Dark Reign - The List: Wolverine #1

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Esad Ribic, Tom Palmer, and Udon Studios

Coloring by Matthew Wilson

Lettering by Jared Fletcher and Comicraft

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Love it or hate it, Dark Reign - The List: Wolverine is a comic book cover of a different kind -- no, I'm not talking about the artwork by Esad Ribic, I'm talking about Jason Aaron being the first creator since Mark Millar to seriously riff on the work of that sequential art shaman, Grant Morrison. Does Aaron beat the Old Master at his own game? It may be a flawed work, but Aaron's sheer ballsiness and experimentation does make this book one to check out.

In past interviews, Aaron has raved about being able to take on two of Grant Morrison's Marvel-based creations: Marvel Boy, and the Weapon Plus Program. Indeed, Wolverine largely takes a backseat in this book to the team-up of the one-time Dark Avenger with former New X-Men supporting character Fantomex, as they beat back Norman Osborn's undead army for control of the World, a sentient biolab designed to create the most undefeatable of supersoldiers.

For some, this news may be disappointing -- but in Aaron's defense, he certainly takes a lot of trademark Morrison speech patterns and tries his damnedest to incorporate them as his own. "Halt. We claim your flesh in the name of H.A.M.M.E.R.," one of the zombie troopers says. "Worst pick-up line ever," Fantomex deadpans. Another scene has Norman Osborn threatening one of his scientist subordinates -- "Bring me the World. Or Else." "Go zombies go," the man replies. In these ways, the script works, either to showcase Aaron's sense of humor, or to shoehorn in the admittedly convoluted backstories of all the characters involved. Yet Aaron isn't done there -- he quickly slips in another interesting statement about religion that is subversive as it is surprising.

What about the art? Esad Ribic is off to a great start, with the motion and fluidity of this book definitely working in his favor. He has an interesting approach to shadow -- a crosshatched, mosaic-like kind of work -- and it looks great. The composition is probably his biggest strength, especially playing off Fantomex's agility and Marvel Boy's wallcrawling -- that said, his faces are a bit too cartoony for this particular book. Don't confuse this with me saying he does it poorly -- he actually has a Maguire-esque quality to it, but I don't know if it fits the tone of this action book. Matthew Wilson's coloring, meanwhile, is a bit of a mixed bag -- on the one hand, everything is pastel enough to fit the dark tone of the World, but on the other hand, nothing really pops.

There are going to be some people that will loathe this book, since Wolverine is a small part of the story. And while Aaron really pushes to try something different on every page, running the gamut from humor to higher-than-high concept, sometimes it comes out a little too wordy for my taste. And as for the back-up story -- well, it doesn't come off great for either Aaron or Udon Studios, with the story being a little too precious and the art having distended anatomy and far too cartoony features. But as far as the main story goes, there will be some who will accuse Aaron of being unoriginal or even self-indulgent -- that said, I'm willing to give him points for picking up a ball few writers will pick up, let alone try to carry. Dark Reign - The List: Wolverine is more of a political statement than anything else -- and believe me, we need more like that.

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