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Jason Aaron’s Wolverine – Wolverine, Vol. 4 (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Jason Aaron’s work on the character of Wolverine is absolutely fascinating. The writer was written for Logan across a number of different books and in a number of different contexts. Indeed, his first professional comic book credit was on an eight-page story featuring the character. Since the publication of that first story, Aaron has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with Marvel’s most iconic mutant.

He has written Get Mystique for the third volume of Wolverine. He has written a number of miniseries featuring the character – including the tie-in Manifest Destiny miniseries and a six-part Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine miniseries. Along the way, he has provided a number of back-ups and short stories featuring the character. He also secured two different spin-offs for Wolverine –  the sixteen-issue Weapon X title and Wolverine and the X-Men.

Slice o' life...

Slice o’ life…

So Aaron and Wolverine work quite well together. It’s no surprise that Aaron was chosen as the writer to launch the fourth volume of Wolverine, shepherding the book to its three-hundredth issue. While his work on Wolverine might not be quite as brilliantly eccentric as Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine or as insanely fun as Wolverine and the X-Men, it does represent a rather thoughtful and insightful reflection on the popular comic book character.

After all, one of the recurring themes of Aaron’s work with Wolverine is the idea that a character who has lived to long – and one who has been published so frequently – must have seen and done almost everything by this point. The trick is to try and find something new and exciting for the character after all these years. In many respects, that is what is most interesting about Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine: how much of the run exists to push the character into position for the next leg of his arc.

Villains of all Creeds down here...

Villains of all Creeds down here…

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Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine is a beautifully absurd comic book. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert keep the comic moving at a frantic pace, twisting and turning as they introduce crazy concept after crazy concept. There are enough brilliant over-the-top ideas in Astonish Spider-Man and Wolverine to sustain an on-going for years – and yet the duo tear through them with a speed that makes all of Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine seem like a delirious blur.

And yet, despite that, Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine reads like a tribute to the glorious ridiculousness possible within the confines of mainstream comic books – giant metal-faced sentient planets! robotic dinosaurs! guns that fire the energy of creation! a diamond-encrusted baseball bat as a means of time travel! There’s a surreal magic to Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine that marks it as one of the highpoints of Jason Aaron’s work on Wolverine. It’s funny, awe-inspiring and even occasionally moving.

Blood brothers...

Blood brothers…

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Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

The only way to read Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted is on a personal tablet.

Part of Marvel’s “Infinite Comics” initiative, Japan’s Most Wanted is a comic specifically tailored to the digital experience. Although a print version of the comic is available, it can’t help but seem inferior to the way the comic was meant to be experienced. Demonstrating that digital is not just a new format for comic books, but also a new medium, the work done by Yves Bigerel storyboarding the thirteen-part adventure is nothing short of astounding. It’s a fantastic experience.

A slice of the action...

A slice of the action…

The story Japan’s Most Wanted is fairly light. This makes sense. Japan’s Most Wanted isn’t intended to push Marvel’s continuity forward or to build off a lot of what has come before. Launched in the lead-up to the release of The Wolverine, Japan’s Most Wanted is a rather transparent attempt to appeal to those interested in Wolverine’s second solo trip to the big screen – playing more as a collection of imagery and iconography than a story in its own right.

The adventure is set in Japan and pits our hero against legions of ninja, playing up to Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s iconic Wolverine miniseries. However, it also features action set pieces on a bullet train and in an abandoned village, two of the more notable action sequences showcased in the trailer for James Mangold’s The Wolverine. The story wrapped around these sequences is almost incidental, perhaps the most basic of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine stories, as scripted by collaborator Jason LaTour.

Run and jump...

Run and jump…

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X-Men – Battle of the Atom (Review)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Battle of the Atom is a gigantic mess – but it’s a very fun gigantic mess.

Battle of the Atom seems to exist to fill two separate niches. On the one hand, its publication syncs up rather nicely with the fiftieth anniversary of Marvel’s merry mutants – something that the comic acknowledges by focusing on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original creations and by setting the climax at a recognisable setting from that first issue all those years ago. There’s a palpable sense of nostalgia about the whole thing – focusing on the past, present and future of the superhero team.

