Punisher: The Platoon #6 (April 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #6

Here’s the thing about Garth Ennis. His story arcs might read well in trade. His limited series might read great in a sitting. But he writes comic books. He paces comic books. And Punisher: The Platoon #6 is one hell of a comic book.

Ennis goes an unexpected route resolving the previous issue’s cliffhanger. He uses the frame a lot, revealing the frame isn’t a frame so much as a perch. It’s the reader point of view, whether they know it or not. Ennis has his epical story arc and juxtaposing and it flows nicely, but these things aren’t the most important thing. The most important thing is how the comic has read and reads.

Because Ennis delivers. He confirms he made a promise earlier in the series–one entirely without verbalization–and he delivers on it. He shows he can do this comic and do a war comic and also do a Punisher comic and then he moves past proving he and Parlov’s abilities to someplace else.

Or maybe Ennis just wanted to make a bunch of grown men cry. With the added bonus it’s a Punisher comic making them cry. It’s one hell of a comic.

Parlov’s art is on, of course. There are a lot of talking heads moments cut into the big action–with the narration and the talking heads so strong the big action flashback panels are almost intrusive. They don’t break the pacing because they’re supposed to be intrusive. Ennis is sort of doing the Wizard of Oz reveal on how the comic works and he needs to get the reader alert.

Damn.

What a comic. The issue and the series. Ennis and Parlov.

Damn.

CREDITS

6: Happy Childhoods; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher: The Platoon #5 (March 2018)

The Punisher: Platoon #5.

One issue to go. Why am I so surprised Ennis is bringing the two plotlines together–Frank and his platoon, the Viet Cong and the female soldier. But he handles it in a way it can surprise, even after a whole issue of visual reminders the two subplots are very, very close to intersecting.

Ennis and Parlov do it on the last page. They completely change what Platoon might be about. They introduce all sorts of new potential in the penultimate issue. In the last page. Because Ennis has been so careful at advancing the Viet Cong plot line. He never neglects it.

The Frank plot line has the platoon on a body reclamation mission. Ennis gets some history and some commentary out of that subject. Parlov gets to do some gorgeous green landscapes. Those Jordie Bellaire colors. Then, little by little, Frank and the platoon lose the sky. It’s not night, they’re just going deeper and deeper into the jungle. It’s incredibly claustrophobic.

And it’s all a distraction so Ennis can bring out the proverbial big gun. He foreshadows it a little and builds expectation, but it’s still a surprise; the foreshadowing is nonspecific, ditto the expectation. Parlov and Ennis pace this issue deftly, confidently guiding the reader to the cliffhanger.

Next issue’s going to be something.

CREDITS

5: Deadfall; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher: The Platoon #4 (February 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #4

The tragedy of Punisher: The Platoon is almost unbearable. Ennis juxtaposes the Americans and the Viet Cong. The female Viet Cong Frank Castle, the Frank Castle Frank Castle. The one with a dark shadow over him, even though only the reader can see it. It’s not in the bookend narration. The vets sitting around being interviewed? They don’t acknowledge the tragedy of Frank. It’s the saddest thing in the world… an earnest Frank Castle.

And something I suppose you wouldn’t get if you weren’t entirely versed in the character. Or at least in Ennis’s Punisher MAX. Or some of it, anyway. It’s freaking intense. Nothing happens this issue; violent-wise, I mean. The two times things could go violent? They don’t. Ennis and his war comics realism.

Frank’s marines are on R and R. Drinking and whoring. Ennis loves writing the old men jovially recalling those days. It’s actually kind of cute, as very little else in Platoon ever gets to be cute. Frank’s Viet Cong alter ego’s mentor is sort of cute. But he’s also a brutal commander so it’s a problematic cute.

There’s a conversation scene with Frank and one of his men. Just talking about their lives. Frank Castle talks about his personal philosophy. The other guy offers him advice. It’s extremely affecting as it continues because it’s so foreign from Punisher comics. Freaking Ennis. So good.

