Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Punisher: Born

Yeah, I know. It's another Garth Ennis mini-series that I'm reviewing. This time, it's a four issue mini-series from the MAX imprint simply called Born even though it's technically The Punisher: Born.

Set during Captain Frank Castle's third tour in Vietnam in 1971, the story is told from the perspective of a man called Goodwin, who's thirty days or so away from leaving the nightmare called Vietnam. The platoon has been stationed at Firebase Valley Forge, where the V.C. have been slowing stockpiling weapons for a final push. Castle, the only man who cares about doing his job anymore, sees all of this happening and can't seem to make anyone else care, including his C.O.

There really isn't too much more to the mini-series than showing that Frank Castle may have been off his rocker before his family was taken away from him. Read in conjunction with The Tyger, this story just gives more foundation for the character and his motivations. It's not sufficient to simply say his family was killed so he went out and punished people. A good writer has to show what made his character the man who went out and did it.

Since I have read every Garth Ennis-penned issue of The Punisher now, I think I can say this with confidence. Ennis seems to slowly and quietly put forth the hypothesis that the death of Frank's family was simply an excuse, a convenient excuse, to do all the murdering and punishing he'd always wanted to do. That's not to say that Frank was heartbroken and driven a little batsh*t from the trauma, but he'd always wanted to do it. Ennis has painted a portrait of a man intent on killing, intent on delivering a modicum of justice, a man driven by his passions rather than a sense of duty.

With this mini-series, Ennis shows that Frank's skill at punishment comes from another source, a bodiless voice that offers Frank a way out of Vietnam, a way to do his punishing, but at a price (ie his family). This bodiless voice could be the great Mephisto, or it could be Frank's own twisted id. Whatever it is, it gives the mini-series' end a bit of a supernatural subtext. I'd rather interpret it as Frank's own psyche, which then fits into my theory that Ennis thinks Frank wants to punish, desires to do it, rather than feels like he must.

All in all, Born is a pretty terrific piece in the overall Ennis-created Punisher series. Very enjoyable, and the art from Darick Robertson is some of the best I've ever seen from him. I look forward to reading Ennis' final arc, "Valley Forge Valley Forge", which might fit into this mini-series. Hopefully. Until then....

No comments: