Jason Aaron has an incredible talent for writing dark, violent stories. This is made even more apparent in his newest creator-owned series Men of Wrath. Artist Ron Garney joins him on the book for his first foray into creator-owned comics. Together they tell a story of violence passed down through generations. Published by Icon Comics, an imprint of Marvel, this book is not for the faint of heart.
Men of Wrath is the story of the Rath family, specifically focused on Ira Rath. Ira is not a nice man. This is made readily apparent in the first few pages where a shocking display of violence occurs. Ira commits abhorrent acts without an ounce of remorse. He’s paid to commit them, but there seems to be more to him than just being a contract killer. He is given another job toward the end, one which may be his last.
This book doesn’t hold anything back in terms of violence. There are no implications or off-panel moments. Aaron lays everything out for the reader to see. What is held back are the explanations of motivations or reasons. Readers are left free to reach their own conclusions about Ira. This is one of the strengths of the book. The violence isn’t just included for fun. Each act strengthens the characterization in the book. It’s grotesque, but it’s purposefully so.
The story has a great build-up to the end and sets a good pace for the series. Some of the supporting characters may be a little bland, but the main cast are all well-defined within this single issue. The book has a lot of great unexpected moments, but this only makes the rather expected twist at the end more disappointing. It’s not a bad ending by any means, but the odds are you’ll see it coming a ways away.
Ron Garney’s art is a great match for the book. There’s nothing over-the-top in the panels, even when the violence gets extreme. The focus on realism prevents these moments from feeling ridiculous. Instead, the art grounds you in the story and enhances the effectiveness of the story. Garney’s work on the character’s faces is incredibly expressive with every detail serving a purpose. Credit to Matt Milla for some great coloring work, specifically on the silhouettes in the beginning of the book.
I wasn’t prepared for Men of Wrath #1. I’m familiar with Jason Aaron’s previous works and while some are decidedly dark, specifically Scalped and Southern Bastards, this book takes that darkness to a new extreme. This is a violent, brutal piece of fiction. Men of Wrath isn’t a book for everyone. There are moments in the book that will make even the toughest readers shudder. But underneath the violence is a great story told with precision and purpose. If you can stomach the violence, I highly recommend picking up this first issue.