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot...

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot…

At the same time, it’s the big X-Men crossover event published half-a-year before the release of a multi-million dollar Bryan Singer motion picture. As such, Battle of the Atom feels heavily influenced by X-Men: Days of Future Past. Not only does it play with a variety of the tropes and conventions cemented by that classic Chris Claremont and John Byrne story, it includes numerous shout-outs and even the same basic structure.

Writers Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron are all having a great deal of fun writing Battle of the Atom, even if the comic does occasionally feel a little bit too light or too familiar. Then again, what’s the point in a fiftieth birthday party if you can’t be a little indulgent?

Dazed by X-Men past...

Dazed by X-Men past…

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Punisher MAX by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon (Review/Retrospective)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

“This was the only way Frank’s story was ever gonna end,” Fury remarks in the closing issue of Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s Punisher MAX run. Picking up the threads from Garth Ennis’ celebrated run, Aaron decides to offer a definitive account of the end of Frank Castle’s one-man war on crime. It’s interesting that this is a story that had never really been told before. Even Ennis’ The End was set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future to write an allegorical conclusion to Frank Castle’s campaign of terror.

Aaron might not have as firm a grip on Castle as Ennis, but he has a pretty compelling hook. More than that, though, Aaron’s irreverent and playful style suits the book quite well. Aaron has a tendency to write cartoonish and larger-than-life characters in his mainstream superhero work, and Punisher MAX is decidedly cartoonish and larger-than-life. That’s part of the appeal. In many ways – and not just in his choice of artistic collaborator – Aaron’s Punisher MAX feels rather like Garth Ennis’ Marvel Knights: Punisher run written with the sex, violence and brutality of his Punisher MAX work.

It’s a potent cocktail.

Very armed and very dangerous...

Very armed and very dangerous…

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Jason Aaron’s Run on Wolverine & The X-Men – Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Wolverine and the X-Men is one of the best comics that is being published by Marvel at present. Along with Waid’s Daredevil and Fraction’s Hawkeye, it’s a celebration of the strange and surreal side of comics. Jason Aaron doesn’t get enough credit for his character work, but his handle on the wonderfully wacky side of the X-Men mythos makes Wolverine and the X-Men a joy to read for anybody with an open mind and a willingness to try something a bit different.

Although the Avengers vs. X-Men tie-in issues are hardly the best place to witness Aaron’s artful approach to the franchise, often feeling a little disjointed and more all-over-the-map than usual, they still contain a lot of what makes Aaron’s work with the characters so appealing.

Burn, baby, burn...

Burn, baby, burn…

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Kieron Gillen’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Kieron Gillen is one of the unsung heroes of modern superhero comics. Over the past few years, Gillen has come to the attention of readers for replacing or supplementing a-list talent on a-list books. He took over Thor after J. Michael Straczynski abruptly wrapped up his run on the Norse god, only to shuffle off the book when Matt Fraction took over. While Straczynzki’s run was collected in an omnibus, Gillen’s has yet to receive hardcover status. He wrote the wonderfully underrated Journey into Mystery as a supplement to Fraction’s Thor, which might hopefully get a deluxe reprinting at some point in the future.

He took over Uncanny X-Men following Fraction’s departure. He barely had time to establish his run on Marvel’s merry mutants before writer Jason Aaron up-ended the status quo with Schism, essentially restructuring Marvel’s X-Men line. Gillen remained on Uncanny X-Men in the wake of Schism, the title resetting to #1. However, less than a year into the run, Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men was caught up in Marvel’s high profile crossover of the year, Avengers vs. X-Men.

Explosive...

Explosive…

Gillen departed the book following Avengers vs. X-Men, in yet another reshuffle of Marvel’s X-Men line. (Brian Bendis promised to push the line in a new direction, writing both All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men.) Half of Gillen’s run on the relaunched Uncanny X-Men was tied into the gigantic Avengers vs. X-Men.

But don’t let that fool you. It’s really very, very good. In fact, it ranks as among the very best X-Men work since Joss Whedon and John Cassaday left Astonishing X-Men.

All fired up...

All fired up…

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