Parlov’s art is awesome. No action, lots of talking heads, just beautifully paced visuals. Parlov’s really got this one down.

CREDITS

4: Absolute Consequences; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Kathleen Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher: The Platoon 3 (January 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #3

This issue of Platoon is Ennis looking at the quiet time for Frank Castle and his unit. Most of the issue has to do with Frank trying to get better rifles for his men. There’s some stuff with the Viet Cong, there’s the framing sequences, but really, it’s just an issue about Frank trying to get better rifles for his men. It’s very, very strange.

The comic itself is phenomenal. Ennis’s dialogue, his narration, the plotting, it’s all great. Parlov’s art’s great, but playing more for… humor. There’s some absurdity of war stuff going on and Ennis tries to find the humanity in the characters’ reactions to it. He also nicely echoes sentiments from the past to the future with the modern day framing stuff. It feels very whole.

But it’s strange. It’s not really a bridging issue, not unless everything hinges on Frank going to the black market for better rifles. It seems like an aside. A texture issue in a limited series. Does Ennis have time to do it?

Of course he does. Because it’s Ennis and Punisher. He never lets Frank down.

CREDITS

3: The Black Rifles; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Kathleen Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher: The Platoon 2 (December 2017)

Punisher MAX: The Platoon #2

I think three times this issue there are full page panels with the credit “Ennis/Parlov.” I’m not sure if they’ve got their first names on it. They’re heavy panels. Ennis is doing a Vietnam story. He’s got the vets, he’s got the author, he’s got Frank. The vets get most of the time, whether telling the author their story or just in flashback. The author opens it, introduces some details and some unexpected reality (a former Viet Cong officer being a happy old man visiting the U.S. frequently).

Ennis saves Frank. He and Parlov do a lot with the violence, starting with the Viet Cong launching an attack and the Americans having to go to bayonets. But then they go farther. They go so far you’re scared to see Frank again.

No one but Ennis could take what should be a Punisher cash grab and deliver The Platoon. Anyone else would be foolish to try, but with Ennis, his ability to plot this thing… it’s unreal. Reading it, the world off the page goes silent.

CREDITS

2: Ma Deuce; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Kathleen Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Punisher: The Platoon 1 (December 2017)

Punisher: The Platoon #1

Punisher: The Platoon is Garth Ennis doing a Vietnam war comic with Frank Castle. Young Frank Castle. Green Frank Castle. An author has tracked down Castle’s first platoon to interview them for a book; the author is never seen. Is it Ennis? Peter Parker? Maybe we’ll find out by issue six.

The Vietnam stuff is excellent. Castle’s just become a second lieutenant, it’s his first ever command, his first ever time in a war zone. Platoon is a colorful story, almost jarring the reader from Goran Parlov’s art. It’s precise and tranquil. There’s no violence until Castle arrives.

Ennis is using a couple different points of view devices for the flashback. Subjective narration, presumably objective events. It’s interesting. Art’s great. Seems like Ennis found something else to say about Big Frank. And, if not, hopefully he can get a new car from the Marvel bucks.

CREDITS

1: Crack the Sky and Shake the Earth; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Kathleen Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 1 (July 2016)

The Punisher #1

What a lousy comic. I mean, I didn’t even care about Steve Dillon’s artwork. His lines get thick during action sequences and lose all fluidity. Dillon’s precise line work always implies movement, entropy, never static. He looks like he’s doing pin-ups this issue. Punisher pin-ups. Is it 1993 or something?

I can’t figure out who Marvel is targeting with this Punisher variation. Let’s go through all the pieces of the pie. First, Steve Dillon’s back. He hasn’t been on the book for a while, right? And he was on the book during multiple good new (or post-Angelic) Punisher titles. So Dillon alone might be a sale. Except now you need a writer–Marvel should’ve just gotten Dillon a ghostwriter for the book, it couldn’t have been any worse and probably would’ve been better–but it’s 2016 and Marvel has a diversity problem. So get Becky Cloonan to write the book. Name female creator. It’s almost an event comic.

