Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

The Punisher #35-36

By Geoff Hoppe
May 19, 2008 - 10:36

It's a little indirect, but I think he's pointing a gun at the viewer.
In these two issues of Marvel Max's The Punisher, writer Garth Ennis investigates the complex relationship between artistic freedom and personal responsibili-- oh, wait, I'm thinking of Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence. In The Punisher #35-36, stuff blows up, a guy gets strangled to death, a tramp fellates a mercenary while he's beaten with a wrench, sharks eat people, and nothing remotely intelligent happens.

Frank Castle (the Punisher) is hot on the trail of a group of corrupt utility company execs who plan to drive up stock prices by instigating a power crisis. Castle is also healing from massive wounds incurred at the hands of Barracuda, a walking ghetto stereotype who says "I'm'a" more than a blaxploitation film.  He also eats pancakes with his hands, in case the copious ebonics didn't fully convey that he's dangerous and uneducated.

One stereotype isn't enough for Ennis, though. There's also a female villain, Alice Ebbing, who seems to have walked out of a male chauvinist's nightmare. She's beautiful, violent, manipulative and sexually insatiable.  When combined with Barracuda, she makes these two issues a singularity of two-dimensional character crappiness, a regular second-rate black hole. Try putting some Faulkner or Orwell on a table next to these issues and watch their believable characters be sucked inwards past the event horizon of horrible writing.

John Randle is miffed that Frank Castle just farted.
But, somehow, dear reader, there is indeed a lesson buried beneath the body count. It's this: any hack can be a good writer if they load their stories with enough sensationalism. It doesn't take talent or skill to hold a reader's attention with grotesque violence and perverse sexuality. In the same way it's human nature to rubberneck at a car crash or glance furtively past the police tape, it's hard NOT to stare at fictional dismemberments or get sucked in by simplistic stereotypes. It seems pretty clear Ennis recognizes this little foible of human nature, and manipulates it with every new issue of The Punisher.

So? So don't humor him, or the Marvel Max status quo. Comics, their readers-- and, frankly, the character of the Punisher himself-- deserve better.

Goran Parlov's art, which tends to exaggerate to near caricature levels, suits Ennis' style. Given how bad the story was, though, I'd need to see Parlov's work in other titles before I make any real judgment. Props (honestly) to Parlov for his classy nod to Alex Toth in the credits of issue 36.

Worth the money? Nope.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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