Thursday, 2 October 2014

Men of Wrath #1 Review (Jason Aaron, Ron Garney)

In his afterword, Jason Aaron says that from the way it opens Men of Wrath may be his darkest comic yet, and I have to respectfully disagree. Have you read his Punisher MAX run from a few years ago, specifically the Bullseye issues? That was some pitch black shit. Men of Wrath #1 is on par with that and if you don’t know what that means, a man is stabbed to death in the (almost biblical) first scene and in the second a family is executed - father, mother and, yes, baby. Aaron and artist Ron Garney are not messing around with the tone - it is firmly established! 

This is the story of a bad man descended from a long line of bad men from the south. Starting with great-grandfather Isom in 1903, the Rath men have gotten more evil, more cruel and violent with each successive generation until we come to the present day and the worst one of the lot, our anti-hero, Ira Rath. 

A highly successful hitman and all-round sonuvabitch, Ira is diagnosed with cancer, which he refuses treatment for because he’s just that tough! Choosing to die slowly he’s offered a new job with a new target - his estranged, stupid criminal son. Will he take the hit or will he help his boy escape the dangerous men he’s gotten mixed up in? 

From Scalped to Southern Bastards to Punisher MAX, this kind of dark crime comic starring an unstoppable killing machine as the main character is exactly the kind of book I love to read from Jason Aaron. It may seem like well-worn ground by now but he always finds a fresh angle with these stories to make them individually compelling each time, just like he does with Men of Wrath. 

Lately he’s been on a southern kick and there’s a distinct identity of place in the comic from the rural farms, muddy rivers, a picture of Jesus in a doctor’s surgery, guys drinking out of jars, and gun, guns and more guns galore! 

Ron Garney has collaborated with Aaron many times in the past, drawing Captain America, Thor, and numerous Wolverine comics for him, but I think Men of Wrath has his best work yet. The lines aren’t sketchy like they usually are and there’s a sharp perspective to the panels, Garney knowing when to zoom in to a character’s eyes to emphasise dialogue and pull back for a panoramic shot for less wordy moments to highlight a character’s smallness in the world. I also loved the nod to their shared past with the inept son attempting to rob a gas station wearing a Wolverine mask! 

Aaron says he was inspired by his own dark family history to write Men of Wrath - his great-great-grandfather killed a man over a sheep and his great-grandfather died a strange death. It’s quite a personal comic for him then. This five-issue miniseries could even be read as Southern Bastards Volume 2, or a companion piece to that title. 

Men of Wrath #1 is a very grim comic but a totally enthralling one that instantly draws you into its darkness, holding you close until the end. This one reads like if Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon’s Saint of Killers had his own spinoff title (Dillon actually draws the variant cover to this issue). Aaron’s on a roll this year with Southern Bastards and the newly relaunched Thor - don’t miss his latest awesome title, Men of Wrath!

Men of Wrath #1

No comments:

Post a Comment