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FIRST ISSUE: THE GODDAMNED

An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.

The Goddamned, VolBIBLICAL ACTION

In The Goddamned, r.m. Guera draws Jason Aaron’s novel conception — a comic book version of the life of a character from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. In the opening sequence, we see a naked man arise from a mudhole, and then, for the next seven mostly silent pages in this first issue’s completed episode, he decimates a mob of “cave men” who have tried to kill him by throwing him in the mudhole. Although he is occasionally wounded during this confrontation, he is instantly regenerated and kills all of the thugs and then constructs a wardrobe for himself from the shreds of their animal-skin clothing. He goes wandering off, muttering to himself about his life:

“I had a family once, but it didn’t work out.” He remembers getting angry too easily. He remembers killing his brother. And we realize the page before Aaron’s captions reveal his name that he is Cain — “son of Adam, the man who invented murder, the man who cannot die.”

The full title of this first issue, “Before the Flood: Part One, The Mark of Cain,” isn’t given until the end of the book in order to preserve the mystery of the naked killer’s identity. But just before the last revelatory page, we meet Noah, “lumberjack, trapper, shipbuilder — man of God,” who is scouring the countryside for pairs of animals.

Aaron has taken hints from the Bible story and elaborated on them. If Cain invented murder and is condemned to wander the world, what will he be doing as he wanders? More killing perhaps. And if his condemnation lasts, as is intimated in the Good Goddamned artBook, forever, then he must be impervious to disease and the kinds of disaster that would kill him. He may very well be the world’s first superhero.

In his juicy drawings (a page of which is on display at the end of our previous review of Huck), Guera pulls out all the stops, deploying every graphic device possible to portray the primitive world Cain wanders in and the brutality of its population (yes, brutal — it’s before civilization, and these are the people who are so evil that God decides to drown them all and begin again; and by the looks of things, Noah is not much better than the rest). Guera’s gritty pictures are soaked in blood and coated with the grime of living in a desert. His layouts strain and break free from a regular grid during Cain’s assault on the thugs; then pages return to a regulated normal as Cain wanders off, muttering to himself.

Delicious as the pictures are, it’s Aaron’s story — his elaboration on the hints in the Bible story — that fascinate and will bring me back.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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