Judas: The Last Days OGN – W. Maxwell Prince

3 out of 5

An interesting but oblique work that shows off what we’ve since come to know about writer W. Maxwell Prince: that he loves contemplating the divide between fiction and reality, and that he manages to approach and reapproach that theme from interesting directions, without slipping in to pretentiousness. In Judas: The Last Days, he almost forcefully avoids such pretentiousness by masking his intentions, avoiding some of the more directly complex questions posed in his later works. I certainly understand the obfuscation – his main idea here could be easily slobbered over with ten dollar words and shallow “conclusions” by some less restrained theology student – but it’s also what robs the story of impact, and also encourages Prince to employ some shock baiting aspects that don’t seem to add much overall.

Judas, and the rest of the twelve disciples, have been made immortal by the word of their Messiah. We don’t touch base with all of them, but the other two main players in this OGN – Matthew and James – have spent their extra years exacerbating their own personalities, as realized by Prince: Matthew would seem to run a sex dungeon, and James is a drug maven, partnering with experimenters in the extreme, and pursuing the same himself. Both of these dedications seem, to whatever degree, to be in pursuit of “feeling” something; Judas, meanwhile, wracked by guilt for, y’know, being Judas, has grown disenchanted over the years’ lack of the reappearance of their lord, and as we pick things up in Last Days, he’s looking for a way to off himself.

This should be the story. It’s been told elsewhere, but recontextualized in the religious lens, watching someone who can’t die seek out a way to do so offers up a lot of potential. And Prince feints in that direction, but there’s a mystery man spying on Judas, criticizing his plans, and so it’s clear that there’s going to be something else going on. This almost immediately pulls us away from Judas’ plight, and John Amor’s clean but somewhat generic art style doesn’t build in enough personality to bridge the gap that’s built. So we never quite identify with what’s bumming Judas out so much. Prince gives us some flashbacks to help define that, but more pieces of the story have been introduced at that point that don’t quite gel yet, making it difficult to discern what our focus should be: is this about a man struggling with his past (and future)?; is it a snarky takedown of belief?; is it just a relative good versus relative evil showdown?

Or is it none of those things? It it back to that divide between fiction and reality?

The way Prince pokes and prods at this idea would find its way both into The Electric Sublime and Ice Cream Man, but, in both cases, with a more pared down and open approach, making each of those stories stronger than Judas. The Last Days is still an impressive first (I think?) work, tackling a pretty open-ended concept without the kind of over-written dramaturgy you generally see from writers – new and old – approaching this stuff.

Includes some extra pinups, a script to page process, and an afterword from the author.