Of all the Dark Reign – The List specials I’ve bought in the name of providing a service to our readers, this one ranks around the middle. Well, towards the top really, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a Simpsons reference. By now, you don’t need me to tell you that this has almost nothing to do with Dark Reign. Contrary to the title, it also doesn’t really feature Wolverine all that much. In fact, as near as I can tell the whole thing turns out to be a prelude to the forthcoming Deathlok series, of all things.
So with that in mind, why am I so upbeat about it? The answer is simple: it’s hilarious.
The issue’s cast consists of Wolverine, Fantomex and Marvel Boy, who infiltrate the Weapon Plus development facility, The World, and Norman Osborn, who spends his time shouting at a wall of monitors. Wolverine himself is sidelined at a fairly early point, leaving Fantomex, in full snooty Frenchman mode, and Marvel Boy to have a fight with the sentient brain that controls The World while at the same time protecting it from Osborn’s agents.
Aaron has won me over to his version of Wolverine before, but with this issue, he also convinces me that he does a very passable version of Fantomex. Indeed, with Marvel Boy in the cast, the whole thing comes across somewhere between a Grant Morrison homage and a Grant Morrison parody, but it’s easy to see that Aaron is doing that deliberately (Marvel Boy being forced to kiss the giant, amoeba-esque organism housing The World’s brain sticks out as an example of that.)
Esad Ribic provides the artwork, and although I’m not a specific fan, I can’t deny that it works rather well. Ribic has the ability to put the fantastic elements alongside the more realistic ones and have them appear as if they can credibly exist within the same universe. Colourist Matthew Wilson brings particular flair to the pages too, however, and his contribution should not be ignored.
The book is rounded out with a rather less impressive bonus strip, some guidebook pages and some pencil/ink comparisons, all of which make the price tag a little more bearable. It’s fair to say this isn’t an essential purchase for anyone following Dark Reign or Wolverine, which makes it more than a little misleading, but as a comic, there’s plenty to enjoy, and for all the whining about how “The List” has been a real disappointment in terms of continuity, it’d be much easier to accept the situation if the comics were all this good.