If Men of Wrath‘s ‘Mail of Wrath’ letters column is true, author Jason Aaron has one bleak family tree. His latest creator-owned title comes from the same deep, dark pit that birthed his previous collaboration in the space, Southern Bastards; and even if he is bringing in a different team for this title, it has that same tone of the other series. Protagonist Ira Rath is one seriously messed up guy, and this issue goes out of its way to paint the shades of an anti-hero who still somehow manages to be interesting enough to follow. Tales with lead characters that are this deadly can sometimes be difficult to relate to in the necessary manner, but Aaron crafts point-of-view narration towards the beginning of the book that immediately dispels all other reservations that fans may possibly have regarding the way that the audience reacts to these characters.
There are so many things that could have gone completely wrong with this story that Aaron seemingly avoids. The author could have softened up Ira too much, and he could have reversed one of the terrible scenes that happen towards the middle of the book. He could have put too much explanation as to why Ira is the way that he is, but there is one simple scene and narrative hook that ties this entire issue together with ease. There are many positive aspects about Men of Wrath #1 worth writing home about, but there is one that is especially genius which actually came as a surprise to me–the pencils of Ron Garney.
Garney isn’t someone who has created comics in the independent space before. Here, the artist reigns in his craft and tells a story that is much more focused and down to earth. For someone who drew Thor recently, this is quite impressive. The pencils in the tale are not incredibly detailed here, as they only show the necessary additions to the story, but everything presented is solid here. Matt Milla assists the art greatly with his bold color choices. The sections toward each half of the comic are very clearly defined from each other. Flashbacks have a different tone that is easy to differentiate from the main comic. It also helps that Garney approaches the flashbacks differently in how he draws the stories. The attention to detail on clothing choices and other flourishes are subtle additions that serve to enhance the story.
Possibly the best part about this comic is the note at the end written by Aaron. The author paints a vivid picture through words about how everything in the story meshes into his own personal life. It’s something that is hopefully included in the trade, because it does help put the very heavy story into the appropriate context and celebrate the fact that the audience is reading a story about someone who is truly horrible. The text is unconventional, and something that needs to be included if there is ever a trade of the series. It also may be slightly disheartening that this does exist in the midst of something like Southern Bastards. This story is missing some of the scenery and the personality of that titles’ more deep-fried sensibilities. Also, at a certain point, it is almost like Aaron is competing with himself in the amount of books he is writing.
Even in the context of Southern Bastards, Men of Wrath is something that will churn your stomach in the best way. Aaron is almost doing his equivalent of Garth Ennis in this story. Either way, this is one messed up comic book that I took sheer delight in reading. If you give Men of Wrath your time this week, it will allow suck readers to stare into the bleak pit of aforementioned despair. This comic is really messed up, but in the most painfully, delightful manner.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Production: Idette Winecoor
Editor: Sebastian Girner