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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Run on The Punisher, Vol. 9 (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

The Punisher isn’t really a complex character.

Indeed, despite his popularity and appeal, there’s really only so much you can do with the character before it feels like you’re repeating yourself. He is a vigilante who brutally murders criminals, possibly because criminals killed his family. That’s part of the reason why Rick Remender’s Punisher run was so exhilarating. It genuinely felt unlike anything that had been done with the character before – even if Remender had to take Frank Castle off the reservation to do it.

Writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto came up with their ingenious way of making the Punisher seem novel again. Realising that readers have probably become a little too over-familiar with Frank Castle and his world, Rucka and Checchetto shrewdly decide to look at Frank Castle from the outside, treating the Punisher as something like a force of nature, a terror glimpsed fleetingly as he stalks the concrete jungle.

A smoking gun...

A smoking gun…

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Acts of Vengeance: The Punisher vs. Doctor Doom (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I tend to like my Punisher stories with a hint of the ridiculous about them. I seem to be the only person who thought that Garth Ennis did his best work on the character as part of Marvel Knights rather than Punisher MAX, because I tend to think the character works best as a sort of an absurd straight man in mainstream comics. He is, after all, a character who uses superhero iconography (a giant skull on his chest, no matter how stripped-down the iteration) while being a guy with a gun who likes to kill criminals. I’ve always felt that the character required a suspension of disbelief that that only really worked if he was played just slightly ridiculous. Of course, that’s my opinion, and I seem to be in the minority on this, but it probably explains why I found Mike Baron’s tie-in to Acts of Vengeance – pitting the Punisher against Doctor Doom – to be so much damn fun.

Closing in to seal his doom…

Note: The always wonderful Chris Simms took a more indepth look at this unlikely crossover on Comics Alliance, perfectly capturing the wonderful insanity of it all.

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. V (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

And so we’re here. We’ve reached the end of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run, and one of the last things the author wrote for the character (he’d go on to write the Punisher: WarZone miniseries to tie into the film of the same name). It’s frequently regarded as perhaps the definitive run on the character, one held up as an example of what the Marvel MAX imprint is capable of. So, it’s been a long, sixty-issue journey to this point. And, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely blown away by the run, or the conclusion to it.

Firing on all cylinders?

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. IV (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

I don’t know. It seems like, at times, I run hot and cold to Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run. It’s frequently cited as one of the great runs of modern comics, and there are moments when – if I squint – I can see hints of that masterpiece everybody is taking at. At other times, it seems I’m wandering in the desert, staring at a perfectly functional comic book, trying to figure out what everybody is making such a big fuss about. This penultimate collection of Ennis’ run contains two great examples of this. On one hand, the collection opens with the incredibly pedestrian Man of Stone, while it closes with the smarter-than-it-appears Widowmaker. Neither story is a masterpiece, but the latter has a lot more insight than I’ve come to expect from the series, while the former takes an interesting premise and does nothing with it.

The Punisherette?

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. III (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

I think I’m finally getting the hang of Ennis’ run on Punisher MAX. It seems that it’s pretty much positioned between two extremes: bleak nihilistic cynicism and depressing absurdist black comedy. I don’t think that any collection of Ennis’ work illustrates these two extremes quite as well as this one, collecting both The Slavers and Barracuda – the former undoubtedly Ennis’ darkest work on the title and the former probably the most ridiculously cynical comedy the writer has drafted for the character (at least on the MAXline). It certainly makes for one weird cocktail.

Frankly my dear...

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. II (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

There’s a dream I have from time to time. And in the dream I don’t stop. I kill the soldiers and the hitmen, the extortioners and racketeers, the dark old &%^@s who send them out to fight– I hold the trigger down until they’re all gone–

But I don’t stop.

The innocents are just watching, like always. The slack jawed thousands, gazing at the beast. My family lie red and shredded in the grass. I face the crowd and bring the weapon to my shoulder. If my world ends, I tell them, so does yours.

The recoil starts and I wake up.

It’s  just a dream, I always tell myself. It’s just a dream.

It’s just a dream.

– Frank Castle, Up is Down and Black is White

You know, I’m not entirely sold on the format of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX. It seems a strange thing to say, given how I’m slowly starting to appreciate what the writer is doing with the character, but I’m not convinced that the rigid six-issue structure that Ennis is adopting fits the character particularly well. Don’t worry, I know it’s a very strange and irrational complaint to have – partially because there’s so much else going on that merits discussion, and also because six-issue arcs have become the industry norm (because they fit the size of a trade paperback). That said, I think may have figured out why it bothers me so.

Gun play...

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Born (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

There are comic book characters that are so closely tied to one particular writer that you pity anybody trying to write them. The X-Men have Chris Claremont (although I do love Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run), Daredevil has Frank Miller (although he also has Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker), Hulk has Peter David and (I firmly believe) Green Lantern has Geoff Johns. Somehow, through some fluke, occasionally comic book characters manage to stumble across a writer who fundamentally understands them. I’d argue that this is the benefit of having these characters survive in print – none of these runs were by the original authors. Anyway, to get to the point, the Punisher has Garth Ennis.

The last Castle...

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