Tag Archives: Jason Aaron

Review: ‘Southern Bastards’ #1

Aaron And Latour Knock ‘Southern Bastards’ #1 Out Of The Park

If you’re looking for a replacement for ‘True Detective’ stop what you’re doing and pick up ‘Southern Bastards.’

This review is from the Pop Culture section of News Talk Florida.

Jason Aaron does what all great writers do, create awesome gritty characters. In one issue Aaron brings to life Earl Tubbs and sets Tubbs up for an epic battle against Craw County, Alabama. Old Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston have nothing on Tubbs.

Jason Latour brings the book to life but what works best for Latour is his color palette choices to convey action and emotion. The colors used for day, night and flashbacks work perfectly. Latour succeeds as a creator because Tubbs looks original. You can tell that one of Latour’s influences in Frank Miller from body styles to action scenes.

The book does have a certain Dark Knight Returns feel in story as well. What separates Aaron from Miller is Southern Bastards is written from personal history. Aaron and Latour take the reader on an emotional action-packed journey and their letters at the end of the first issue really drive home why this book will succeed.

Story: 9/10 • Artwork: 9/10 • Overall 9/10

Thor God of Thunder #4 A Thunder God Wishes for Death

thorgodofthunder4coverThor God Of Thunder #4

Story By: Jason Aaron

Art By; Esad Ribic

Jason Aarons work on Thor thus far has been great. Focusing on Thor in three different points in his life has provided a very unique and fresh take on the character. The God Butcher arc this far has been pretty bleak for The God of Thunder. This new villain is creepy and down right cruel towards the gods. Treating them as mere sport for him to slaughter. Thor has made it his responsibility to stop The God Butcher from killing any other gods and that seems to be the basic premise thus far.

As I said earlier whats nice about this story is seeing young Thor and Old Thor also dealing with the God Butcher. It gives this story an epic scope that fits nicely into Marvel Now’s relaunch strategy. I especially like seeing an Old Thor as King of Asgard. He’s not the confident and defiant  god were familiar with. Instead he is actively hoping to seek a Vikings death and welcomes the God Butcher and his shadow pets to take his life. I appreciate the lengths at which Jason Aaron has went to make Thor his own without losing all the myth of the character.

Just as important is the art of Esad Ribic. Ive been a fan of his work ever since I saw him on art duties for Silver Surfer Requiem . His work here again reminds me that he is one of the most talented artists working in the industry. Each page is constructed beautifully behind whatever backdrop suits the action. He invokes feelings of Frank Frazzetta’s art but still stays true to his style. Every facial expression reads perfectly and the action never feels stale. Each version of Thor reads and feels different and this is as much a testament to Ribic’s rendering of the character as it is Aaron’s writing.  This is a very pretty book. Also wanted to give a special mention to I’ve Svorcina the colorists. He juggles a lot this issue introducing us to three different worlds making sure each one has its own unique color palette.

At the end of this issue it seems that the three separate stories being told are staring to come together. It will be interesting to see what Thor thinks of his older self and what he’s become next issue. I’m thoroughly enjoying this book and appreciate what Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are trying to with each issue. If you haven’t yet check out this series it does a great job of capturing all the elements that make Thor such a great character while injecting some new life into Asgard as well.

Review Score: 8/10

Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots

Review: Avengers vs. X-Men #9 – Jason Aaron writes sweet music

This week Matt chats about Marvel Comics Avengers vs. X-Men #9 and Image Comics Harvest #1. Jason Aaron does a great job writing Spider-Man, he deserves to write a Spider-Man book. Bring back Web of Spider-Man!

Harvest #1 review: http://bit.ly/Rhp9z9

Avengers Vs. X-Men #9
Written by Jason Aaron. Illustrated by Adam Kubert.

• Their numbers dwindling, the Avengers stage a daring raid on the X-Men’s prison to rescue their captive members-and you won’t believe where it is!
• Alliances begin to change as the nature of the Phoenix becomes apparent!
• And in the end, it all comes down to Spider-Man!

Follow Matthew Sardo on twitter @comicavult
If you would like to be part of the weekly chat as a guest email Matt at sardo@chicagocomicvault.com

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #10 – Cyclops Comes Calling

Wolverine and the X-Men #10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo [Penciler/Colorist]; Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba [Inkers]

The events of Avengers Vs. X-Men had to hit home at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning sooner or later, and when Cyclops comes calling, boy do they ever.

Taking place between Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 and 3, Wolverine and the X-Men #10 provides some additional insight into what happened between the storming of Utopia and Captain America organizing teams of Avengers to search the planet for Hope Summers (and ultimately betraying Wolverine by throwing him out of a Quinjet).

To sum it up, Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magik show up at the Jean Grey School and insult everyone there so they can recruit additional X-Men to their side.

Perhaps more interesting than the main plot, Genesis finally figures out who Apocalypse is (but remains unaware that he is a clone/reincarnation of the villain) and Angel finally realizes that he isn’t an angel, but a mutant who used to be known as Warren Worthington.  Genesis and Angel are also quickly forming a bond, which will be interesting to see play out in the months to come considering Angel was once Apocalypse’s Horseman of Death and replacement prior to losing his memory and gaining his new abilities.

With this issue, Jason Aaron has crafted a tie-in issue that doesn’t exist solely as an extension of the event it’s a part of and continues to develop stand-alone plot threads.  Additionally, some of these plot threads are likely to have an impact on the event as a whole–namely the entry of Gladiator and the Shi’ar Death Commandoes, who have dealt with the Phoenix and the X-Men before, into the fray.

Chris Bachalo’s art in this issue also transitions much more smoothly between panels, feeling much more in line with his earlier work on the book and his stellar art on the 2010 Amazing Spider-Man “Shed” arc.

This isn’t a perfect issue, but it’s still a damn fun ride.

