In 2015, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra, who previously collaborated on the Vertigo comic book Scalped, reunited for a new ongoing series of stark and brutal biblical noir: The Goddamned. Although he renounced religion after being raised Southern Baptist, Aaron maintains a fascination towards religion and faith. The Goddamned presents a brutal, nihilistic take to the story of Noah’s Ark. It’s not so much a deep, intellectual discussion on religion as it is a grim fantasy featuring monsters and cleaving, but it’s a masterful title that delivers twisted takes on biblical tales, leaving readers hoping for a new arc.
Cut to five years later, Aaron and Guéra finally got around to that next arc, The Virgin Brides, which takes place in a different setting of the biblical times, before the Great Flood. Hidden high atop a mountain, where there are no men, the holy sisters at a secret nunnery live in paradise, rearing their flock of orphaned girls to embrace their future as blessed Brides of the Sons of God. However, when Sharri and Jael, two girls on the cusp of flowering, uncover what it truly means to become a bride, they run like hell from their home, far from paradise.
Aaron is at his best when writing male-orientated fiction that involves a lot of cleaving, and rarely writes female protagonists. Of course, he successfully made Jane Foster the Goddess of Thunder during his legendary Thor run, but The Goddamned struggles a bit in achieving a female-driven narrative.
From the jump, The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides establishes two young protagonists as friends, though Jael questions the whole belief system of the holy sisters. Aaron doesn’t delve deeply enough into their relationship, particularly their somewhat diverse views on religion. There are times where you can see Aaron is trying to be more thoughtful and elegant than what he done previously in the first arc, even if much of the dialogue is still reduced to underage children dropping F-bombs and C-words. The number of times that one of the girls, usually Jael, says “f*ck God” makes me think Aaron is just projecting himself, as if the message wasn’t clear enough.
With our two heroines on the run, the story just meanders as they go from one violent set-piece to the next, often being confronted by the High Ladies, hunters who are armored, but bare-breasted always. When the story leans more into fantasy, Aaron manages to maintain that sense of playful brutality, especially in the presence of a demonic serpent (who like other characters, likes to curse a lot), who becomes a key component in the bloody climax.
The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides flirts with greatness at times, for which you can mostly thank R.M. Guéra, who maintains his trademark artistic grit (though there’s no character introduction involving a pool of literal shit this time). You still get the blood-soaked imagery with zero glamor towards any of the character designs, while the monsters including devilish children are horrifying. However, because the book is aiming for something more elegant, colorist Guilia Brusco opts for a brighter color palette. There are pages where Guéra’s art is rich in detail, when it comes to certain locations, particularly the nunnery.
Aiming for something different within in the parameters of The Goddamned, the long-awaited Virgin Brides sadly ended up being a disappointment for me.
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