Only bad Punisher comics aren’t events, they’re the standard. Cloonan and Dillon turn in a lame issue. Cloonan writes Frank with less personality than a slasher movie villain, only Dillon draws him very superhero, very compensation Frank. Cloonan’s got these moron DEA agents who would have been lousy cop characters in the early eighties, much less now. Her dialogue’s thoughtfully written but it meanders in exposition land. Or she just has terrible editors.

Finally, this Punisher is the first series since regular people started caring about the Punisher, thanks to the “Daredevil” TV show. Shock of shocks, a “Punisher” show got announced just a few days before this issue came out. It’s buzzy. It’s Disney (and if Disney just means nostalgia-based brand synergy, so be it). Anyway, buzzy says it needs to be accessible as well as notable. Cloonan’s there for her buzz cred, not because she has some great Punisher story to tell.

Or maybe she does and it really is just another Lethal Weapon riff with war buddies selling dope and one of them having to stop it. But I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Marvel apparently thinks they need it to have mass appeal, which is admirable but impossible. **The Punisher** is pulp, it’s exploitation. For it to succeed, it’s got to have an edge–it can’t be bland. And this book couldn’t be blander.

CREDITS

TITLE; writer, Becky Cloonan; artist, Steve Dillon; colorist, Frank Martin; letterer, Cory Petit; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Jake Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 5 (December 2001)

The Punisher #5

Good grief–Ennis end the comic with a big Dubya is an alcoholic moron joke right before 9/11. Did they change the reveal for the trade?

It’s a dumb joke too. Instead of giving the Punisher an actual enemy, it gives Ennis a scene. He has lots of scenes this issue, some better than others, some pointless like this one. The big finale with the Russian is sort of pointless because there’s a predetermined finish to it.

Or maybe Ennis is keeping the Russian around even longer, because it’s easier for him to do absurdist humor than to write the comic.

There are a couple okay moments in the issue, like when the Punisher stands off against the big villain. The villain’s a mercenary general who has a long speech. Ennis goes for a cheap finish.

It’s a tired finish but it works okay… just like the comic itself.

B- 

CREDITS

No Limits; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Saida Temofonte; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 4 (October 2001)

The Punisher #4

Ennis has lost track of any real person–by real person, I mean the bartender from the first couple issues or maybe one of Soap’s cop antagonists–and he’s back to having a jolly old time. Lots and lots of pop culture references. Some day you’ll need footnotes to understand all the references and then further footnotes to explain why they’re funny.

Oh, Sixth Sense plot twist jokes. Let me wipe the tear from my eye.

Still, Ennis is taking Frank a little more serious this issue. He’s the protagonist for his scenes in the issue, not the subject, not the butt of wry jokes. And Ennis does give him some vaguely interesting things to do. Not inventive so much, but diverting.

The problem is the lack of content and the villain. The villain is lame and boring, which even Ennis seems to accept.

Dillon does well on the art.

B- 

CREDITS

Dirty Work; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 3 (September 2001)

The Punisher #3

It’s the Punisher on an island of dumb mercenaries. Or the next issue will be–and Ennis even goes so far as to promise it’ll be a good one for the soft cliffhanger. Actually, this issue is mostly exposition.

There’s exposition at the beginning while Frank hangs some corrupt cop off a roof for information, then it’s Frank narrated exposition about Mr. Big, then it’s Frank’s pilot with a bunch of exposition; all the action comes at the end on the island.

The strange part about the comic is how engaged Ennis gets with the material. There are a few times where he almost seems like he wants to be serious. Then he remembers he can’t be too serious, but the intention is definitely present.

The result is a mediocre comic in a lot of ways, but also the best issue of this Punisher series so far. Ennis’s finally interested.

B 

CREDITS

American Ugly; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 2 (August 2001)

The Punisher #2

More funny stuff from Ennis. He’s got some cheap jokes but he sure does thoughtfully arrange them. He’s even for a bunch of Marvel puns in the comic–referencing Giant-Size Man-Thing and Marvel Team-Up, though he could have gone further with the pun about the latter.

