The Only Thing Left is Wrath and Sheep

About

From the publisher, “Ever since Great Grandfather Isom killed a man over some sheep, a black cloud has hung over the Rath family. Now, over a century later, Ira Rath, the coldest hitman ever to walk on Alabama soil, has taken a job that will decide the fate of his cursed family once and for all. Writer Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards, Scalped) and artist Ron Garney (Weapon X, Thor: God of Thunder) reunite, to bring you the story of a Southern family, whose only heirloom is violence.” 


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 Stars
  • Paperback
  • 136 pages
  • Published April 28th, 2015 by Marvel (first published April 14th, 2015)

Awards

  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Writer (for Jason Aaron) (2015)

My Thoughts

Are we captive to our darker biology or can we rise above our inner desire and step away from our baser urges? That is the question that Jason Aaron asks in this powerful southern noir style story “Men of Wrath.” One hundred years ago the patriarch of the Rath family, Isom, stabbed a man in the neck over some sheep. Since then “folks began to take notice of the Raths.”

The Raths have an issue with Wrath.

Since then, for the last 100 years, each generation of male Rath child has expressed their wrath in different ways. Isom’s son, Alford, witnessed his father murder a man in a pasture has had a dangerous mean streak culminating with him catching rabies and murdering his entire family save for one son, Monroe. The son who ended up having to kill him to protect himself. Thus the family line of wrath continues. Monroe begat Ira, a Cynical hitman from Alabama who has no problem with the expression of rage in his line of work. He will murder anything: men, women, children, priests anything that gets in his way of doing his job. Ira, in turn, had a son named Ruben. Here is where the story gets interesting. Ruben is often on the cusp of violence, yet he chooses not to express it. He is in every way the polar opposite of his father. Ira does not care for family when everything Ruben does is to protect them. He fights his natural Rath family tendencies where all Ira does is express them. His sensitivities get him in trouble with the wrong people, and a hitman is dispatched to take care of Ruben. There is no familial love between Ruben and Ira, and Ira goes after Ruben.

“Somethin’ started back then with Isom. Somethin’ that’s been passed down in our family from father to son ever since. Somethin’ that’s gotten a little bit meaner and bloodier with each generation. Used to be folks in Choctaw County never paid much mind to Isom and his kin. They weren’t troublemakers or drunks.Weren’t catholics. Werren’t much of anything at all. Just another bunch of poor white farmers in a county full of ’em. But after that day…The day Erastus Grievers laid down among his sheep and died. Folks began to take notice of the Raths.”

Excerpt from Men of Wrath by Jason Aaron

I want to say that Ira is the protagonist of the story, but that isn’t accurate. Ira is what he is, he neither revels in it or seeks change. He is a murderous bastard who hates everyone. His inner monologue is the narration of the story; the real protagonist is his relationship with his son Ruben. Although I will not give away the explosive climax of the story, know that it is true to the Rath family name.

The artwork of the story, done by Ron Garney, evokes dark and early Frank Miller. The linework is bold, thick and uncompromising. The perpetual darkness and heaviness match the dialog and setting of the story perfectly. Not only do you read the inner monologue of Ira wrath, but you can also feel it from panel to panel.

Men of Wrath is a short and dirty story of man’s inherent darkness, and if one can rise above their baser natures. All told in the dark and gritty southern crime noir format reminiscent of Southern Bastards, Sin City, and Blacksad. It is excellently written and beautifully illustrated/penciled. This is not a story for the easily offended, but if you can keep going through the violent panels, the ending is well worth the journey.

Procurement

I checked this out of the library.


About the Author

Jason Aaron grew up in a small town in Alabama. His cousin, Gustav Hasford, who wrote the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers, on which the feature film Full Metal Jacket was based, was a large influence on Aaron. Aaron decided he wanted to write comics as a child, and though his father was skeptical when Aaron informed him of this aspiration, his mother took Aaron to drug stores, where he would purchase books from spinner racks, some of which he still owns today.

Aaron’s career in comics began in 2001 when he won a Marvel Comics talent search contest with an eight-page Wolverine back-up story script. The story, which was published in Wolverine #175 (June 2002), gave him the opportunity to pitch subsequent ideas to editors.

In 2006, Aaron made a blind submission to DC/Vertigo, who published his first major work, the Vietnam War story The Other Side which was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Miniseries, and which Aaron regards as the “second time” he broke into the industry.

Following this, Vertigo asked him to pitch other ideas, which led to the series Scalped, a creator-owned series set on the fictional Prairie Rose Indian Reservation and published by DC/Vertigo.

In 2007, Aaron wrote Ripclaw: Pilot Season for Top Cow Productions. Later that year, Marvel editor Axel Alonso, who was impressed by The Other Side and Scalped, hired Aaron to write issues of Wolverine, Black Panther and eventually, an extended run on Ghost Rider that began in April 2008. His continued work on Black Panther also included a tie-in to the company-wide crossover storyline along with a “Secret Invasion” with David Lapham in 2009.

In January 2008, he signed an exclusive contract with Marvel, though it would not affect his work on Scalped. Later that July, he wrote the Penguin issue of The Joker’s Asylum.

After a 4-issue stint on Wolverine in 2007, Aaron returned to the character with the ongoing series Wolverine: Weapon X, launched to coincide with the feature film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Aaron commented, “With Wolverine: Weapon X we’ll be trying to mix things up like that from arc to arc, so the first arc is a typical sort of black ops story but the second arc will jump right into the middle of a completely different genre,” In 2010, the series was relaunched once again as simply Wolverine. He followed this with his current run on Thor: God of Thunder.

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