STORY: 8/10
ART: 8/10 

Review: Wolverine #305 – Something’s Rotten in Dunwich

Wolverine #305
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art:  Paul Pelletier [Pencils], David Meikis [Inker], Rain Beredo [Colorist]

The first issue under new writer Cullen Bunn, Wolverine #306 sees the return of an antagonist from previous scribe Jason Aaron’s Wolverine: Weapon X run.

Feds are investigating a cross-country killing spree, when a child who witnessed a New York slaying from a second-story apartment window draws a crayon sketch of the killer he saw–and the killer looks a lot like Wolverine.  Cut to California and we find Logan in a bar, drowning his sorrows and shunning the advances of a server–because, you know, it’s never been that safe for “normal folks” to be around him.

He exits the bar reflecting upon this, as well as the fact that he’s been waking up in strange places, covered in gore and with no clue of what he’d done.  Only one person could be responsible for this (well, maybe a few), but Logan somehow instinctively knows that Dr. Rot is behind it.

See, back in Wolverine: Weapon X, Dr. Rot operated a mental hospital known as Dunwich Sanitorium where he had a machine powered by dozens of disembodied brains that used to control the patients.  Using this machine, he “strip-mined” Logan’s brain, leaving him unable to remember who he was or how he got there.  He wanted to use Wolverine as his own personal killer, so he could, in turn, get even more brains.

Now, Rot is at it again, and as Logan heads to the now-vacated hospital to search for answers, the feds come calling at the Jean Grey School–where Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey are looking for answers of their own.

Too often, a character’s solo book and any team books they might be part of seem to exist in parallel universes.  Bunn begins his Wolverine run on a strong note by continuing to keep Wolverine tied to Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men by doing one of the things that Aaron did best–acknowledging that Logan’s solo adventures don’t exist in a void.  Additionally, his decision to use Dr. Rot allows him to deliver the visceral ultra-violence Wolverine is known for without just relying on that to carry the book.

The detail of Paul Pelletier, David Meikis, and Rain Beredo’s art isn’t to be overlooked, either.  The Dunwich Sanitorium is as creepy as ever, and the blood and gore pops off of the pages.

Seeing one of your favorite writers leave one of your favorite books is never easy, but if this a precursor of things to come from Cullen Bunn, I think I’ll be fine.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  9/10 

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #9 – Cap Comes Calling

Wolverine and the X-Men #9
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Chris Bachalo [Penciler/Colorist]; Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, and Al Vey [Inkers]

As you’re probably aware (based on the banner on this issue’s cover), Wolverine and the X-Men #9 is an Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in issue.  As such, it provides a micro-level look at the macro-level events taking place in the event’s main book.

This issue in particular takes place during the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, detailing Captain America’s visit to the Jean Grey School for intel from Wolverine.

Having dealt with the Phoenix before–namely when it possessed Jean Grey and turned her into a force of destruction before she killed herself to stop it–it’s only natural that Beast would be monitoring deep space in the event that it returned.  Thus, we find out here that Beast and Wolverine were well aware of its impending return far before Steve Rogers came to tell them.

Jason Aaron also delves into the internal conflict going on with Logan, as well as that potentially brewing within the school, regarding the potential of going to war with Cyclops’ group of X-Men on Utopia.  Those X-Men, after all, are people that Wolverine and others in his school called family for years.  Unfortunately, they pretty much all–Cyclops especially–believe that Hope Summers is the “Mutant Messiah” and that the Phoenix possessing her will bring about a reawakening of the mutant species, which was mostly de-powered by the Scarlet Witch during “House of M.”

As Logan says to Captain America, “Think of Utopia as a compound full of heavily armed religious fanatics.  And you’re the feds butting in, telling them what to believe and how to live.  It won’t go well.”  Wolverine knows it’s going to come to blows and is wary about siding against the X-Men, and Captain America only convinces him to side with the Avengers by putting it in terms of saving the world.

Logan’s decision is shaky, at best.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Force’s approach lays out two telepaths with previous connections to it–Rachel Grey and Quentin Quire–and alarms the Shi’ar Emperor Gladiator, whose son, Kid Gladiator, is a student at Logan’s school.  Gladiator and the Shi’ar are also familiar with the destructive nature of the Phoenix, and while it remains to be seen if they’ll come into play in the main series, it’s only natural that they should show up in one of the X-book tie-ins.

Chris Bachalo’s art remains hit or miss for me.  While I enjoy it here for the most part, there are a few panels, such as the psychic disturbance with Grey and Quire on page 15, that were a little confusing at first, but made sense on second viewing.  My main art gripe here is that Rachel Grey is seen standing behind Wolverine in the faculty meeting near the end of the issue after being laid up in the school’s medical facility on the previous page.

Minor art gripes aside, Aaron does with this issue what any good tie-in should do–add depth to the main story.  By adding more detail to the events of the first round of AVX and throwing in additional plot threads that allow for a stand-alone story arc.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  7/10 

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 – Cyclops has lost his mind

Avengers Vs. X-Men #2
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  John Romita Jr. [Pencils], Scott Hanna [Inks], Laura Martin [Colors]

[We’ve tried our best to be as spoiler-free as possible here, but nobody’s perfect.  Read at your own risk.]

Defying Captain America’s request to take Hope Summers into custody last issue, Cyclops fired the first shot in the X-Men’s war on the Avengers against the Star-Spangled Hero himself.

As the Avengers take Utopia’s beach, Emma Frost moves Hope inside–assuming the girl, with more questions than answers regarding the Phoenix and what its return means regarding her, will stay put.  In short order, the most epic battle in comics since the end of 2008’s Secret Invasion or 2006’s Civil War commences.

