Men of Wrath #1 Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
The Rath family’s history in Choctaw County reaches back over 200 years. Legacy that with the murder of a man named Erastus Grievers became stained with blood and violence. Still this land stands as the breeding ground for generation after generation of Rath, each one carrying this dark past through farm lands and backwater homes in the heart of Alabama. Ira Rath now trudges his line further through the mud and mess of his genetically predisposed, monstrous career of contract killing until being introduced to a target that may sully the Rath name even further.
It started with some sheep
Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards, Scalped) and Ron Garney (Wolverine, Thor God of Thunder) bring to Icon their first creator-owned work together with the mean and grisly story of the Raths in Men of Wrath. A new comic series inspired by the history of the writer’s ancestors, Men of Wrath is a deeply personal story about the south, family and crime.
Recently returning to his strengths in Southern Bastards, Men of Wrath is another out of the same wheelhouse for Jason Aaron. His strengths lying in the vengeful, ruthless and upsetting as was proved with his best creation to date, Scalped, Jason Aaron again places a frightening protagonist as his main casting and lets him run free in the untamed and brutal realities of the American South. A significant deviation in this new series however is that of the representation of character Ira Rath. Southern Bastards begins with Earl Tubb, a haggard but ultimately sympathetic old man with a big stick who returns to his hometown and attempts to reclaim his land from the racist and criminal scum who run through it like a virus. Scalped focuses on Dashiell Bad Horse, an undercover FBI agent sent back to his home reserve to bring down the criminal empire that has poisoned it. Both series feature a grey lead but one that warrants more empathy in terms of motives and design. Men of Wrath begins with devastating cruelty at the hands of Ira Rath and sets him up as a vicious and frightening villain rather than equipping him with any redeemable or relatable qualities beyond his apparent loneliness and mortality. Sinister and unsettling, Men of Wrath starts off with a very jarring but intriguing look at the Rath family that warrants the series’ appropriate (if not a little on the nose) title.
Men of Wrath features some dark visuals from co-creator Ron Garney who builds his first independent comic series outside of Marvel or DC and does a solid job. Depicting unharnessed brutality and a whole lot of scowls and grimaces, Garney’s panels feature very little in the way of levity in this tale of death. This of course is no slight as his tone is consistent and an adeptly paced crime noir that is truly chilling, which is exactly what you want out of a book like Men of Wrath. The closest the book gets to light is in a robbery scene that features a stick up man with a Wolverine mask, nodding back to the creators’ first collaboration with each other.
Men of Wrath concludes with a fairly predictable last page that really starts to get the main narrative going. This first issue is all about character development and posturing and what is being set up here by Aaron and Garney is definitely worth following along every blood-soaked step of the way.
Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior
Follow him on Twitter @Ghost_Factory
Listen to his music www.Ghostfactory.bandcamp.com, read his comic series with Shae Frank, www.wildrosecounty.com or follow the Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast www.Geekstampede.com