Save for a short story in the pages of “Thor: God of Thunder,” this is the first time Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera have worked together since completing their excellent Native American reservation-set crime series “Scalped.” That fact alone was enough to get me to give this series a shot. “The Goddamned” is best described as “Aaron and Guera’s ‘Bible Stories’” since this first volume gives us a rather different perspective on Noah and his quest courtesy of a certain unkillable biblical outcast. This character isn’t named at first, but perceptive readers will likely be able to guess who he is before his identity is revealed. Said protagonist is the hard-bitten loner type who has learned not to care about those around him as he looks for a way to finally die. However, his nihilistic attitudes are soon put on hold as he encounters a woman whose son has been kidnapped by Noah and his crew, to work on the Ark and keep the animals fed, and he decides to help her out. All because the love she has for her boy is a very rare commodity in this day and age.
Guera’s art is the star of the show here as he renders a pre-flood world that is gritty and rotten enough to make you understand why God would want it all washed away. The savagery of the world’s inhabitants is also rendered in stomach-churning detail with very little mercy on display here as well. It’s good that the visuals are this strong because there’s a lot about this story that most readers will find quite familiar, both in terms of story and what Aaron has delivered before. While the arc that the protagonist undergoes isn’t new by any standard, it also falls prey to the writer’s “more is more” tendencies. Things don’t get as bad as the baby-chucking excess seen in “Men of Wrath,” though, the nihilism and anti-God ramblings start to grow old after a while. To the point where the final surprise of the story fails to register because — in case you didn’t get it — this world is screwed.
Aaron does serve up some clever lines, an imaginative offensive use of his protagonist’s immortality, and an interesting take on Noah himself. He’s just as much of a brute as his fellow man, but he’s employing this brutality for a higher purpose. All in all, this is probably best enjoyed by people who were completely onboard with what Aaron and Guera were doing in “Scalped” and want to see what they’re like when they’re let off the leash of Vertigo. Anyone looking for a story about Noah which actually embraces hope while not shying away from depicting a world that needed to be washed away is recommended to check out the “Noah” graphic novel from Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichon which served as the proof-of-concept for Aronofsky’s film.