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"I don't kill them because they're bad people. I kill them because I hate them."
August 12, 2008 10:00 PM   Subscribe

The Punisher MAX #60 hits comics stores this week, marking the end of Garth Ennis's run on the series. His earlier Punisher work on the series put the character back on track after some disastrous wrong turns, but it was the Marvel MAX series that striped the Vietnam vet turned vigilante's war on crime of all extraneous elements and turned it into something dark and brutal. The evocative covers of Tim Bradstreet (also leaving the series) matched the interior darkness, with Ennis toning down his humor to let the Frank Castle become a monomaniacal psychopath in a corrupt world. Adversaries included the resourceful and violent Barracuda, a kind of anti-Punisher based on the song Stagger Lee. It's not over for the Punisher - screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz and artist Laurence Campbell are taking over the series, and Ennis will be returning to the character with a miniseries in the lighter tone of his Marvel Knights work or The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe.
posted by Artw (49 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
And yes, no one could be more suprised than me that my favourite comcis reading of recent years has revolved around a concept as dumb as the punisher- whose basically an NRA wet dream crossed with a very bad 80s action flick. All I can say is that Garth Ennis is very, very good, and writes utter badasses superbly.
posted by Artw at 10:06 PM on August 12, 2008


Ennis' Punisher run is great because he knows the Punisher is a one-trick pony. Each arc would have 4-5 issues of build-up featuring mobsters, terrorists, slave traders, evil soldiers, crooked cops, even vengeful mob wives before Frank would maneuver everyone perfectly into place and mow them all down. It's these characters, their lives and their darkness that makes this series so different from every other Punisher book. In some arcs, the Punisher is little more than a force of nature. In others, it's the supporting characters that force him to be human, or to prove to himself once again that he left any chance at normalcy or sanity behind long ago.
posted by thecjm at 10:19 PM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't read the book, but it's always sad when Tim Bradstreet stops doing anything. When he could push past stock poses in front of grimy brick walls, he made some fantastic covers.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 10:20 PM on August 12, 2008


I don't think I could ever bring myself to read Punisher. He's like a late '90s Image character who snuck into the Marvel Universe.
posted by owillis at 10:46 PM on August 12, 2008


owillis: You might try Matt Fraction's initial run (pre-Remender) on Punisher War Journal. I'm not a big Punisher fan and I really enjoyed it. Fraction runs with the the sort of late-90s Liefeldian absurdism of the premise-- there's a gun that shoots swords in one issue, for instance-- and adds a lot of humanity to Frank Castle's characterization.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:45 PM on August 12, 2008


I don't read the book, but it's always sad when Tim Bradstreet stops doing anything.

There speaks a man who has never had their dick punched by Tim Bradstreet.

OK, I get it. Enough with the dick punching jokes
posted by Jofus at 12:41 AM on August 13, 2008


Really excellent post. I've never been a Punisher fan but (obviously) love Preacher and will now be picking up some of this stuff.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:13 AM on August 13, 2008


ArtW- why would the NRA- a group of older, mostly Caucasian males, have wet dreams about a comic which features as its central premise the wholesale slaughter of older, mostly Caucasian males? Is it a LOLGUNOWNERS thing?
posted by Hiding From Goro at 1:35 AM on August 13, 2008


Also, all this talk of Frank Castle, and no mention of Mack Bolan, who he's almost entirely based on?
posted by Hiding From Goro at 1:36 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've always been a big fan of the Punisher. Been loving the Max run so far. Some more so than others, but it's been consistently entertaining.