Jason Aaron sets up several of the fights to take place in the accompanying Avengers Vs. X-Men: Versus mini-series beginning next week, with several moments in this issue hinting at the outcomes of those fights.  He brings Quicksilver into the fray, revealing where the son of Magneto stands in the fight (HINT:  There isn’t going to be a reunion of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants anytime soon), and teases the entrance of Magneto’s daughter, the Scarlet Witch, with no hint of who she’ll side with.

The highlight of this issue is arguably Aaron’s insights into the match-ups, like calling Emma Frost’s organic diamond form punching Tony Stark’s multi-billion dollar armor the “most expensive punch in history,” playing up the marital dramatics in a fight between Storm and the Black Panther, or pointing out that Wolverine is fighting against an island of characters he once called family.

This initial battle is all for naught, but it does skirt on the idea that Cyclops might potentially become a villain.  Much of what he says in this issue sounds like things reformed X-Men über-villain Magneto would say, and he does have his own Juggernaut now in Colossus.  With 10 issues to go, the only things that are certain are that several characters are bound to switch sides, Civil War-style, (Hell, it’s even teased in the Cap vs. Wolverine cover for AVX #3) and that things will spiral further out of control.

At this point, my biggest hope (aside from wanting a Cyclops villain turn) is that we at least get a Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 video game out of this in a year or two.

– Roger Riddell

Follow me on Twitter @RRiddell3 

Mike DeVivo’s take forthcoming

Alright Roger Ive Assembled here!

So, two issues into Avengers Vs. X-Men and I can say I’m underwhelmed. What I thought was largely going to be a collaborative effort in bringing two different teams and their vantage points to light has thus far turned into “Cyclops is crazy and the Avengers aren’t.” I don’t buy the angle that Cyclops is losing his mind, or that he’s taking things too far. It paints every X-Man and woman as blind sheep fighting for the cause of a crazy man. Maybe I’m rooting for the little guys, in which case i feel the X-Men are warranted to protect one of their own. The characterization feels off, especially with Cyclops and Wolverine. Again, maybe it’s because I’m in Cyclops’ camp here, but I can’t help but feel like this story feels off.

I do love John Romita Jr.’s work in this series so far. His facial work with females has improved very much. His pencils give all of the energy and intensity you’d expect between a battle of the two most recognizable factions in Marvel.  Aaron’s script does provide great narration as Avengers and X-Men beat the hell out of each other. Also, kudos for him creating the Magnetic Fastball Special. Those moments are what I’ve enjoyed about this series so far. He also gave Emma the best line in this issue reflecting the tone I think most X-Men have towards their Avenger counterparts. After Iron Man refers to Hope as “the girl,” Emma responds by telling him that the girl’s name is Hope and that they never requested help in the first place.

We get quick glimpses of Quicksilver and Wanda ,with Quicksilver rushing to join his Avengers team and Wanda walking away from her journal not joining the fight just yet. The journal by the way is called “Wanda’s Dream Journal” (slap forehead with hand) there are more than a few of these moments in this issue that make you cringe. As I said in my opinion this book hasn’t delivered the goods just yet with the story. It’s a pain to see characters like Quicksilver, who was actually  insane (anyone remember House of M?), fighting along side Avenger’s while Cyclops is characterized as a mad man losing touch with his reality.

I’m hoping next issue improves a bit and makes the reason for this fight a bit less one-sided. With the cover to issue #3 showing Cap fighting Wolverine, it will be interesting to see why he defends the X-Men after dropping down and beating up the same students he defended during Schism.  As I said, as a fight book this is fun. As an event that is supposed to change Marvel’s landscape for the next year…not so much.

– Mike DeVivo

Follow me on Twitter @pandasandrobots


 

Review: Wolverine #304 – Jason Aaron’s Final Issue

Wolverine #304
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Steve Dillon, Ron Garney, Paul Pelletier with Dave Meikis, Mike Perkins, Jefte Palo, Daniel Acuña, Steven Sanders, and Renato Guedes
Color Art:  Matthew Wilson, Matt Milla, Rain Beredo, Andy Troy, and Chris Sotomayor

Jason Aaron goes out with a bang on his final Wolverine solo issue, finding a way to feature just about every character from his run and then some.

As the newly appointed secret assassin lord of the entire eastern hemisphere, Sabretooth takes it upon himself to throw a party featuring a who’s who of Wolverine antagonists.  Among the attendees are Mystique, Daken, Lord and Lady Deathstrike, Silver Samurai, Sauron, Tiger Shark, Blob, Soulstriker, Jade Claw, and the Hellfire Club’s new White Queen.  Dr. Rot is also shown being turned away by security at one point.

Naturally, Wolverine has caught wind of the party.  I guess super villains don’t have these sorts of gatherings without leaking word to whoever it is they want to kill, you know?  Anyhow, Wolverine contacts Maverick, who is in a much lower place than we last saw him, for more information.

This is just the first of several scenes we get that tie up loose ends and plant new plot threads.  While Dr. Rot’s appearance was a tease for an upcoming Wolverine story, several of these cameos could carry over into Wolverine and the X-Men, which Aaron is still writing.  We see Kade Kilgore, the pint-sized Hellfire Club Black King, arriving on a deserted island and shooting Blackwater’s disgraced CEO before hiring two of the three remaining Blackwater “Adamantium Men” as his bodyguards.  The remaining Buzzard Brother is shown eating a freshly-killed wolverine in the Canadian Wilderness, clippings about Wolverine and the Jean Grey School pinned to the walls around him.  Wolverine’s murdered children are shown in Hell with his father, and ex-girlfriend Melita Garner is given a new status quo.  There’s even a joke thrown in about furries for good measure during a scene with Logan’s on-again/off-again ninja girlfriend and his adopted daughter.

Then, there’s the inevitable brawl that happens when Wolverine shows up at Sabretooth’s party.  I hate to feel like I’m spoiling anything (and I may already have done so), but there’s a catch here involving an old Sabretooth tradition.

