Back when this issue was announced, Jason Aaron made it a point to highlight online that he is not Grant Morrison, doesn’t write like Grant Morrison, and his versions of Fantomex and Noh-Varr will not be like Grant Morrison’s. And he’s right, but his versions are pretty good, too. Although titled “Dark Reign: The List — Wolverine,” this issue focuses more on Fantomex and Noh-Varr teaming up to prevent Norman Osborn from conquering the World, the facility introduced in Morrison’s “New X-Men” where the Weapon Plus Program creates new super-soldiers.
The plot is light, but it’s a lot of high speed action and even some big Morrison-inspired concepts like Weapon XVI, which turns Wolverine against Noh-Varr early on into their ‘team-up,’ leaving the Kree wunderkind to fend for himself against a horde of hive-minded super-soldiers. That is, until he runs into Fantomex and the two proceed to both take on Weapon XVI and Osborn’s legion of zombie shock troops. It’s a very fun, entertaining adventure story.
The interaction between Noh-Varr and Fantomex is almost everything fans of the characters could hope for. While Aaron never delivers one of those great, stop-you-in-your-tracks-to-marvel-at-how-witty-it-is lines that Morrison seems to toss out without effort, he has a very good handle on the two characters. I just wish there was more space for the two to interact since it’s so entertaining.
Esad Ribic’s art is absolutely perfect for this issue as the Croat artist works firmly within the Franco-Belgian tradition, using a style that resembles the work of Moebius and Zoran Janjetov. It’s a very simple style, but one that’s big on movement, not just in action, but in facial expressions and body language clearly communicating what characters are thinking and feeling. His Norman Osborn has temper tantrums, huffs and puffs around, abusing lackeys, and looking like tyrant he is. Noh-Varr looks like a snooty brat with a constant sneer on his face.
While most know Ribic from his painted covers for Marvel, his interior work is extremely strong and just gorgeous. It communicates the fun and energy of the story, while adding to those elements considerably. Hopefully, we will see more of his work inside the covers in the future.
“Dark Reign: The List — Wolverine” isn’t essential reading for those following “Dark Reign,” but it is a fun and entertaining read as Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic team up two of Grant Morrison’s Marvel creations and just let them go wild. It is definitely worth picking up.