Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Punisher War Journal #4

By Geoff Hoppe
February 24, 2007 - 11:58

Punisher War Journal #4


way to ruin the mood, Frank.
I loved the first three issues of Punisher: War Journal. Writer Matt Fraction showed a lot of promise in blending a white-knuckled style of writing with an extremely dry wit. In PWJ #4, the wit is still there (in droves), but it’s taken a detour down a dark alley of the protagonist’s psyche.


The plot of PWJ#4 is genius: a group of b-grade supervillains get together at a wake for the recently deceased Stilt-Man. Tears are shed, war stories are told, and the has-beens begin to sound an awful lot like “legends who lunch.” Matt Fraction even manages to sneak in a Matthew Arnold (“ Dover Beach”) reference when one of the baddies characterizes the halcyon days of villainy   as “sweetness and light.” It’s all fun and games (and humor) until Spider-Man shows up and scolds the gang. Then something…well…very bleak happens. To the tune of poisoned gin and 100 pounds of dynamite.


What lifts this issue out of camp and into legitimate storytelling is the depth Fraction gives the bargain-basement crew of villains assembled for the wake. From their point of view, the “old days” weren’t about violence, or the lethal tone of the recent Civil War events. They were about grabbing a costume, picking an animal name, and having a bit of fun. This is the most human, unthreatening view of evil in comic book-dom since Caesar Romero squeezed into the purple tux and chucked gimmicks at Adam West.


Mike Deodato Jr., is, of course, quite good. His consciously rough style portrays action extremely well, and, in the case of this issue, emotion. Precision and attention to human anatomy a la Jim Lee isn’t Deodato’s forte, and yet, his understated approach to facial expressions contributes flawlessly to the (more or less) complex atmosphere Matt Fraction has crafted in this issue.


Worth the money? It’s a very ambitious, well crafted story, given there’s only 32 pages of sparse dialogue. It still leaves you with an uncomfortable chill, however, and if that ain’t your kind of kink, you might want to stay away.


P.S. so…does this mean Shocker’s dead? He was cool…

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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