Aaron ends his acclaimed run the way any long-term gig on a book like this should be wrapped up–tying up loose ends and leaving good openings for future stories, whether they be by incoming writer Cullen Bunn or carried over to Wolverine and the X-Men.

Just about every artist who worked with Aaron during the last few years worked on Wolverine #304, as well.  The result is an issue where every other page has a different style.  It isn’t as jarring as it sounds, but there are moments where the transition pulls you out of the story briefly.

Regardless, this is fun, fast-paced, gritty, and a great jumping-on point for new readers (it even has a checklist for anyone wanting to get caught up on Aaron’s run), as well as a nice cap to the last few years of Wolverine solo stories.

STORY:  9/10
ART:  7/10 (This is due to a couple of jarring transitions.)

 

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #8 – Sabretooth joins the Hellfire Club

Wolverine and the X-Men #8
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Chris Bachalo [Pencils & Colors], Tim Townsend [Inker]

Fresh off of his return from the dead in Wolverine’s solo book, Sabretooth joins up with the new Hellfire Club to help them take out the heart of the Jean Grey School–Beast.

During his attempt to con an intergalactic casino out of space money that is somehow good on Earth, Wolverine’s unbreakable adamantium legs were broken.  Beast, the school’s resident scientist and doctor, puts forth the theory that the casino’s guards were able to do this with a matter transmutation ray to weaken the adamantium, which re-hardened shortly after.

Basically, Beast needs to use the same type of ray to surgically repair Wolverine’s legs.  Only problem?  Beast’s matter transmutation ray seems to have gone missing, and they are outlawed around the globe.

Of course, dating the director of S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) has its advantages, so Beast sets out to the department’s space station in Earth’s orbit to hit up Abigail Brand for the device.  When he gets to the space station, however, he finds that Sabretooth has already arrived and taken out S.W.O.R.D. on his own.

Meanwhile, Angel (who still doesn’t remember who he is and thinks he’s a real angel) sets off with the school’s students to the casino where Wolverine’s legs were broken to recover the matter transmutation ray there.  How he knew about this, I have no clue–but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The story here jumps around a bit, and it’s often fairly confusing–especially with Chris Bachalo’s artwork.  Bachalo’s work tends to be fast-paced and frenetic, and I’ve really enjoyed it on a lot of stories.  Unfortunately, it made it a little difficult to tell what was going on here–especially in some of the more monochromatic panels.  This could possibly all be a problem on the scripting level.  The story does tend to jump around a lot, and we never really get details for how Angel knew about the matter transmutation ray.  On the other hand, I also considered that maybe my book was missing pages (that did happen to me with a recent issue of Secret Avengers and I’ve been paranoid ever since).

On the other hand, this story does a good job of setting up a relationship between Angel and Genesis (the clone of Apocalypse), who agree to help each other figure out who they really are.  It also shows a more vicious side of Beast than we usually get to see and does more to establish the Hellfire Club (what do those kids not have their hands in?).

This isn’t a perfect issue, but it’s still fun if you can avoid the aforementioned confusion.  Now to go find out if my copy is missing pages…

STORY:  6.5/10
ART:  6.5/10

Review: Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 – ‘Nuff Said

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Art:  John Romita Jr. [Pencils], Scott Hanna [Inks], Laura Martin [Colors]

After what has felt like an eternity of build-up (but was really more like just over six months), the event to end all Marvel events has finally arrived on shelves–but was all of the hype worth it?

So far, it’s a toss-up.

The premise, in case you’ve been living under a rock or reading some other company’s books, is that the Phoenix is coming to Earth and has chosen the would-be-mutant-messiah Hope Summers as its host.  Hey, she looks like Jean Grey, so who else is it gonna pick, right?  Anyhow, the Phoenix is a cosmic firebird that leaves devastation in its wake on a planetary scale wherever it goes in the Universe.  It chose Jean Grey as its host once and she almost destroyed Earth, but that’s “The Dark Phoenix” saga and you can read about that elsewhere.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 opens with the Avengers hanging around Avengers Tower doing the sorts of things you’d expect powerful people in tights to do (but not those things, sicko!) when all of a sudden, the intergalactic superhero Nova conveniently crashlands in New York City after falling from space.  He warns the Avengers that “it’s coming,” and Iron Man deduces that he’s referring to the Phoenix.  He and Captain America then brief the President on the danger.

Meanwhile, Cyclops–who has known all along that the Phoenix was on its way back–is training Hope and trying to prepare her in the hope that she’ll be able to control its power when it does return.  This entire conflict centers around the Avengers’ belief that the Phoenix will use Hope Summers as its vessel to try to destroy the world again versus Scott’s belief that if Hope can somehow control the Phoenix’s power, then she can undo the “no more mutants” spell that Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population with.

Scott believes that Hope is the savior of the mutant race, and he’ll stop at nothing to see her fulfill that destiny–perhaps to the point of taking things too far during his particularly ruthless training sessions.  During the time that has passed since he joined the X-Men, Magneto has pointed out that Scott is growing more and more like him than his mentor, Charles Xavier.  This trend continues here, as Magneto–watching the training from a distance–comments to Emma Frost regarding the difference between “taking it seriously” and “compulsion,” perhaps foreshadowing things to come.

Anyhow, Hope is finally pushed far enough and releases a flare of Phoenix-like energy strong enough that the Avengers notice it.  Traveling to Utopia to see about taking Hope into Avengers custody until the Phoenix situation is figured out, Captain America is greeted by a particularly hostile Cyclops.

Thus, the first shots in the battle are fired, so to speak.

Over all, this is a solid start to the event, but it is by no means perfect.  Despite being packed with action, the dialogue pulled me out of the story on a few occasions, most notably during the conversation Captain America has with Wolverine regarding the Phoenix.  Given Wolverine’s history with Jean Grey and how he felt about her, I have a hard time believing that he wouldn’t just refer to her by her first name.  Using her entire name felt a little unnatural, especially after the previous scene already established her history.

Aside from that, though, anything else I noticed here would just be nitpicking.  Bendis’ first chapter draws you in and gives new readers a primer on what’s going on, and the art here is phenomenal.  The facial expressions of everyone standing in the vicinity when the first blow of this battle is landed were perhaps the highlight of the entire issue.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when your bluff is being called, and that panel alone sells that idea absolutely.

After event fatigue had fully set in following last year’s Fear Itself (which, no offense to Matt Fraction, fell short of expectations), I swore I’d never drop $3.99 an issue on another “event” book again.  Despite being highly skeptical of the idea of Avengers Vs. X-Men, I have to say I’m impressed so far and actually looking forward to where this goes from here.

STORY:  8/10
ART:  9.5/10 

Review: Wolverine #303 – ‘Back In Japan’ Concludes!

Wolverine #303
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Billy Tan, Steve Sanders, and Paco Diaz [Art]; Matt Miller, Sotocolors, Jim Charalampidis, and Rachelle Rosenberg [Color]

Wolverine’s return to Japan has not been without incident. As a matter of fact, the trail of carnage could probably stretch across at least one of the nation’s islands.

Azuma Goda, head of one of the many branches of Hand ninja (Seriously, the Kingpin and Norman Osborn both have their own small armies of these guys), has masterminded a plan to eliminate the Yakuza and sparked a gang war in the process. Goda is also behind the yet-to-be-explained resurrection of Wolverine’s arch-nemesis Sabretooth and has also enlisted the help of Mystique.

Kidnapping Shin, the new Silver Samurai and boyfriend of Wolverine’s adopted daughter Amiko, Goda lured Logan and his former ninja girlfriend Yukio to the cave of the Mind Ninja. Here, Logan was caught in hallucinations and forced to resort to his baser animal instincts, slaughtering the ninja and being tricked into a compromising situation by Mystique. Meanwhile, Goda was able to coerce the new Silver Samurai into working for the hand.

As issue #303 opens, Wolverine is taking out the remainder of Goda’s ninjas in some Tokyo back alley and Mystique is ensuring that Shin eliminates the remainder of the Yakuza bosses. Goda explains his endgame to Sabretooth, which involves faking his death to become “invisible” in the ninjutsu sense, because the deadliest villains are those you never see.

Unfortunately, Goda underestimates Sabretooth–a mistake that quickly spirals into the arc’s conclusion.

As the second-to-last issue in Jason Aaron’s nearly-flawless run on Wolverine, this story continues to pack in the ultra-violence and kung fu b-movie homages of the previous three issues while reestablishing Sabretooth as the greatest threat to Logan. Aaron also seems to be leaving a lot of leeway to his successor, Cullen Bunn–particularly as it pertains to Wolverine’s current girlfriend Melina Garner, who was introduced at the beginning of Aaron’s run.

The art in this issue is once again done by a large team of artists, but it remains mostly unnoticeable between chapters with the exception of the art in the opening pages having a somewhat more visceral, gritty feel than the rest of the issue.

Overall, “Back In Japan” is a fun ride. I feel like I need to give the entire story another read-through to get the full picture, as two to three weeks between issues can do a lot to impact your ability to appreciate a story of this scope, but this story succeeds just for managing to pack in a little something for every Wolverine fan.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 8.5/10

Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #7 – Lessons in “Extreme Zoology”

Wolverine and the X-Men #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Nick Bradshaw [Pencils]; Walden Wong, Norman Lee, and Nick Bradshaw [Inks]; Justin Ponsor [Colorist]

With half the school’s faculty and several student inside of Kitty Pryde trying to fight off her Brood infestation, Broo (the school’s intellectual Broodling) is left to fend off the school’s mysterious invader alone while Wolverine and Quentin Quire are in outer space trying to scam an intergalactic casino to fund the Jean Grey School.

About that mysterious invader–we finally get an explanation as to who he is. As opposed to being an intergalactic “bounty killer,” it turns out his name is Professor Xanto Starblood and he’s an “extreme zoologist” and head of the Intergalactic Anthropology Department at the University of Rigel-13. (Oy, cosmic Marvel makes my head hurt.)

Anyhow, Starblood came to the school to kill Broo, who he sees as an evolutionary misstep from the rest of the Brood–a race of savage, blood-thirsty aliens.

Meanwhile, Wolverine and Quentin Quire fight off security at the casino and Quire figures out that his telepathic powers extend to him being able to form weapons from psychic energy, not unlike Psylocke.  It’s a nice little addition to the character, who it seems is being fleshed out to the point that his antagonistic relationship with Wolverine is beginning to become not unlike the one that existed between Wolverine and Professor X.

Anyhow, all of the arc’s plot threads are tied up in this issue, with Broo overcoming his problem via a momentary display of animalistic rage and Wolverine and Quire escaping the casino–without their intergalactic winnings. I was wondering how space money would work on Earth, anyways, but Krakoa ends up having a convenient enough solution for the school’s money troubles in the end. He’s a living mass of Earth, after all.

It’s even hinted that the Bamfs (the little blue Nightcrawler-looking guys that have been running around the book) are actually some sort of gremlins, which explains something I’ve been wondering since the book launched late last year.

All in all, Jason Aaron delivers another solid issue that stays fun while piling on a ton of character development. Not only does he continue to evolve Quire’s character here, he also sets the stage for a Warbird-Iceman-Kitty Pryde love triangle (not to mention an awkward encounter the next time Iceman or Kitty run into Colossus).

