Punisher

Punisher: The Platoon #6 (April 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #6Here’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 #4The 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 #3This 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 #2I 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 #1Punisher: 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 #1What 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 12 (March 2001)

The Punisher #12Why 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 #11Ennis 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 #10An 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.

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