But the comic itself? The Punisher and the new, improved Russian duking it out on the Empire State Building. Spider-Man shows up. Foreshadowing. There’s not much else to it. It’s an amusing read; if Ennis had any good observations about Marvel comics, it’d be better, but it’s amusing enough.

The many misadventures of Martin Soap continues as well. Ennis doesn’t try hard with Soap either. He doesn’t have to try hard.

The Spider-Man cameo is sort of wasted and it doesn’t help Dillon can’t draw the costumed figure well.

But it’s fine. Painfully unambitious and disinterested and totally fine.

B- 

CREDITS

Does Whatever a Spider Can; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 1 (August 2001)

The Punisher #1

Garth Ennis takes a rather strange approach to this issue–and presumably this Punisher series. He does it as a comedy. There are levels of mocking, with the Punisher getting the least and Soap getting the most. There are some actual criminals in there and their stupidity gets mocked, but they’re at least aware. Soap isn’t even aware.

Meanwhile, Steve Dillon does some pretty good art on the issue. He’s not drawing anything particularly fantastic, subject-wise, but he’s doing good work.

I just read the comic and I can’t remember much about it. The cliffhanger is a big one, but not as big as the reveal of the villain. Ennis is going for Preacher-level absurdity without any justification. It’s goofy, but he thinks it’ll be funny, so he’s using it. Not just logic be darned, but sense of reality be darned.

He’s not trying, but it’s still okay.

B- 

CREDITS

Well Come On Everybody and Let’s Get Together Tonight; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Nanci Dakesian and Stuart Moore; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 12 (March 2001)

The Punisher #12

Why is the only good scene in the issue–besides the apartment cast’s send-off, of course–when Soap meets the Punisher? The rest of the stuff with Soap is dumb, as are the other subplot resolutions, but there’s something about that scene. Maybe Ennis thinks of the reader as Soap, someone dumb enough to be amused even after a seagull tags you’re forehead.

Because The Punisher is pointless. There’s no story for Frank, not since the first or second issue. There’s no story for the mobsters or the cops. The story for the apartment cast would be more amusing than this comic but only because Ennis actually worked on them.

The series has had some very high points, but Ennis failed to follow through on anything. He introduced ideas, did some development, then forgot them.

Even Dillon seems to have given up a little, especially with his figure drawing.

D 

CREDITS

Go Frank Go; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Stuart Moore and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 11 (February 2001)

The Punisher #11

Ennis continues with the goofy issues. The dialogue out of this one is hideous. Ennis is going for cheap one liners. It’s awful.

But, hey, the detectives might have something to do next issue. Maybe for a minute or two. Though Ennis could have given them something to do this issue; instead he reminds the reader of their presence, which he’s been doing for the last few issues. Promising they’ll eventually pay off.

Kind of like the other idiot vigilantes. It’s not good comic relief or anything else at this point. Ennis tries to rationalize the absurd way too much in this comic. He goes for humor in those rationalizations and it gets old fast.

The supporting cast all get their page time this issue and Ennis continues to protect them.
Like everything else, Ennis has no idea what to do with them but at least they are likable characters.

C 

CREDITS

Any Which Way You Can; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy, Stuart Moore and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 10 (January 2001)

The Punisher #10

An issue long fight scene with the Punisher mostly getting his butt kicked. Ennis goes for light, edgy humor from the Russian. Nothing too far, but some of the jokes are still smart.

Then there are detectives Molly and Soap. They get a talking heads scene and then it’s off to the vigilantes teaming up. Unfortunately, Ennis doesn’t have anything for the detectives to talk about because they’re not doing anything anymore. They’re sitting around.

The vigilantes are not sitting around, they are driving around. Ennis goes for a lot of humor with them. It’s the worst he’s done with the Elite one and Mr. Payback. This issue brings them down to the level of the priest. It’s really too bad.

