Saturday, December 20, 2008

Punisher: War Zone 1 and 2

OHmigod. Oh. My. God. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon are back together on a six part weekly mini-series that harkens back to their perfect twelve issue run called "Welcome Back, Frank"? And it doesn't tie into the crap Punisher movie in theatres right now? Perfect.

Yes, frequent readers, all two of you, of this blog will remember that I have a bizarre fascination with Garth Ennis. His downright sick humour, blatant misanthropy and over-the-top violence meet in a perfect trifecta of my tastes. And he's doing the second best thing he's ever written (
Preacher being numero uno, but enough French).

The Gnucci clan is pretty much gone, save for one guy with the unfortunate last name of Schitti, whom Frank cajoles into working for him. Apparently there's an Italian side of the Gnucci family and they've come to start their own business, the kind that Frank doesn't much care for. On top of that, Molly, the lesbian detective who teamed up with Soap is back and she's living with a straight girl, and is feeling mighty possessive. While Frank starts taking out new Gnuccis, Molly gets drawn back in due to her experience with the previous case. Another face from the past, The Elite, shows up but in a different form, the son of the original Elite. Add to this the possible resurrection of Ma Gnucci, and we have ourselves a classic Ennis-style
Punisher.

What can I say about this? It's exactly what I wanted it to be. It's sick, crude, funny, violent and has little to no value as a piece of high literature. There's no grand themes going on, no character development, no poignant moments of introspection. It's Frank Castle doin' what he does best.

Now, I have to admit that when it comes to Garth Ennis, you have to take it with a grain of salt or two. He doesn't necessarily believe what his characters say, and it's a mistake to think that of any writer. Everybody in his run on
The Punisher is an idiot save for Frank himself. But, almost every character gets to comment on the Punisher himself. Since Frank is mostly a cipher, we tend to assemble a picture of Frank as a composite of what people say. The picture we form is of an insane, broken man without any morals or altruism in the slightest. Almost everybody's perspective on Frank is right, and that's what makes him such an interesting and multi-faceted character - in the hands of Ennis, that is.

It's moderately frustrating to see Ennis go back to a character that he's said a lot about already. The MAX series is a far better version of the Punisher, and much more intent on developing Frank as a character. The Marvel Knights series is more interested in shootin' bad guys than saying anything remotely emotional.

The past couple years havce been sorta boring for me and Ennis, kind of. The Boys isn't very good at all, and his War Stories have been mediocre at best. He still has yet to return to the glory of his original Punisher or
Preacher or even Hitman. Ennis can produce some of the finest, most emotional, most poignant stories in comics, but he chooses to go back to naming guys "Schitti" and has possessive violent lesbians.

This isn't a negative review of the book itself. The book is funny and entertaining, both issues. This is more of a complaint of Ennis' choice of projects. I'd rather see him return to Heartland than
Dicks, you know what I mean?

It's a harsh world the Ennis characters live in. Not very many people emerge unscathed. I really love going back to see Frank, but I'd rather Ennis keep growing. It's still a great book and a fine addition to the earlier Ennis catalogue.

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