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The Goddamned Book One: Before The Flood

    Ian Jane

  • Goddamned, The - Book One: Before The Flood

    The Goddamned Book One: Before The Flood
    Released by: Image Comics
    Released on: January 18th, 2017.
    Written by: Jason Aaron
    Illustrated by: R.M. Guera
    Purchase From Amazon

    Jason Aaron's latest creator owned comic to be published through Image Comics opens with a quote from Genesis 6:5-16 that says:

    “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on Earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

    We cut from this cheery scripture quote to a wasteland we're told is 'Somewhere on the edge of the desert.' Carcasses of both animal and man rot in the hot sun while a one-armed boy pisses off of a rock precipice. This is 1600 years after Eden. The garden was a long time ago indeed, it would seem. This place is a shithole.

    The boy's piss lands in the dirt, and under the dirt where it lands is a man who wakes up, none too pleased about how he's been stirred from his slumber but happy to be alive regardless, if completely confused about where he is and why. He tells the boy 'I was drunk. That's the last thing I remember.' Turns out this kid knows more about things than the man - the man showed up and tried to buy fire but his lack of scares was a red flag to the Bone Boys who cut his throat and left him for dead. When the kid asks him 'Why you don't got no scars?' the man tells him 'Because God's a fucking asshole, that's why.' Aaron isn't mixing words here, this is pretty rough, challenging stuff. Then the man tells the kid to stay out of the village until the screaming stops.

    Our stranger, still as naked as a jaybird, strolls on into the village where the Bone Boys are drinking the 'strong water' they stole from him, and he starts busting heads. He kills one of them and then in typical pack style, the others set upon him. There's a massive brawl, and once the man has killed everyone he needs to kill, he gets the rest of his belongings, clothes himself, eats and then sets on his way. He tells the boy to leave. The boys asks to come along with him, but is told no.

    As 'our hero' strolls through the wasteland his internal narration tells us how his parents were born to a perfect garden but how they were kicked out after only a few weeks. Vultures swarm in and pick the flesh off of bones. We learn how he and his brother came along and that, for a while, they were a family… until he got as angry as he is. In fact, his brother made him so angry that he killed him. Since then? Things have gone to Hell and he's walked the Earth, or what's left of it, for 1600 years cursing God in every way he can searching for something that can end the curse of Cain, the man who invented murder.

    The second issue of The Goddamned, from writer Jason Aaron and illustrator R.M. Guera, once again opens with a quote from Genesis, this time from 6:11 that says:

    “And the Earth was filled with violence.”

    If you've read the first issue, you already know how appropriate that quote really is. We pick up the story where it left off - a bearded man has slain a beast with his axe. He's approached by a gang of nomadic type who tell him to drop the axe, but he refuses. He tells them “If I drop this axe, everything dies. Everything that has ever lived.” The nomads are Ravagers and they're not taking no for an answer. They've never seen an iron axe before and they intend to take it.

    He calls them out as murders, rapists, thieves, and fools. He accuses them of laying with beasts and tells them that they are the reason that everyone will die when the rains come to wash all of this filth away but this only makes them angry. They attack, and while he is outnumbered, they never really stood a chance. When the brawl ends, his three sons approach him and he tells them that what happened was God's will. What's left of the men he's killed is eaten by wolves and the man and his three sons are followed out by a massive tribe.

    While this is going on, the man we believe to be Cain from the first issue wanders alone through the wasteland. He comes across a woman, scared and wielding a knife at him, telling him to get away. She assumes he's 'with them' but he's not. They took her son but he doesn't care, until he sees what they've left in their wake. She tells them that the men had shells on their heads like crabs and he's savvy enough to know that she means to say iron, even if she doesn't realize it or know what it is. He heads forward, into a valley where he knows he'll be ambushed. He wants to end this curse, he wants to be murdered. He wants to die.

    But he also remembers a time when it wasn't like this…

    “And God Blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it.”

    Cut to a garden. It's a peaceful scene. Here we see a man and a woman, naked - no need for clothes - talking about how impressive their view is, each holding a child in their arms. Eve shows the nerve to speak up to Adam, and he in turn threatens to shove an apple down her throat. They're not in the Garden of Eden anymore but in a wooded area looking out into the world. Eve, to her credit, tells Adam that the snake was more of a man than he was.

    Adam ignores her and tells Cain that as the first born, all of what they survey will be his. As he says this, the art poignantly shifts from a beautiful garden to an all too familiar wasteland.

    From here we watch up with Cain as he sits at a campfire while the woman he saved in the last issue prays to God to keep her son safe, to bring him back to her. Always the optimist, Cain advises her to save her breath and this leads to an interesting conversation where she asks 'Am I not doing it right?' This is the first time she's prayed and while Cain may feel like a reprobate, she obviously sees value in it. She asks him why he's helping her and his flashbacks allude to his reasons but he's not going to give her a straight answer. They talk some more, he learns her name is Aga, but before thing can go much further than that Night Raiders encrouch.