The art here is a perfect match for the tone set by Aaron, as well, maintaining a cartoonish-but-realistic feel. I think I’ve said it before, but if another X-Men cartoon came along with this art style (and the type of writing on display here), I’d watch it in a heartbeat.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

 

Review: Wolverine #302 – Back to Hell

Wolverine #302
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Billy Tan & Jason Keith [Chapters 13, 15, 16], Steve Sanders & Sotocolor [Chapters 14, 16]

Normally, if you told me that a writer was going to end their run on a book with a story that touches on everything that happened during said run, I’d tell you that story would probably suck. Jason Aaron, however, is not most writers.

During his run on Wolverine: Weapon X and the relaunched Wolverine, Aaron has put Wolverine up against armies of adamantium men and Dethloks, had him brainwashed by a psychotic psychiatrist named Dr. Rot, sent him to Hell, and had him seek revenge against Mystique and those who sent him there (inadvertently killing five children he never knew he had).  He touches on at least four of those things in this issue.

In an attempt to save the new Silver Samurai from the ninjas of the Hand, Wolverine and his ninja ex-girlfriend, Yukio, storm the cave that serves as their hideout. Unbeknownst to them, Wolverine’s adopted daughter, Amiko, followed them, as well. The three are subjected to a mind control toxin that leads Wolverine to believe he is back in Hell and that his dead children are killing him.  There’s a brief mention of Dr. Rot in a flashback sequence with Rachel Grey training Wolverine to protect himself from mental attacks, and it’s also revealed that Mystique was recently resurrected by the Hand and wants revenge. Of course, it wouldn’t be Wolverine if she wasn’t shooting Logan’s unconscious body with a submachine gun as that portion of the plot is explained.

As the issue winds down, Mystique uses her powers to get a video that will probably bite Logan in the ass when he’s stateside again and the new Silver Samurai shows who’s side he’s really on.

Once again, there are two art teams on this issue, but it’s something I barely even thought about as I was reading. The two teams work in a similar enough style that it’s just not too noticeable unless you’re picking at details.

With one more issue to tie all of these threads together, I’m interested in seeing how Aaron closes out his run and leaves the book ready for the next writer to pick up.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 8/10 

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Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #6 – This casino’s more diverse than the Mos Eisley Cantina

Wolverine and the X-Men #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Nick Bradshaw [Pencils]; Walden Wong, Jay Leisten, Norman Lee & Cam Smith [Inks]; and Justin Ponsor & Matt Wilson [Colorists]

The Jean Grey School in financial trouble!  Kitty Pryde infested with millions of microscopic Brood!  That’s where Wolverine and the X-Men #5 left us, and where #6 picks up at.

In an attempt to solve the school’s financial troubles, Wolverine heads off to an intergalactic casino with genius mutant problem child Quentin Quire, a.k.a. Kid Omega.  The plan is to use Quentin Quire’s telepathic and telekinetic abilities to pull off an intergalactic casino con.  How space money works on Earth or why they didn’t just do this on an Earth casino, I’m not sure.  I do know, however, that this plot allowed Nick Bradshaw to draw the most diverse array of aliens in one place outside of the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars.

Regardless of where the casino is, the opportunity to put Wolverine and Quire in a one-on-one situation and continue to play Quire’s rebellious nature off of uber-badass authority figure Logan carries a ton of possibility for interesting situations, and Jason Aaron doesn’t waste the opportunity.  The payoff is great and keeps this the most “fun” of the X-books.

Meanwhile, Kitty’s situation becomes more dire as there are too many Brood inside of her for Beast and his team to handle.  To make matters worse, the S.W.O.R.D. Paramedic team is taken out by the mysterious alien guy from the previous issue.  Who this guy is remains a mystery, as well as why he keeps regular-sized Brood on a leash and what exactly he has to do with Kitty’s infestation, but he does have sinister intentions for Broo, the Jean Grey School’s Brood student.  (By the way, I’m still not sure how he ended up at the school.  He was just kind of there when the book started.  Anyone want to fill me in?)

Anyways, Aaron keeps this issue fast-paced and ends it with a couple of cliffhangers.  The highlight of the issue, at least for me, is hands-down integrating Krakoa in as a sort of external security system for the school. It would be easy to just ignore the living mass of land after the first story arc, but Aaron’s doing a good job of giving everyone face time when it makes sense to.  On a final note, I’m not sure why this issue had four inkers and two colorists, but the important thing is that I couldn’t tell otherwise when reading it.

Go ahead and pick this one up, along with issue #5 so you’re not just jumping into the middle of the story.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10 

Review: Wolverine #301 – Wolverine vs. the new Silver Samurai

Wolverine #301
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Billy Tan & Jason Keith [Art for Chapters 8, 11, 12], Steve Sanders & Sotocolor [Chapters 9, 10]

The newly-renumbered Wolverine #300 ended with an all-out war between the Yakuza mobsters and Hand ninjas in a Buddhist temple, coupled with a fresh-from-the-dead Sabretooth, a new Silver Samurai, and Wolverine’s adopted daughter caught in the middle.

And that was only the first seven chapters of Jason Aaron’s epic kung fu B-movie of a final story on Wolverine’s solo book.

The over-the-top action and ultra-violence continues this month in #301 with the limbs of Yakuza and Hand members alike flying everywhere and an obligatory Wolverine-with-all-of-his-skin-burned-off sequence.

Ever wanted to see tattooed Yakuza armed with chainsaws on motorcycles? Jason Aaron’s got it here.

What about torture administered with flesh-eating beetles? Check.

Sabretooth taking three claws to the throat? Say no more!

Aaron is taking everything ridiculous you love about Wolverine and packing it into a single storyline.  That’s not to say this blood-soaked saga is devoid of any plot, though.

