By Geoff Hoppe
May 6, 2008 - 14:33
|Tim Bradstreet's subtlety is infinitely frustrating.|
One of Frank Castle's enemies, Barracuda, has kidnapped the daughter Castle didn't knew he had. Before I go any further, let me explain Barracuda: he's a large African-American man with gold teeth that have "f**k you" engraved on them, and he speaks in ebonics so pronounced they're cartoonish. He's big, strong and violent. On the Stereotype Spectrum, he falls somewhere between Hadji from the original Jonny Quest, and the cast of Hee Haw.
Garth Ennis' The Punisher is so cartoonily violent, so rife with racial and crime comic stereotypes that it can't even be taken seriously. It may be dumb enough to deserve a Marxist reading. It's violently distracting enough to work as a decent mass opiate, and the villain is clearly established as inner city and lower class. He's also abused as a child, an element that Ennis does nothing of value with but shock the reader. Perhaps worst of all, the story's kind of boring.
The two issues don't really have a plot. They just catalog a series of tortures, shootings, explosions, and other things overtly masculine. There's even a scene where Frank Castle and Barracuda shoot at each other from behind cars ten feet apart. It's hilariously reminiscent of that scene in Naked Gun where Leslie Nielsen gets in a gunfight with a bad guy three yards away from him. There are apparently two more issues of this arc, but I get a sneaking hunch they aren't much more structurally complex than #53 and 54.
Eventually, the intricate, Jamesian narrative screeches to a halt when-- are you ready for a shocking twist?-- the Punisher kills Barracuda. Thank goodness nothing innovative happened.
Goran Parlov's art is arguably passable. His messy style was probably selected because the lack of precision and detail makes the extreme violence bearable.
Worth the money? No way. The six-odd dollars will pay for at least part of a Jonny Quest dvd...