Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Judas Coin

by Walter Simonson

If asked to list my favourite comics creators from my pre-teen and teen years, Walter Simonson would definitely hold a place of prominence on that list.  His work on Thor was revolutionary, and I remember his run on Fantastic Four with fondness.  His X-Factor was visually stunning, and his Manhunter a classic of the superhero genre.

He hasn't been producing much in the last years, aside from a recent resurgence of variant covers and short art appearances on Indestructible Hulk and Legion of Super-Heroes.

He did release The Judas Coin in 2012, although I've only just now gotten around to reading it.  This is a very cool graphic novel, which begins with the crucifixion of Christ, and continues into a very futuristic 2087.  Each short story in this book is linked by the presence of a single coin, lost by Judas when he tried to return his thirty pieces of silver at the dawn of the Christian era.

Jumping through the various eras, this book also serves as a survey of some of the different, storied parts of the DC Universe's past.  Little-seen characters such as the Golden Gladiator, the Viking Prince, and Captain Fear star in the first chapters, while Bat Lash is given the 19th Century slot, and Batman and Two-Face represent the present day.  Simonson creates a new, 2070 version of Manhunter (unless this is just a really obscure DC character I never knew about) to finish up the novel.

Each of these stories involve some sort of misfortune that befalls the person holding on to Judas's coin.  It's a very effective framing device, that allows Simonson to tell a number of different stories that match the genre of each era.  Of course, the Viking Prince story involves large monsters like those Simonson drew in his Thor days, while the Bat Lash story takes place after a particularly heated game of cards.

I love Simonson's art, and the way in which he adapted things for each new chapter.  The Bat Lash chapter has a slight sepia-tone to it, and in the Manhunter 2070 story, the female adversaries look like they could have stepped out of an anime series.  The decision to construct the Batman story around the landscaped shape of a newspaper strip was an odd one, and while it looked nice, I hate having to read comics sideways, especially in hardcover.

It would have been nice to see some of the other eras of DC history or future represented here.  I would have loved a Justice Society of America chapter set in the WWII era, and for the book to have ended with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I can see how the powers that be didn't want the book to be too visibly pre-New 52.  Still, this is a solid read, and worth checking out.

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