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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto (and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s) Punisher – War Zone (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!

Despite the continuity of character, plot and creator, it’s striking how distinct Punisher: War Zone feels from the sixteen-issue solo series leading into it. After Marvel cancelled Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Punisher series, the company green-lit a five-issue miniseries to allow the duo to wrap up the various plot threads and themes that ran through their earlier work. It is nice to see the pair given a chance to bring closure to their story, to tidy away loose ends on their take on Frank Castle.

At the same time, Punisher: War Zone feels very much like its own thing. The plot is powered by the arrest of Rachel Cole-Alves, Frank Castle’s accomplice who accidentally murdered a police officer during a botched raid. At the end of the series, the New York City Police Department had taken Cole into custody while Castle escaped into the night. In a way, the story could just has effectively ended there – the Punisher disappearing back into the woodwork, the characters all squared away.

While Punisher: War Zone does resolve the Cole-Alves subplot, it feels like it is primarily an accuse to pit Frank Castle against the Avengers. It’s a rather demented comic book idea – allowing a guy with lots of guns to face off against “Earth’s mightiest heroes” – but it plays into the larger themes of Rucka’s run about what tolerance of Castle says about the people who share this world with him.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

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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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Infinite Crisis: Rann-Thanagar War (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I’ve always been a fan of the “hokey science-fiction” corner of the DC Universe. Adam Strange is perhaps my second-favourite Silver Age DC hero (behind the Flash). I loved Alan Moore’s trip to the stars during his Swamp Thing run. While many thought that Stars my Destination, the penultimate mega-arc of James Robinson’s Starman, went on far too long, I loved every page. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is one of my favourite modern comic book runs. I confess all this so that my bias is upfront, when I admit that Rann-Thanagar War is one of my favourite Infinite Crisis tie-ins, even though it’s one of those least directly connected to the event itself.

All the Strange, Strange heroes…

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Infinite Crisis: Day of Vengeance (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

It seems like, within the last decade or so, DC has had a great deal of difficulty organising its “magic and mystic” books. DC generally provided a nice home for books like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing or John Ostrander’s Spectre, but it seemed like there wasn’t really an abundance of successful magic-themed books in the early part of the new millennium. DC would consciously attempt to remedy this with their “dark” line as part of the “new 52” relaunch, but Day of Vengeance feels like something of an awkward earlier attempt to streamline that corner of the shared universe and to prepare it for some sort of creative relaunch.

One for sorrow, two for joy… What for a few dozen?

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Infinite Crisis: The Adventures of Superman – Lightning Strikes Twice (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I think it’s quite nice that DC went to the effort to collect the vast majority of tie-ins to Infinite Crisis inside this gigantic omnibus, even when the book didn’t necessarily get its own miniseries like Villains United or The O.M.A.C. Project. Like Sacrifice, Lightning Strikes Twice was a crossover between the Superman books leading into the events of one of the lead-in miniseries. In this case, writer Judd Winick was setting up the events of Day of Vengeance, the magic-themed crossover designed to tidy up and reenergise the mystical side of the DC Universe.

Super-punch!

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Infinite Crisis: Superman – Sacrifice (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I can see how Infinite Crisis earned its reputation as an overly-convoluted event. Even its tie-ins had tie-ins. In this case, the Superman: Sacrifice story, an arc spread across Superman, Action Comics and Wonder Woman, serves as a tie-in to Greg Rucka’s The O.M.A.C. Project, which was itself part of the lead-in to the big event. As you can imagine, it’s a rather strange trail of continuity to follow, as events here play out as a subset of a story that is itself a subset of something larger. While that is a problem of itself, the biggest problem with Superman: Sacrifice is that it takes an interesting enough central concept and reduces it to an over-extended four-issue arc about characters hitting each other really hard.

There’s blood on his hands…

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Final Crisis: Revelations (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I have to admit, I’ve always preferred DC’s approach to big comic events, as opposed to the approach at Marvel. While Marvel’s events (like Civil War or Secret Invasion) seem to exist to encroach on a writer’s comic book run (Ed Brubaker’s Captain America or Matt Fraction’s Iron Man), DC’s events tend to allow writers to tidy up loose ends. Or, to be fair, that’s what Final Crisis appeared to do. The major tie-in miniseries didn’t seem to exist to fill in gaps with the main book. Instead, they allowed the writers to resolve or move forward their own plots. For Geoff Johns, Rogues’ Revenge allowed him to segue between his first Flash run and Flash: Rebirth, while Legion of Three Worlds allowed him to sort out some outstanding Legion of Superheroes continuity.

Revelations exists to serve as a coda to Greg Rucka’s superb Gotham Central and his Question series, as well as tying in a bit to his upcoming Batwoman work. While I’m not the biggest fan of “comic book events” in general terms, I do respect that they allow writers to tell stories they might not otherwise get a chance to.

Shine a light…

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