Remember, Logan’s reason for returning to Japan was to prevent a war between the Hand and Yakuza from breaking out in the wake of the Silver Samurai’s death. That plotline remains in place, and is coupled with the underlying drama of a father meeting his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time (but on an extreme level) in the fight between Wolverine and the new Silver Samurai, Shin.

Despite having two art teams here, the interiors remain consistent throughout, though Wolverine does appear a bit Danzig-y in a couple of panels.

As much as I could go on about this issue, you have to see it (and possibly enjoy kung fu movies or b-movies) to truly appreciate it.  If you like Wolverine, this is highly recommended.

STORY: 8.5/10
ART: 8/10 

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Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #5 – Congratulations, Kitty! It’s a bouncing baby… Brood?!

Wolverine and the X-Men #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Nick Bradshaw [Pencils & Inks], Walden Wong [Inks], and Justin Ponsor [Colorist]

Somewhere between fending off an attack from the new Hellfire Club and doing some rebuilding after the emergence of the son of Krakoa beneath the school’s grounds, Wolverine used up all of his funds for the Jean Grey School.  To make matters worse, the ultra-rich brats that make up the aforementioned new Hellfire Club weaseled their way into Worthington Industries board of directors, taking control and having the company’s amnesiac billionaire CEO Warren Worthington (aka Angel) deemed mentally incompetent.

Simply put, Logan needs to find more money soon or his tenure as headmaster of the Jean Grey School is going to be short-lived.

To remedy this, he takes Quentin Quire (aka Kid Omega) to space to find more funding.  I guess space money is good on Earth in the Marvel Universe, as it seems like Wolverine could have just taken Quire to the home of someone like Warren Buffett and had him use his telepathy to secure funds.  We’ll see where this goes next issue, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Kitty Pryde’s sudden-onset, ready-to-burst pregnancy from last issue turns out not to be a pregnancy at all, but a Brood infestation.  Beast and the rest of the staff soon discover millions of microscopic Brood were released into the school’s ventilation system, genetically engineered with Kitty Pryde’s physiology in mind.  Basically, it’s an elaborate assassination attempt, the solution to which is foreshadowed earlier in the issue when Beast shrinks down his entire class with Pym particles to take them on a field trip inside the body of the school’s janitor, Toad.

This issue moves really fast, and Jason Aaron throws in a lot of comic relief with the action.  Among the best instances are Doop substituting in Kitty’s ‘Introduction to Religion’ course and the continued use of Toad in a slapstick role, lamenting his status as a janitor after spending years in Magneto’s “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.”

Nick Bradshaw’s are extremely detailed, with more going on in the background than a quick read would allow you to see, and Ponsor’s colors really make these panels jump off of the page.

If you’re looking for an X-book that’s a fun read and easy to jump onto at the moment, look no further.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

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Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #4, Two New Students Join the School

Wolverine and the X-Men #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Nick Bradshaw and Justin Ponsor [Colors]

One of the best things to come out of the X-Men’s “Regenesis” is a greater amount of cohesion between books in Wolverine’s corner of the Marvel Universe.  Wolverine, Uncanny X-Force and Wolverine and the X-Men all directly impact one another, and nowhere is that better evidenced than in Wolverine and the X-Men #4.

In the aftermath of Rick Remender’s “Dark Angel Saga” in Uncanny X-Force, Warren Worthington (aka Angel) had his mind wiped after he was “cured” of being Archangel/Apocalypse.  In that same story, Fantomex’s secret experiment — a clone produced from the DNA of the ultimate mutant villain Apocalypse, but nurtured by a loving-but-artificial family — was revealed.  Both Angel and the boy, Evan (aka Genesis), were both sent to the Jean Grey School.

Dealing with how the two fit in (or don’t) at the school — and how its headmaster, Wolverine, can also head an elite mutant covert ops squad by night — is the overall focus here.

The faculty meeting in the opening pages provides some of the wittiest dialogue I’ve ever read outside of a Spider-Man book, and “witty” and “Wolverine” are two things you typically wouldn’t expect to go together.  But Aaron makes it work, just like he makes the special guest lecture from Deathlok — the cyborg assassin from the future — work to hilarious effect, especially when paired with the quips from problem student Quentin Quire (aka Kid Omega).

Oh, and we finally learn what Wolverine is a professor of — English Lit.  Go ahead and imagine that class for a moment…

All isn’t fun and games, though, as Ice Man learns the truth about what happened to Warren (who now believes he is a real angel), Genesis suspects people at the school aren’t telling him something and Deathlok sees a grim possible future where Genesis still becomes Apocalypse.  Even other students notice that he kind of resembles Apocalypse, so that’s bound to be broken to the kid at some point.

New artist Nick Bradshaw handles the transition from Chris Bachalo well.  If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know I’m all about facial expressions and body language, and the art here does a lot with that to not only better sell the dialogue and action, but to tell you more about who the characters are, as well.

If you haven’t given the flagship book for “Team Wolverine” a chance yet, now is the time.

STORY: 9/10
ART:  9/10 

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REVIEW: Wolverine #300, or is that Wolverine #3000? Dude’s EVERYWHERE.

Wolverine #300
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Adam Kubert & Paul Mounts [Chapters 1, 4 & 7], Ron Garney & Jason Keith [Chapters 2 & 5], Steve Sanders & Sotocolors [Chapters 3 & 6]

Wolverine #300 doesn’t just mark the return of the series to its original numbering (assuming that’s how Marvel worked this out), it also marks the beginning of Jason Aaron’s final story arc on the book — Wolverine’s return to Japan.

Last issue (Wolverine #20), the stage was set for a war between the Yakuza and the Hand as a result of the Silver Samurai’s death way back in the “Wolverine Goes to Hell” storyline that began in the first issue of this volume of Wolverine.  Wolverine’s well-known for being an X-Man and an Avenger, but his history as a samurai (he’s like 200 years old, you know?) is something that some fans may not be up to speed on.  This super-sized issue, and the story arc in general, seem to be a great primer on that so far.  It features his Japanese love interest, his adopted Japanese daughter, the aforementioned Japanese mafia and ninjas, and the son of the Silver Samurai.

