Saturday, July 13, 2024

Judas Complex Review – A fast and furry-ous start to a great new urban fantasy series

We all know that taking performance enhancing drugs is a dangerous prospect, but Judas Complex – written by Son M., illustrated by Dri Gomez, and published by Dauntless Stories – takes that lesson to a new, horrifying level.

Our story begins with an American football team called the Red Wolves getting ready for The Big Game™. In order to ensure their victory, the team’s coach hands out strange, glowing pills to all the players. Main character Desmond is a bit hesitant, but ultimately goes with the flow and takes his dose. Though he feels weird, the pills seem to work; Desmond crushes the competition and makes an incredible touchdown. But upon turning around, he realizes his teammates have transformed into huge, ravenous wolves and have mauled the opposing team.

Screenshot of Judas Complex panel where Desmond and the Red Wolves are meeting before their big game
Provided by Dauntless Stories

The only survivor, Desmond goes into a state of shock and flees the stadium. Eventually, he’s found by a vampire named Constantine, an investigator who takes Desmond in and helps him to recover. The pair stay and work together for a year, and things seem to have settled down. Desmond spends his days with Constantine and does his best to leave behind his final boy past. But all of that is thrown into disarray when a new client’s case reveals that the substance that caused The Red Wolves Massacre is back with a vengeance.

Judas Complex has a big task on its shoulders as the introduction to a new series. It can be difficult to find the balance between origin story and current plot in this kind of story, but Son M. navigates it well, allowing us to get to know Desmond through the past, and Constantine through the present. We actually don’t get any backstory on Constantine, aside from him letting us know he is very, very old. This is a great foil to Desmond, who we mostly know from our first encounter with him at that disastrous football game and his ensuing fear and trauma.

Constantine and Desmond work well together in a lot of ways; the vampire’s age and knowledge of the supernatural provide a strong, supportive foundation for the werewolf’s recovery and allow him to start coming into his own as an investigator. There’s also a tenderness to their relationship that cannot be ignored. It’s obvious that Constantine really cares for Desmond, and Desmond trusts and relies on Constantine in his weakest moments when he’s struggling with his past and his condition.

Screenshot from Judas Complex where Desmond is starting to shift into a werewolf and lose control, so Constantine reminds him to breathe and helps him
Provided by Dauntless Stories

The actual plot events of Judas Complex go by pretty quickly. From investigating a disappearance, to uncovering a much larger conspiracy, the graphic novel moves at a pretty good clip. This is largely a positive thing, until you get to the end. It almost feels a bit sudden when Desmond starts giving a monologue to wrap things up, but that’s due to how engaging the story is up to that point. Reaching the finale of this volume is like being dragged up for air after being submerged underwater and exploring the wonders below. It’s probably good to have the break, but it’s hard to not want to stay under for just a little longer.

Once the villain is revealed, there’s not quite enough space to give him room to breathe the way the graphic novel does with Desmond and Constantine. We get a very brief teaser of what his motivations are, but the plot moves past this quickly to re-focus on our monstrous duo. While I’m sure more about the bad guy, and any others behind what’s going on in Judas Complex, will be revealed in later installments, but I wouldn’t have minded just a little bit more.

This graphic novel had a lot of ground to cover, and only about 77 pages to do it with. The fact that Son M.’s writing and Gomez’s art were able to create such a compelling arc and fairly balanced origin story is impressive. Despite some pacing hiccups along the way, Judas Compex is a great introduction to this urban fantasy world and like the Red Wolves, I found myself hungry for more when I was done.

Judas Complex is available to pre-order over at Dauntless Stories.

A copy of Judas Complex was provided to Gayming Magazine via the author and publisher

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