October 08, 2007


Ripclaw Pilot Season - #1: The Harrowing (Top Cow 8/2007)Eisner nominated writer Jason Aaron (Scalped, The Other Side) joins up with artist Jorge Lucas (Incredible Hulk, Annihilation: Ronan) to unleash Top Cow's resident badass in the first of eight special one-shots published under the Pilot Season 2007 initiative. The killer team is joined by intense cover artist Tony Moore (The Walking Dead, Exterminators).

To kill the Yakuza kingpin called Boss Yamamoto, you'd have to fight your way through level after deadly level of his secret fortress, past an army of gun-toting thugs and sword-wielding assassins. No one has ever been foolish enough to try. Enter Ripclaw. The fan-favorite character returns to the spotlight as dangerous as ever and fighting as if hell is at is his back.
Ripclaw: Pilot Season #1Ripclaw practically stinks of Marvel’s Wolverine. He physically resembles the short, surly Canadian, and even has claws. The beginning of Ripclaw #1, for many readers, will also bring to mind Wolverine’s Japanese adventures during the beginning of that character’s own comic line. However, using Ripclaw’s Indian heritage as the lever, the team behind this book has infused the character with something that Wolverine only seems to show intermittently: Regret. Using this as motivation, Ripclaw launches the titular character into a series of adventure that, judging by this first issue, is going to be a fun read.Ripclaw Pilot Season #1Imagine an American Indian Wolverine in Japan with the ability to have conversations with an undead corpse. That’s Top Cow’s Pilot Season issue of Ripclaw. Before you and get all hot and bothered, let me tell you that I’m not ripping on the issue--I’m just explaining the basic premise. Hell, even writer Jason Aaron said as much in an SDCC interview with the Wordballoon podcast.Comment:  Yes, this version of Ripclaw sure does stink of Wolverine. Wolverine could replace Ripclaw in every scene with almost no change in the script. Even Ripclaw's appearance--his stance, his clothing, his hat--are pure Wolverine. I've rarely seen a more derivative, less original, take on a character.

Let's just say this version of Ripclaw sure does stink...period. As with all of Jason Aaron's attempts to write Indians, there's almost no Native content. Like the characters in SCALPED, Ripclaw is another generic Indian savage.

Aaron's Ripclaw is nothing more than your typical killing machine, the kind of "hero" we've seen a dozen times before. What we haven't seen is the explicit violence: decapitations, dismemberments, bodies slashed open to the bone, fountains and rivers of blood, etc. If this were a movie, it probably would be rated NC-17. It's quite possibly the most violent comic I've ever read.

Ripclaw excuses his massacring by noting that all the victims are murderers. Maybe so, but he hasn't studied their criminal records. Judging and condemning people is what civilized countries have courts for. So the endless killing comes across as vile and unjustified--just as it does in a PUNISHER comic.

Nor is there much besides the violence. Ripclaw has to pass through nine levels of defense--but only a couple of them are shown. Just as Aaron doesn't care about Native cultures, he apparently doesn't care about clever plotting. His comics are about the violence first and the storytelling second.

How do you stop a character like Wolver-claw...I mean Ripclaw? In Aaron's world, you throw hundreds of bodies against him and watch him carve them to pieces. Here's a tip for anyone faced with an "unstoppable" foe: Try knockout gas. Or acid baths. Or a flood of water. Or hypersonics. Or super-adhesives. Or intense heat and flames. Relying on mere humans is just stupid.

RIPCLAW PILOT SEASON does offer a few interesting bits. For one, Ripclaw is haunted by the ghosts of the people he's killed. For another, there's a final twist on the Yakuza chief's over-the-top arrogance. He's only a cardboard crimelord for most of the comic, not all of it.

Those two bits are worth about two bits. Unfortunately, the comic costs $2.99, not 50 cents. I suggest you save your money for something that's worth it.

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