    She wants to flee, but Cain? He stands in front of them, naked, and lets them see his mark. When they recognize it, they run back into the night and leave them be. But what of Aga's boy? His name is Lodo and he's held by Ravagers, sons of Noah they say, they feel that they've got 'God and iron' on their side and they're a bunch of sadistic rat bastards. He's forced into slave labor for them along with a bunch of other boys around his age, the Bone Boys they call themselves. They call him 'Shit Bitch' and beat him, demanding half of his food. And while this is going on, Cain and Aga get closer to the Ravager's camp in hopes of retrieving Lodo in one piece.

    And then, as you'd guess, things get violent.

    “Woe unto them! For they have gone the way of Cain.”

    Cain and Aga did their best to sneak into the Ravagers' camp to save her son, Lodo, from a lifetime of slavery, but at the end of the last issue, they were found out. When this issue begins, Cain is getting the shit kicked out of him, Aga tries to free her firstborn. It doesn't work. Cain comes face to face with a behemoth, someone who can actually make him feel pain… feel anything, and he describes it as 'beautiful.' As they brawl, or more accurately as Cain takes a massive beating, Ada is knocked unconscious from behind.

    Men are crucified. Below them jackals and lions and primates fight over rancid corpse meat. The 'camera' pulls back and we learn that Cain has been nailed to a cross for nine days, yet he has not died. The leader of the Ravagers approaches him, now confident that Cain really is Cain, the man who cursed the world. Cain simply wants the giant to finish the job, but he's assured that his death is coming, just not quite yet. This man tells Cain that he will redeem the world and Cain addresses him as Noah. The Son Of Adam is hacked down from the cross and shown by Noah himself first hand all of the glory for which he is responsible. Never mind the fact that it was done on the broken backs of his slave horde. The camp is above and beyond other settlements, but it's the massive boat still under construction that stands out. Cain again calls out for the giant to kill him but Noah won't even grant him that much - instead he insists that he'll stand and watch the world be washed away, just like all the others.

    Cain is put back up on his cross, and then a small boy named Lodo shows up, tasked with feeding him - a boy Cain recognizes and who he knows he has no real choice but to help.

    With Cain's help, Aga has found her son Lodo and while Cain and the Ravagers pit bone against iron respectively in a bloody bout of hand to hand combat. The man who invented murder lays waste to scores of combatants and then goes one on one with a literal giant. It's going alright for Cain until a few others join in -Noah and his sons - and go at him with axes. It wasn't that long ago that this would have been exactly what he wanted - a quick death - but now he's got a reason to keep going, at least for a while.

    When the hordes of the damned start wreaking havoc with the arc, Noah retreats from the battlefield leaving the giant to finish things. Meanwhile the Bone Boys, those kids who were tormenting Lodo, debate whether or not to fight for the camp or steal the meat wagon and make a run for it. The argument is short lived, broken apart quite literally when Noah comes charging through on his way to get to the ark.

    Cain and the giant, Nephilim, are still going at it. The giant eats his arm but Cain persists, he has to stop Noah. Nephilim insists that they're going to finish this, unaware that, as Cain puts it, he's already dead. Cain makes his way through the chaos and the carnage, curses God, and then he comes face to face with Noah. The two men talk, they survey the destruction that they've each had a hand in bringing about. They talk, and then they fight and from there things get very dark indeed.

    This fifth issue wraps up the 'Before The Flood' storyline that makes up the first installment of the series (the next arc, 'The Virgin Brides,' will be out in 2017) in a genuinely unexpected way. Obviously we don't want to spoil the ending but this one hits like a kick in the balls. Aaron's writing is gritty, it's mean, it's angry and it's darkly poetic but at the same time, as earthy as it all is and as often as it deals in blasphemy, there's a lot of food for thought here. The way that Cain is written, his words and his actions, they make sense given the context of his origin and his life experiences. The rest of the characters are interesting as well, particularly Noah who is depicted here not as a savior or a holy man but as a narcissistic hypocrite. It makes sense that he and Cain would come to blows. Light reading this is not and The Goddamned is hardly a comic for the faint of heart or the easily offended but this is seriously heady stuff, it pulls you in and it keeps you there, taking Biblical stories and giving them a truly unique spin.

    R.M. Guera's art has been simultaneously gorgeous and grotesque from the first page of the first issue and this fifth chapter is just as amazing looking as the four that came before it. There's so much detail put into every panel that you really want to take your time with it and pour over every page to properly take it all in. The use of color is also impressive, with plenty of earth tones used to create the dirty, filthy world that is this comic's setting and some splashy bright reds used throughout to give it contrast.

    Really solid stuff, a remarkable artistic achievement - the next arc can't come fast enough.

    In addition to reprinting the first five issues of the series, this trade paperback edition also includes some of Guera's sketchbook pages alongside a cover gallery featuring work not just from Guera but also from Jock, Jason Latour, Esad Ribic, Skottie Young and Chris Bruner with Rico Renzi.

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