The Punisher 2 (May 2000)

The Punisher #2

Everything is going swimmingly until the end. Sure, Ennis doesn’t write Frank’s threatening dialogue as well as he writes his narration, which continues to be sublime, but the plotting is phenomenal. Frank methodically goes up the food chain on the mob family, with Ennis showing the steps in Frank’s investigation.

Ennis also brings in some of the supporting cast. He uses them for humor–the poor, unlucky cop and his peers. It’s a good relief valve for the Punisher story. While Frank’s got a certain sense of humor, it tends to make things more tense.

The end, however, is a disaster. Ennis breaks the reality he’s creating for the comic, introducing a villain more appropriate for Preacher. At this point, the comic goes from being Garth Ennis writing Punisher to Ennis writing his “style” in a Punisher comic. Ennis even changes the way humor works for that ending.

Rather unfortunate.

B 

CREDITS

Badaboom, Badabing; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Joe Quesada and Palmiotti; publisher, Marvel Comics.

MPH 1 (May 2014)

MPH #1

Leave it to Mark Millar to screw it up when he's got a good thing going. Even without the terrible soft cliffhanger, MPH does have some fantastic art from Duncan Fegredo. Fantastic enough to probably make the comic worth a look even if it didn't have a serviceable script.

There are all the standard Millar problems. It's too self-aware, the pop culture references are too forced, probably a few other things but I ignored them. However, Millar does write a good first person narration for his protagonist. It's some small time crook who ends up in prison for a relatively small crime and then gets superpowers.

The superpowers come from a pill called MPH. There's going to be an idiotic explanation for it, which the soft cliffhanger foreshadows. Still, the way Millar shows the guy's experience is fantastic.

The comic's predictably problematic (given Millar) but it's better than expected.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Duncan Fegredo; colorist and letterer, Peter Doherty; editor, Jennifer Lee; publisher, Image Comics.

Stray Bullets 26 (June 2002)

Stray Bullets #26

And now Lapham just decides to mess with the reader. The story has Amy Racecar–you know, Virginia’s alter ego–kidnapped by a bad guy, along with her male friend. She escapes, leaving the male friend behind. Is Lapham finally going to break from the Amy Racecar stuff into Virginia’s real life, where she’s escaped from the pedophile in the previous issue (Lapham’s worst?). No, no, he’s not.

Speaking of worst–this issue is actually awesome at the end and Lapham really does some great stuff with the Amy character but it’s so cheap. He’s learned how to manipulate the reader with forced machinations. Or maybe he always intended to manipulate the reader and there’s some Stray Bullets story bible out there with all the plans.

It’s doesn’t matter because Lapham’s still produces a great comic here. The manipulation hurts, but Amy Racecar can’t be defeated by cheap narrative tricks. She’s bitching.

A- 

CREDITS

Wild Strawberries Can’t Be Broken or Don’t Blame God Your Dog’s Dead; writer, artist, and letterer, David Lapham; editor, Deborah Dragovic; publisher, El Capit├ín Books.

Stray Bullets: Killers 3 (May 2014)

Stray Bullets: The Killers #3

It’s another outstanding issue. This one goes a little cute, with Virginia now a babysitter to a mob guy’s bratty kids and searching the house for his missing fortune. Not missing fortune, the money his wife has stashed he now needs. He’s out with the wife. And there’s a mistress in the mix and one of the kids reminds Virginia of herself.

What’s particularly interesting about the issue is how Lapham shows his nostalgia. There are some big nods–with Virginia standing in for Lapham’s nostalgia and the reader’s. Doing a sincere, loving tribute to Stray Bullets should be impossible given the comic’s content, but Lapham does it. He can even use it to get away with logic gaps; he knows the reader is on his side.

There’s some lovely art in the issue too. Lapham’s very careful with the people and especially the sequences with the older daughter and Virginia.

A- 

CREDITS

The Five Fingers; writer, artist and letterer, David Lapham; editors, Renee Miller and Maria Lapham; publisher, Image Comics.

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