Despite being a firm fan of the majority of Jason Aaron’s body of work -- a gem of which was he and r.m. Guéra’s previous collaboration, Scalped -- I wasn’t overly keen on the first issue of The Goddamned. Most of that slight disappointment may admittedly be thanks to my raised expectations of what this team could bring to such an interesting premise (Cain vs. Noah in a literally godforsaken wasteland). But while both its lushly grim (if sometimes unfocused) art and quiet (sometimes too quiet) narrative were intriguing, I still never felt the wow factor I expected. Thankfully, however, in The Goddamned #2, I think we’re getting closer to a story of truly mythic proportions. What I think I enjoyed best about this issue, which affords more in-depth characterizations of Cain and Noah, as well as further harrowing evidence of how truly misbegotten and wretched the planet and its people have become after The Fall of Man, is how pervasively murky the lines of morality can get in a world of literal shit. Aaron does a great job of making his main characters’ apathy, even antipathy, for the human race as palpable as the mud that cakes and devours Guéra’s panels, while also reinforcing the idea that that’s just how it is.
And yet, even as they dispatch cannibalistic animal rapists and feral murder children, respectively, we get in both a glimpse of a very fractured, bruised and woefully misplaced humanity...but a humanity all the same, There is no hero in this book, no one to root for -- well, unless you can choose between the suicidal immortal who was the world’s first murderer and the slaver-cum-slaughterer of the world’s leftover dregs, who would rather save maggots than a human he deems savage -- and Aaron skirts that line well in the blunt hopelessness of Cain’s narration, the violent desperation of his dialogue and the loathsomeness of his cast.
But just like its characters, this story is not just a bleached and broken bone, and there are many narrative tendons to devour in The Goddamned #2. I can’t wait, for instance, to find out more about the strange and terrible hierarchy of this world, and love the mentions we get of groups like “fuck hunters, skin cutters, shit witches and bone boys” -- like these groups are the compartmentalized gatherers of the stuff that still counts as currency on Earth; roving packs that pick away at that which still clings to the world. Also, I’m not sure where Noah go a wolfman army...but I sure do like that it’s there.
Of course, all of the above might ring more hollow if not for the visual direction of Guéra, who felt more on-form this issue, and back to his level best (which is, even at the worst of times, better than most). Sodden in the mirk and grime of Giulia Brusco’s harshly-lit palette, Guéra gouges out a rich and sinewy style in issue two that better encapsulates, for me, the hellish existence of this world, with deep grooves that vein themselves similarly in cracked earth and worried brows.
Speaking of which, his figure work this issue is outstanding in its rough hew. Initially, I was only off-put by Guéra’s too fair-haired, too freshly-faced Cain, until I realized that, his healing factor notwithstanding, Cain is the direct descendent of human perfection and would indeed stand out against a foul and fallow landscape. If you’re anything like me, after looking at this book a few times, you’ll feel compelled to take a nice long bath. There’s not much more you can ask for in a story like this.
So, while I was fairly resigned after reading The Goddamned #1, I have to say that its second issue was just the pick-me-up / tantalizing taste of things to come that this series needed to get me back on-board. Noah pun intended.
The Goddamned #2 Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: r.m. Guéra Colorist: Giulia Brusco Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital