A Strange Trip Through Time
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its ninety-sixth choice, The Judas Coin by Walter Simonson and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
The Judas Coin
Writer/ Artist: Walter Simonson
Letters: John Workman
Colourist: Lovern Kindzierski
Today’s choice is the third Walt Simonson volume to appear in the list. The Judas Coin was published in 2012 and was an anthology one-shot that follows the 30 pieces of silver that Judas Iscariot was paid to betray Jesus through time and through the DC universe.
The book opens with a four page intro putting everything into context and then we have the first story, a tale of DC’s Golden Gladiator set in 73 AD in the Roman empire, Blood Peace. Simonson employs a different style for each of his tales here and this has a Look and Learn adventure feel to it without sacrificing that Simonson feeling. In and out in just 13 pages, it’s a wonderful intro to the book showcasing a Roman agent who gives his all for Rome.
We move onto The Viking Prince tale, Black Blade, Silver Heart, which shifts the action to over 900 years to 1000 AD. Taking another classic little known DC character, the Viking Prince, whose stories were mostly drawn by Joe Kubert, Simonson gives us a 15 page Viking adventure again with a more open style which plays with the page construction. Two stories down and Simonson hasn’t disappointed yet.
The third tale features Captain Fear, set on the Spanish Main in 1720, Mutiny. Simonson has previous experience with this character as Fear was one of his first professional jobs for DC. A classic pirate story, where again the artist toys with his style, with some wonderful sound effects courtesy of letterer John Workman, again Simonson does what he had to do in a mere 17 pages. The story of the coins play their part here too in a tale of betrayal and revenge.
Then we jump to 1881 and a fun short starring DC’s classic Western character Bat Last. Shorter than the rest, Simonson does something very intriguing with his panel borders here and because of its short page count, only 8 pages long, it never outstays its welcome. The writer realises the power of brevity and he displays his understanding of the medium with rare skill here.
The penultimate story, Heads Or Tails, sees the book head to modern Gotham and here Simonson literally turns things on their heads. Each double page spread is a horizontal story page, broken up into a series of horizontal panels. Simonson has made no secret of his love for newspaper strips like Modesty Blaise and the James Bond strips and this Batman tale which has Two-Face get his hands on the Judas Coin is like a clever tribute to the newspaper strips that the creator admires so greatly.
It all ends with Manhunter 2070, probably the most obscure DC character here who appeared in DC’s Showcase book in the early 1970s, in a sci-fi tale he called An Epilog-2087. Simonson introduces a touch of manga and anime in his art here and it’s definitely the most experimental we have ever seen him before although the Two-Face story comes close to that. We also get a short sketch gallery at the end to offer readers a little glimpse into his approach to the book.
So Simonson has taken us on a rollercoaster ride through the DC universe in just 96 pages. I can’t think of another comic creator who would want to push the envelope and try a format like The Judas Coin with their work. Many decades into his career, the book shows a creator who is still keen to experiment and push his work and one who is still at the peak of his prowess. Colourist Kindzierski is the perfect match for Simonson’s lines and letterer Workman is exceptional as ever.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far