Judas is a graphic novel by Jeff Loveness and Jakob Rebelka about Judas Iscariot. This book is so deep I don’t want to give too much away. It needs to be experienced.
The story follows Judas from the early loss of his faithful mother, his betrayal of Jesus, his death, and his experience in hell. Judas is a thoughtful, pained man who hears voices deep within himself. First it is the voice of Jesus, whom he begins to follow. Later he hears a different voice that asks questions such as, If Jesus can feed the hungry, why does the world starve? If Jesus can heal the sick, why is there so much suffering in the world? His inability to reconcile these questions silences the voice; God provides no answers. Looking back, Judas wonders if Jesus knew all along that he was the one who would betray him, that the future was written and Judas was predestined to do what he did. He is both agonized by his betrayal of Jesus and angry that Jesus could have chosen to save him and didn’t. That Jesus could have told him what Judas was going to do and didn’t save Judas from a life of pain and ultimately his death.
After Judas hangs himself he is sent to hell. There, he has a long dialogue with the fallen angel who now rules over hell, Lucifer. Lucifer says he will tell Judas the truth about everything, starting with “the story is broken.” I don’t want to say too much more, but the dramatic arc of Judas’s story was riveting.
The art is amazing. The backgrounds are colored depending on the scene. The hues are dark: blue, gray, brown, orange. Some panels feature straight lines and sharp angles, like medieval wood cut outs. The scenery is desolate and the panels are often narrow and claustrophobic. The art is urgent. I noticed that early on Judas was frequently drawn from the back and bent. He is witness to his life and suffers under it. When he hangs himself, the setting sun turns into a black halo, like the flat circles shown in old paintings. Through the rest of the book he has this halo.
Judas is a short book, but powerful. I got so much out of it. I will be thinking about it for a long time.