Oh, and Sabretooth is back from the dead.  How this happened has yet to be explained, but if the teasers for next issue (and 2012 in general) are any indication, there will be answers soon.

Overall, this is exactly the kind of story fans of the Ol’ Canucklehead have come to know and love.  It strikes the right balance of ultra-violence and pulp fun — see the in-flight fight between Wolverine and a plane full of ninjas in the opening pages, or Sabretooth with a jetpack, for example — rounded out with smart dialogue and solid writing.  There are really only two or three spots in the book where the story seems to jump around inexplicably (when the Yakuza approach Sabretooth in the Japanese brothel, and when Wolverine and Sabretooth are suddenly in the Hand temple after being in an underground tunnel), but considering the amount of action condensed into this issue, it’s somewhat forgivable.  Although, I did find myself checking to see if my copy was missing pages like a recent issue of Secret Avengers I purchased…

The art remains solid throughout, as well, which is surprising given the three art teams that worked on this issue.  I didn’t even realize three teams of artists worked on this issue until I looked at the credits again afterwords.  It’s almost that seamless, although the Steve Sanders and Sotocolors chapters are noticeably more polished than the others.

Like the main story, the back-up story — which presumably teases the upcoming “Sabretooth Reborn” story by Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi — also left me wanting to see what happens next.

Overall, a solid 300th issue — if it really is the actual issue 300.

STORY: 8.5/10
ART: 8.5/10 

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Review: Wolverine #19

Wolverine #19
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney, Jason Keith (Colors)

So last issue, Wolverine (who has been moonlighting as the Black Dragon) and Gorilla Man were joined by the Immortal Weapon Fat Cobra in their underground adventure to get Wolverine’s money back.  If you remember way back to two issues ago, they ended up underground after Kung Fu Master Po informed Wolverine of an underground (deep underground) drug smuggling ring, operated by Jade Claw, that was using dragons to traffic opium.

Are you still with me?

It’s a lot to take in, and it’s hard to wrap your head around at times, so maybe you should just leave your head at the door for this one if you didn’t figure out in issue 17 that this arc requires that.

Anyhow, at the end of the last issue, the odd trio were pulling a Trojan Horse move by sneaking their way into the Jade Claw’s underground compound in the bellies of dragons.  Wolverine #19 begins with the trio emerging from beneath the ground in front of a bar, carried by a dragon, with Wolverine’s money.  The rest of the issue is a flashback of the story’s resolution.

To sum it all up, there’s more fun dialogue interplay between Wolverine, Gorilla Man and Fat Cobra, and Wolverine’s journalist girlfriend Melita Garner gets a job at New York’s finest newspaper.  Oh, and one of the D-list villains from last issue (whose name I’ve already forgotten…Soul Striker or something, right?) lets things get out of hand.

This arc was a fun read overall, but I prefer a little less cartoonishness in subject matter with Wolverine.  When things get a little too supernatural/magical, like this arc and last year’s “Wolverine Goes to Hell,” things start to wear on me a little bit — although “Goes to Hell” did have a rewarding payoff.  By comparison, this arc is lighthearted filler.

To be fair, though, Aaron has had a lot on his plate with the stellar X-Men: Schism event book this past summer and the new Wolverine and the X-Men ongoing series launching last month.  This story basically served as a transition to Logan’s return to New York, and the upcoming arc involving Kingpin and the Hand seems promising.

STORY: 7/10
ART:   8/10

Review: Wolverine #18

Wolverine #18
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Ron Garney
Color Art:  Jason Keith

Wolverine’s impromptu team-up with Gorilla Man last issue ended with the two, along with Wolverine’s kung fu master and some kid who made me think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in a series of caves deep below San Francisco’s Chinatown where the Jade Claw is using dragons to mule drugs.

That’s a lot to wrap your head around.

This issue opens with a battle royale involving the villains Razorfist, Soul Striker, Darkstrider and Rock of the Buddha.  Wait…Who?  I’m not exactly sure who any of these guys are, save for maybe Razorfist, who I seem to remember being killed by Logan in last year’s X-Force: Sex & Violence limited series.  Regardless, it’s mentioned that he was killed by Wolverine before…just not killed well enough.

Anyhow, the dragons eventually become involved, and Wolverine and Gorilla Man end up tied between two of them as Soul Striker (these villain names are killing me) recites a villainous monologue before knocking the old kung fu master into a pit and taking the kid away to serve in Jade Claw’s underground poppy fields.

This leads to another villainous monologue later in the issue where Jade Claw explains to the kid that she plans on ruling the world from below ground by controlling the drug trade above ground.  Jason Aaron does a lot to establish Jade Claw’s villainy, but so much of it is ridiculous and over-the-top that it’s hard to swallow.  (Her least expensive bra costs enough to feed an entire family and she has her feet washed in the still-warm blood of women who fancied themselves more beautiful?  This is b-movie grade cheese.)

As a matter of fact, that combined with the banter between Logan and Gorilla Man (and later Fat Cobra, a sumo-ish guy from the Immortal Weapons who randomly shows up this issue) makes this story arc the comic book equivalent of a comedic kung-fu buddy cop b-movie.

I’m not used to having this much humor in Wolverine, but Aaron pulls it off nicely.  I’d be interested in seeing him write Spider-Man at some point, perhaps in a limited series.  The art by Ron Garney and Jason Keith matches the tone of the story, as well.  It’s somewhat gritty, but bright and stylized.  Overall, this arc has been a fun ride so far and  a nice change of pace from the typical Wolverine fare.

Story:  7.5/10
Art:  8.5/10 

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