Once upon a time, there was an Alabama man who wrote a 5-issue mini series for DC/Vertigo about war based on conversations he’d had with his cousin, a guy whose autobiographical experiences became the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. It was a powerful piece of work titled, “The Other Side.” But since nobody reads war comics, nobody heard of it. The dude then started up an ongoing Vertigo series called “Scalped,” but since nobody reads comics about Native Americans, only a few astute critics and nerdy Vertigo fans heard of it. It was enough, though, to get that man an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics.
That man, of course, is Jason Aaron. And by many accounts, he’s one of the best things at Marvel right now. An author who is able to work within continuity without stretching the boundaries of his characters, and who is able to be gritty without being gross, and violent without being cartoonish or inappropriate. That’s probably why they gave him Wolverine: Weapon X.
I have to say that the first story arc in 2009’s Wolverine: Weapon X, “The Adamantium Men” (reprinted as “volume 1”) may be the best Wolverine story you’ll ever read that wasn’t created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It was an absolutely brilliant, exciting, and fast-paced action story that added depth to Wolverine’s origin without being a retcon.
Having said all that, I can’t give a thumbs up to volume 2, Insane in the Brain. The story is predictable and, frankly, stupid. Wolverine is being held captive in a looney bin and is being experimented on by doctor with psychic powers. It’s basically a remake of the classic shlock film “Don’t Look in the Basement” but with Marvel mutants. I was so disappointed in this, words can’t express. Even the single-issue done-in-one that’s tacked in at the end of the collection, about Logan’s love life, is kind of dull and, again, predictable. I expect this stuff from Daniel Way, not Jason Aaron.
But they can’t all be homeruns I suppose. And since I can’t see writing a purely negative piece about one of the most exciting writers in Marvel’s stable, I’m moving from review mode to “top five” mode, since I am completely sold and convinced that Jason Aaron is a writer you need to know all about.
THE TOP FIVE JASON AARON MARVEL COMICS
Note: I’m including only stories that have been anthologized. The current Weapon X storyline, featuring Deathlok and Captain America, is supposed to be great, but it’s not collected yet.
Double Note: If you’re not reading Scalped, you don’t know how great comic books can be. Read it. Seriously.
5. Wolverine: A Day in the Life (reprinted in Wolverine: Weapon X, vol. 1: Adamantium Men). With art by the brilliant Adam Kubert, this story shows how it is remotely possible that Wolverine can be featured in 9 different Marvel books per month. Tongue-in-cheek, but fantastic.
4. PunisherMAX vol. 1: Kingpin. This would rate a lot higher if I didn’t dislike Steve Dillon so much.
3. Immortal Weapons #1 (collected in the trade paperback, Immortal Weapons) (2009). Jason’s story about the unflattering origin of Fat Cobra—one of the many fascinating characters created by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker in the pages of Immortal Iron Fist, was touching and hilarious. An example of how great a done-in-one can be, and how minor characters can support a full story.
2. Wolverine: Weapon X, vol. 1: Adamantium Men. See above review.
1. Wolverine, “Get Mystique.” Wolverine and the fine foxy blue lady go at it for 120 pages of mayhem and destruction, ending with her “death.” A great example of an extended knock-down-drag-out. A brief coda, “Get Mystique: Slight Return”, which is fun but nonessential, can be found in Dark X-Men: The Beginning. Essential reading.
Honorable mention: Black Panther, “See Wakanda and Die” (2008). A Secret Invasion tie-in that did a nice job of finishing what Reggie Hudlin started in his 2007 relaunch of the character by putting Black Panther in context. All in all, it’s a really fun read and a fine example of what Aaron does best: Action stories.