportunity to act as protector that he finds purpose. He moves from the micro—worrying only of his own needs—to the macro—being intertwined with and feeling a connection to his fellow humans, maybe for the first time in his life. Aaron paces this transformation with the care and deliberateness the story deserves, giving a readers a payoff that feels earned.
Aaron contrasts Cain with Noah, who believes he has been touched by God to build an Ark for a select few when the Almighty swallows the rest of his creation in water and darkness. In The Goddamned, Noah is a slaver and violent thug. Rather than use God’s calling to reassess his life and change his focus, Noah instead uses Yahweh’s blessing as justification for the horror he inflicts upon those in his way. He has no sense of self-awareness, something that is no more in the spotlight than when Cain and Noah have their final confrontation at the book’s end. Cain speaks for rest of us in his rebuke of Noah, telling the builder that he’s just the same as the rest of humanity—monstrous, flawed, in God’s image. Aaron is telling a story that is very humanistic in nature. It’s all about knowing oneself and accepting our flaws in order to know what we really are and moving forward based on that knowledge. Without explicitly saying it, Cain is better for his self-introspection. He doesn’t necessarily have a better view of humanity, but he knows what he is and, to quote Rust Cohle in True Detective, there’s a freedom in that. Maybe. Aaron does one of the things Aaron does best and manages to give readers a heartwarming message amid the grime and dirt and savagery of the world of The Goddamned, but not without gutting them at the same time.
Balancing those two tones is a credit to Guera, whose linework pulls readers into a world that he and Aaron have deconstructed and built from the ground up using mud, decay, and woe. Like the first season of True Detective referenced earlier, the universe of The Goddamned has the potential to be too oppressively depressing, teetering into a despair that might alienate some fans. However, what makes the story work are the personalities we follow. Cain can be a pure son of a bitch, but Guera’s facial renderings connect to the reader on a human level. Some of the words flowing out of Cain’s mouth can be jarring, but Guera’s linework helps us remember that those words don’t flow easily and have been built from a heavy life lived. The sadness in his eyes belies a man who almost gave up the luxury of hope a long time ago. Brusco’s colors over Guera’s pencils contribute to hinting at the mood of the scene, employing lights and darks to indicate what the characters’ feelings and motivations.
The Goddamned #5 is the natural, yet perfect, conclusion to a tale of a fallen world, a world that might have always been fallen and might always be destined to be fallen. However, Aaron, Guera, and Brusco give us a tale that’s not unrealistically hopeful or oppressively heavy. In a yarn filled with biblical myths and cannibalistic giants, we get a story that embraces humanity and takes it for what it is, light and dark, warts and all.
The Goddamned #5, written by Jason Aaron with r.m. Guera and Giulia Brusco on art, is on sale now from Image Comics.