As for that big fight scene… it’s only the first round. There’s another round; hopefully Ennis will have mercy and cut to the best parts instead of plodding through.

C 

CREDITS

Glutton for Punishment; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 9 (December 2000)

The Punisher #9

Enter the Russian and Ennis bringing in another weak villain, but one he can try to use for humor. Why use him for humor? Apparently there’s not enough comedy with the Punisher caring about his neighbors. The scenes with the neighbors are all soft, sensitive scenes. I thought Frank was going to tell the overweight guy to eat healthy.

The villain gives the mob story some freshness and then the detectives get some freshness and it feels like something might be happening. But it’s not really happening, it’s just Soap and Molly talking and Ennis trying to figure out the most rewarding moments. Rewarding to the reader, not to the story, which is the big problem.

Even the good scenes don’t hold up. Ennis has Frank too jaded, given though he’s clear about the series not being too jaded. They’re probably supposed to be black humor moments but they flop.

C 

CREDITS

From Russia with Love; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 8 (November 2000)

The Punisher #8

It’s kind of a talking heads issue. There’s some action with Frank having to save Dave and he bonds a little with Joan. Ennis has problems working Frank into the humor. He’s the Punisher is the punch line to too many of Ennis’s jokes.

There’s also a lot with Soap and Molly. They don’t serve a purpose in the story at all, so Ennis just fills out with them. They’re another enjoyable part of Ennis’s big Punisher story, which ostensibly should have been about him getting Ma Gnucci.

She’s not a good villain though. So Ennis has to do really awful things around her to make her seem like a good villain. The secret of this series is its shallow depth. Ennis is just doing enough character work to make it seem substantial, but he’s really just trying to get done with his twelve issues.

And he’s doing relatively fine.

B- 

CREDITS

Desperate Measures; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editors, Kelly Lamy and Nanci Dakesian; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 7 (October 2000)

The Punisher #7

Should I call this a bridging issue or maybe I should call it a highway interchange issue because Ennis is bringing so much together. This subplot meets this other subplot and leads into the connection to the next subplot. It goes on and on.

It’s amusing. Ennis writes it well. The stupid priest thing has the detectives in it and they’re still funny. Whenever Ennis writes loser guys and their female partners who don’t want them romantically, it’s good. He should really do a series of just them.

Oh, yeah, Frank’s neighbors–who he mocks in his first person narration–once again get the kid glove treatment from Ennis. Dave and Joan are protected characters. Ennis coddles them; it’s a strange thing, since they’re the most obvious characters for him to coddle.

Still, it’s pretty good. Mr. Payback and the Elite are both funny. Ennis’s clearly exercising entertainment over ambition.

B 

CREDITS

Bring out Your Dead; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 6 (September 2000)

The Punisher #6

The issue starts so much better than it ends. It opens with everyone but the Punisher and the serial killer priest. There’s a little with Frank thinking about how he needs to move and some comedy with his neighbors, but not a lot. Ennis almost makes it seem like he’s switching over during that comedy and then pulls away again. The two cops are getting a lot more important.

Then comes the big action scene and Dillon doesn’t do great with it. He does okay, but not great. All the first person Frank stuff is comparing his current life to Vietnam and it doesn’t work. Ennis is making fun of the character at this point. The whole issue has had a wink about Frank. But no one else. Everyone else Ennis takes seriously.

The result is less rewarding than it should be… but it’s still amazing how hard Ennis works.

B 

CREDITS

Spit out of Luck; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 5 (August 2000)

The Punisher #5

Ennis develops Frank this issue and it’s unexpected. He’s fully aware of his mental state. He knows he kills criminals to feel a little better, a little more in control, whatever. He’s even mad at Giuliani for lowering crime in New York.

It’s an odd line. Even with all the odd stuff with Frank walking around the city bemoaning his situation, the Giuliani thing is still odder. Maybe it’s because all these other murderous vigilantes, each attacking different segments on the community. The priest hits the sinners, the Payback guy hits Wall Street crooks, the Elite guy gentrifies with a vengeance. I feel like there’s another one.

Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Ennis is playing up the comedy, even though he still stays respectful of certain things. His principal supporting cast for Frank–the lovable apartment dwellers–Ennis doesn’t quite sell them out. Soap and Molly are seemingly safe too.

B 

CREDITS

Even Worse Things; writer, Garth Ennis; penciller, Steve Dillon; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Chris Sotomayor; letterers, Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott; editor, Joe Quesada; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Punisher 4 (July 2000)

The Punisher #4

I wonder if Molly the detective wears sunglasses so Steve Dillon gets a little less to draw. I assume they’re also there so she looks too cool to hang out with Detective Soap, but still. It’s disconcerting having a character without expressions.

This issue, save the killer priest scene, which is particularly crappy, is rather good. Ennis sets up the detectives teaming up and does a little comedy relief with Soap. But most of the issue is real time with Frank on the run through Central Park. Some of the exposition is odd–Frank pauses to watch polar bears eat a bad guy and Ennis all of a sudden introduces the idea he’s a sadist for sadism’s sake. It’s brief, all by itself and very strange.

There’s a gentleness to how Ennis handles some of it. Frank’s oddly gentle, even when vicious, and Ennis handles Soap gently.

It’s good stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

The Punisher 3 (June 2000)

The Punisher #3

Ennis brings in Daredevil for what seems like a bad idea cameo and turns out to be a great one. It’s a lot of talking heads with Frank and Matt Murdock arguing about what’s justice and whatnot. Only Ennis makes sure to bring in some action every few pages so it doesn’t get boring.

Elsewhere, Ennis is building up the black comedy adventures of the cop. There isn’t much to the scenes, but they’re fine. All of the issue, except the serial killer priest, is fine. Ennis doesn’t get ambitious, except maybe with the Daredevil twists; he and Dillon are selling a deliberate product.

The rest of the issue has just Ennis setting up for the Daredevil confrontation. It figures into the big mob family plot tangentially. I think they just wanted to have the cameo. Or guest star. Daredevil’s in here a lot.

It’s a shame about the priest.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Devil by the Horns; 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.

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.

The Punisher 1 (April 2000)

The Punisher #1

Garth Ennis has a real sense of exuberance with The Punisher. Steve Dillon not as much–maybe he realized how round Jimmy Palmiotti’s inks would make the pencils–but the art’s still good. Every line of Ennis’s narration from Frank is enthralled, though. Even though nothing happens this issue, that narration makes it worth it.

Until the end maybe. Ennis has to address recent changes in the character history and the lines recounting the Punisher’s days as an angel are too jarring. Ennis can get wrapped up in Frank’s worldview but there’s no way to make that angel stuff sound good.

The narration is tempting; Ennis brings the reader over to Frank’s side. The way Frank thinks, the way he plans out his attacks, the mindset–it almost immediately makes perfect sense. Probably because of the awesome opening sequence.

It’s commercial Ennis. He’s funny and tender; any viciousness is superficial.

B+ 

CREDITS

Welcome Back, Frank; 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.

The Punisher 6 (February 2012)

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I’ve got to say… Rucka’s never going to be able to recover from the Punisher having a snow outfit. It’s like Batman & Robin or something. Next he’ll have ice skates in his boots.

This issue’s pretty lame. Once again, Frank is silent. But more, Lady Punisher is mostly silent too. The big predictable set piece happens and Rucka (along with new artists Matthews Southworth and Clark) channel their nineties John Woo. Is John Woo still cool enough to channel? I don’t think so.

There’s nothing particularly terrible about the comic. Oh, sure, the white snowsuit Punisher costume (perfect for an action figure variant at the Disney Store) is dumb and the two Matthews have lots of art problems, but it’s not offensive.

It’s just juvenile. Rucka finally was making some progress on the book and he’s completely flushed it. He still hasn’t made Frank Castle a character.

The Punisher‘s pointless.

The Punisher 5 (January 2012)

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It’s a slightly odd issue. Whoever thought a Punisher Thanksgiving special would be good, but Rucka uses the holiday to give some insight into the cast.

