By Al Kratina
March 29, 2007 - 08:22
Garth Ennis has either been listening to too much rap, or he's been hanging out with Quentin Tarantino. Either way, he's developed a taste of blaxploitation that's entirely too passionate for a white Scotsman. Nevertheless, it has resulted in an entertaining read, though I'm sure if Ennis ever left the pub long enough to meet people with skin darker than the ruddy complexion of a 50 year old Glasgow drunk, he might be surprised by their reaction to Barracuda.
Barracuda is a spin-off featuring a typically outlandish character created by Ennis for his Marvel MAX Punisher series. Barracuda is big, black, mean, and built like Michael Clark Duncan if he'd just eaten a professional wrestler. Having been shot, partially blinded, disfigured, and fed to sharks by the Punisher, Barracuda is still none the worse for wear, all smiles, profanity, and a complete and utter disregard for human life. So, essentially, he’s 50 Cent, were his face not paralyzed from imbecility and incapable of expression. Frank Castle is absent from this series, or at least he is from the first issue, and though Barracuda is certainly a dynamic character, I'm not sure there's enough above his more sensational traits to carry an entire series. But Ennis infuses enough blood, cuss, and sex to keep things interesting to even the most jaded, heartless readers. In fact, I’m sure they’ll be especially interested.
In the first issue, Barracuda is hired by mobster Christopher Walken to help the kid from Dexter's Laboratory make his first kill. Thanks to the recent interest in comic-to-film adaptations, pretty much every series now has its dream cast incorporated right into the artwork, from Eminem in Wanted, to Simon Pegg in The Boys, and now Walken and the supporting cast of The Sopranos here. Aside from that irritating commercial concession, Goran Parlov's art is effective and light; sketchy, uncomplicated, but effective. The layouts are simple and symmetrical, but as the book is darkly comic, it prevents the reader from taking things too seriously. Ennis' dialogue is of his standard snappiness and shock value, neither better nor worse than expected, but somewhat devoid of surprises. It's a page-turner, but only because you're waiting to see what atrocity Barracuda performs next. Truth be told, there's not that much in this issue to shock and appall, but the groundwork is certainly being laid for Ennis's trademark hybrid of perversion and carnage, Pasolini filtered through Faces of Death. The mix of Italian stereotypes with gang-banger clichés is neither inventive nor particularly engrossing, but Ennis could probably make the phone book interesting if he wrote it, likely by having the Andersons demolish the Smiths using Claymore mines and bad language, and there would be plenty of inappropriate jokes once we got
to the people named 'Gayheart'. Still, I would have liked to see a little more than just Ennis riffing on blaxploitation films and mobster movies. Perhaps Barrac uda will develop further as the series progresses, perhaps not. Either way, it's a light and fun read, provided your idea of fun involves mutilation and degradation, or you've been watching Jackie Brown.
Rating: 6 on 10