Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When Words Collide: Being Frank Castle

I guess it's Punisher Week over at CBR, what with all the ads and the press for the "War Zone" film. I didn't know that was going to happen, but I knew the Punisher was in my brain this week, after spending the Thanksgiving weekend cuddling up with the new Omnibus edition.

So you get me writing about Steven Grant and Mike Zeck. You get me writing about the highs and lows of the Punisher. And you get me writing about what Ennis and Dillon brought to the party. All this and more in this week's WWC: "Being Frank Castle."

Stuff I left out of the column:

1) I think Punisher works best in contrast with costumed superheroes. His style of vigilante justice works to play off the more "noble" moral codes of other heroes, but shows the cracks in their philosophies.

2) Ultimately, I like Fraction's work on Punisher War Journal more than Ennis's work on Punisher Max, mostly because of reason #1 but also because Ennis's five-issue arcs seem too long by half. (And there's a sameness in tone and an interchangeability in the bad guys.)

3) At San Diego, Ryan and I saw the world's sweetest-looking Punisher. Not "sweet" as in "cool," but "sweet" as in wholesome and nice. Not very Frank Castle-esque.

4) My dad once picked up one of the Mike Baron-written Punisher issues from early in the ongoing series. It was laying on the coffee table in the living room, and he started flipping through it, and then read the entire thing. He seemed to like it. It was the first comic book he'd ever read -- or the first one since he was a child. He asked, "are all comics like this now?" I said, "not really. Just this series." And then he never read another issue, or any other comic, again.


Bill Reed said...

Okay, I barely remember it, but the Dolph Lundgren Punisher couldn't have been all bad. After all, it had Dolph Lundgren and Lou Gossett Jr, and therefore has to be awesome. I think I remember a ninja, as well. Okay, no skull shirt, which is a big no-no, but some of the pieces were right. Hell, I'd bring Dolph back for a new one-- he can play Ennis' elder MAX Punisher.

And having read all of MAX Punisher in a week or so, I think it's an excellent series, and made me dig Punisher comics when I never had before. Welcome Back Frank was okay, I guess, but the MAX stuff shows the Punisher as an unstoppable force of nature, rather than a guy who jokes with superheroes. Sure, I liked some of Fraction's run-- sword guns and Stilt-Man funerals and all-- but I think MAX Punisher is the Punisher that's best to read about. A 60+ issue novel about a relentless killing machine. Beautiful.

Timothy Callahan said...

The problem I have with Punisher Max is that the story arcs seem to repeat the same beats over and over. It's like Ennis tells the same Punisher story all over again every five or six issues. It's a good story, but there aren't many variations.

Welcome Back Frank is DEFINITELY a variation.

marcwrz said...

sounds like my dad to be honest when it comes to comics.

Vanja said...

I still think Punisher's had it's moments, however rare, before Ennis' run. Chuck Dixon's opening "Punisher War Zone" storyline with John Romita Jr. on art, was strong and well thought-out, before it got strange and wonky.

Have you read Steven Grant and Mike Zeck's eventual follow-up, to the first mini, the "Return to Big Nothing" graphic novel?

It's about another of Frank's previously never mentioned Vietnam war buddies, this time a drill surgent who turns up running a new scam involving some bad guys that are truly unrepentant, in the most over the top way you can imagine with unintentional comedy. It had great art, though :)