Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: THE JUDAS COIN graphic novel


WRITER/ARTIST: Walter Simonson
COLORS: Lovern Kindzierski
LETTERS: John Workman
COVER: Walter Simonson with Lovern Kindzierski
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1541-5; hardcover
96pp, Color, $22.99 U.S., $26.99 CAN

Writer/artist Walter Simonson is an acclaimed comic book creator who has been producing work for 40 years. He is a revered figure in the comic book industry, especially for his work on The Mighty Thor and Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics. For DC Comics, he produced comics published in Detective Comics and took on Jack Kirby’s creations in the comic book series, Orion.

Published by DC Comics, The Judas Coin is a new original graphic novel from Walter Simonson. The Judas Coin is basically an anthology of six short stories featuring various DC Comics characters – all heroes, except for one villain who is essentially a co-lead. Each character belongs to specific time period in the DC Universe – from the first century A.D. to the late 21st century. The Judas Coin follows one of the silver coins that Judas was paid to betray Jesus Christ, and along the journey, the coin leaves a trail of betrayal and deception and a pile of dead bodies.

After beginning with Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ crucifixion, The Judas Coin stops in 73 A.D. for the story “Blood Peace.” Marcus of Rome (also known as the Golden Gladiator) accompanies the Emperor of Rome into the forests of Germania for a meeting that turns out to be a setup for assassination. The coin next appears in 1000 A.D. for the story “Black Blade; Silver Heart.” Jon Rikkson, who is The Viking Prince, and his men sail for the Mediterranean, but they detour into a strange land where the Green Man and his tree-worshipping zealots offer death.

1720 A.D. is the setting for the story “Mutiny,” starring Captain Fear, scourge of the Spanish Main. After his first mate, Bull, mutinies, the most daring and ruthless buccaneer must use his wiles to regain his ship before the sea or the Spaniards claim his life. “Ill-Gotten Gains” is set in 1881 A.D., and finds Bat Lash in the boomtown of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. Lash has decided to out-play a group of card sharks, but when they catch him, they want to play by the rules, which could mean Lash’s neck.

The cursed coin of Judas moves to the Present Day for “Heads or Tails,” a story in black and white. Two-Face decides to relieve the Gotham Museum of a group of rare coins that it is exhibiting, but he’s not the only crook in town looking to score some ancient money. Can Batman stop them or will he just be caught in the middle, watching an ancient curse play out? Finally, the coin makes a stop in 2087 A.D. for the Manhunter 2070 tale, “An Epilog-2087.” Answering the distress call of a vessel carrying rare coins, Starker the bounty hunter (also known as Manhunter) rides his star-ship deep into space. There, he finds some old playmates who once left him for dead.

Apparently, The Judas Coin began as an idea Walter Simonson had for a graphic novel. In fact, the only reason for The Judas Coin to exist is to give comic book readers something we need on a regular basis – Walter Simonson comics, and that’s a damn good thing. The Judas Coin won’t do much to elucidate and to advance the continuity that is the DC Universe. The body of work that is DC Comics has been created by an inestimable number of writers, artists, editors, and publishers, all with different ideas and many looking to rework the ideas of others.

Walter Simonson and his cohorts, superb colorist Lovern Kindzierski and the great letterer John Workman, take characters and ideas from the DC Comics wellspring and work wonder. The Judas Coin is that thing that makes comic books so alluring, and it’s not continuity. It’s fantastic storytelling that holds the imagination captive.

Simonson gives each story its own style and language – allowing the story to capture the essence of the genre to which it belongs. The Bat Lash tale is a sparkling Western with comic flourishes, like an episode of the old Bat Masterson television series. “The Mutiny” with Captain Fear is an old-school pirate comic book story. The Manhunter 2070 has the comic vibe of Berni Wrightson’s Captain Sternn, and almost seems like it was a segment of the animated film, Heavy Metal.

While I find this entire book to be exceptional, my favorite is the Batman/Two-Face story (“Heads or Tails”). Here, Simonson’s art is in beautiful black and white and is printed in the landscape format, so you have to turn the book sideways to read it. “Heads or Tails” looks like a newspaper comic strip; in fact, the graphic design for this story makes it look like it is part of an actual newspaper. [Readers may notice that Simonson’s art for “Heads or Tails” has a resemblance to the work of Howard Chaykin.]

Wow! The Judas Coin is so good it made me ramble. This is one of the best comics of the year by one of the best, Walter Simonson.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

No comments:

Post a Comment