Three months have passed since the last issue and Rucka is catching the reader up with the cast, including the Punisher’s ten-year old sidekick. The sidekick will likely be Frank’s conscience at some point.

I’m not a fan of this boy band Punisher–Bendis’s Ultimate Punisher from Team-Up certainly wasn’t boy band–but Rucka does well with the supporting cast. He works a little on his Lady Punisher storyline, taking his time, kneading the subplot gently. His female characters are better than his male. The guys are just stereotypes, the women have actual depth.

Checchetto’s art is still solid without being sensational or entirely on target. There isn’t a single memorable panel.

The Punisher is professional and competent, but otherwise rather uninspired.

The Punisher 4 (December 2011)

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It occurs to me, four issues in, I have almost no opinion of Checchetto. He’s a fine enough artist, he hits the mood Rucka’s going for… but he doesn’t bring anything to The Punisher. When he does try an elaborate design, it kills the pace of an issue.

Anyway, I just realized I barely talk about him.

Now, to Rucka. Rucka’s Punisher is a little like the Shadow, with a network of people indebted to him or otherwise inclined to help him. Even with Frank talking, Rucka goes out of his way to remove any personality from the character. They really need to get a Spider-Man cameo in the book, just the liven up the dialogue.

Rucka’s doing well the supporting cast except the senior detective. The reporter (Rucka’s best character) gives the detective a nickname–“Sherlock Homie.”

It’s an awkward racial nickname; it flops.

Rucka can do better.

The Punisher 3 (November 2011)

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Big Frank’s first words? Not worth the wait.

Rucka and Checchetto turn in an all action issue. It’s like Rucka’s trying not to let people decide whether they want to like the book or not.

Frank versus some mutant version of the Vulture? Kind of cool. But not because of anything Rucka brings to the table. Once again, he’s counting on the reader’s recollection of a previous Punisher he or she liked and so will care about Frank’s exploits here.

It’s very cheap.

Reading the airborne fight scene, it got me wondering what else Rucka has in store for the future. Good action sequences, probably with decent guest stars.

Only towards the end of the issue, with the introduction of a possible Lady Punisher and a new friend for Frank does the issue finally get interesting.

Rucka hasn’t been predictable on the book; I hope he doesn’t miss good opportunities.

The Punisher 2 (October 2011)

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Still no dialogue out of Frank.

Is Rucka just waiting for some big reveal or has he just not figured out his approach yet. Checchetto has decided his approach, however. Frank Castle looks like he’s in a boy band. Or, was in a boy band and is planning a come back. Not the toughest looking Frank, not even a weathered one.

Still, Rucka maintains professional competence and Checchetto is a decent artist for this urban kind of thing. The Punisher is readable, but totally indistinct. It’s like Marvel wanted to sell old Punisher trades so they put this series out–it just reminds the reader of better older comics he or she can go purchase in trades.

Rucka’s cliffhanger, which is boring in terms of the narrative (since Frank doesn’t talk), should be telling. He’s going to have to define his interpretation of the character.

At least, one would assume.

The Punisher 1 (October 2011)

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It’s hard to have any opinion of Greg Rucka’s Punisher because Frank Castle isn’t really in the issue. Instead, Rucka follows around a couple cops who are investigating a sensational shooting.

Only one of the cops is really working for Frank so there’s finally a non-speaking appearance from the Punisher at the end.

Everything about the comic is generic–not bad, just generic. Rucka’s got his young white cop and his seasoned old black cop (hey, just like Seven). Frank doesn’t talk, he’s just a criminal’s nightmare or whatever.

The Marco Checchetto art is good–Rucka’s clearly going for a Gotham Central vibe and Checchetto helps it. But The Punisher isn’t Gotham Central. Frank isn’t Batman. What makes or breaks a Punisher comic is the writer’s handle on the character and Rucka’s apparently trying to delay having to have any opinion on him.

It’s not bad… it’s just vacant.

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