"Hand me the 60." is an ultimate bad ass line.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:39 AM on August 13, 2008


I have every issue of Ennis' Marvel Knights and MAX Punisher run. Some arcs are so crammed full of sickening violence and depravity that you almost feel the need for a shower after reading.
posted by autodidact at 6:25 AM on August 13, 2008


Sorry Punisher, but no one can destroy the Marvel Universe like Fred Hembeck can.
posted by fidgets at 6:33 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ennis' run is pretty fantastic. I think it's too bad they aren't stopping the comic, instead of giving it to someone else to run into the ground. I guess Marvel's' going to "return Punisher to his roots" or something.
posted by graventy at 6:47 AM on August 13, 2008


Blammo!
posted by stinkycheese at 7:26 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I may be in the minority, but after having read the whole run of Preacher I can't read anything Ennis writes. I've tried a few different times with some of his other books, but somewhere he always seems (to me) to weaken a good story in favor of masturbatory levels of violence.
posted by Lord Widebottom at 7:44 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the Ennis MAX comics are about the best reason to read comics nowadays. I liked his Pre-MAX work on the Punisher, but his MAX work is truly epic. He's redefined the charecter so boldly I'm not interested in reading the Punisher if it's not based on his interpretation. It would be like reading a Spider-Man comic that doesn't recognize Stan Lee.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 8:30 AM on August 13, 2008


Lord Widebottom
The thing about the Punisher, as thecjm said, is that "masturbatory levels of violence" are perfect for the character because that's what he is. What might be unnecessary in Preacher is standard for this character, and since Ennis knows this he is free to work within that to create good stories and characters. Give it a shot.

Hiding From Goro
You're being willfully disingenuous. It's central premise is the wholesale slaughter of criminals with guns...crime prevention being one of the major justifications given for gun ownership by the NRA.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:16 AM on August 13, 2008


I've been picking up the collected editions (through to "Widowmaker") and since then buying the individuals but haven't been able to get more than two of "Valley Forge". I don't know that I will continue once Ennis leaves simply because whilst Castle is just basically a force of nature the supporting characters and storylines are fantastic - "The Slavers" was simply incredible. How often do comic books deal with issues like that?
posted by longbaugh at 9:43 AM on August 13, 2008


with Ennis toning down his humor to let the Frank Castle become a monomaniacal psychopath in a corrupt world.

When in the run does he tone down his humor? I'd like to start reading there. I picked up some Ennis Punishers a long time ago based on the enormous buzz (and my love of the character), and I honestly thought they were total shit. There was some guy who kept saying "Spacker Dave!" and a funny fat nerd - I found it embarrassing. There was a legless Mafia women and goofy goons, and I wouldn't describe the violence as "brutal" so much as "cartoonish". Then I watched about twenty minutes of the movie and saw the same damn characters.

I disliked the comics so much that I've never gone back to read Preacher and I've been suspicious of Ennis ever since.

In other words, it sounds very different than what is being described here. I'm willing to give it another chance, but when does it get good?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:33 AM on August 13, 2008


Man, what a great post. I read "Welcome Back Frank" back when I used to work in a Tower Records store that had a small trade paperback section. Not coincidentally, this is also where I read Preacher. Anyway, Welcome Back Frank was awesome, if a little too much like Preacher, and this has completely rejuvenated my interest in the series. Don't tell Marvel, but I think I'm going to go download the issues... illegally.
posted by shmegegge at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2008


I haven't read any Ennis but Preacher. Can he write Americans that talk like Americans yet? I liked Jesse Custer well enough, but I can't totally get behind a Texan who uses the word "fortnight" and constructions like "stop him doing that."

The other thing that bugged me about Preacher -- and bear in mind this was a comic I liked overall -- was that Jesse was absolutely perfect in every way. There wasn't a bad guy he couldn't beat up or outsmart, a woman who didn't want to fuck him blind, or a problem he couldn't solve. And he did it all with very little effort; it seemed like the only reason the series lasted as long as it did was because it was sort of difficult for them to find God, and because Tulip and Cassidy kept doing things to impede Jesse's progress.

It's a pretty good comic, but it's hard to root for a hero who doesn't really have any difficulty accomplishing his goals. It's why I don't read Superman comics.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:39 AM on August 13, 2008


Bookhouse- what you're describing is "Welcome Back Frank," Ennis' Punisher miniseries as part of the Marvel Knights line. The good stuff is his work under Marvel's renamed MAX mature line, starting here.
posted by Merzbau at 10:40 AM on August 13, 2008


And he did it all with very little effort a gerry curl mullet. ftfy.

yeah, Preacher was a complete Gary Stu character.
posted by shmegegge at 10:58 AM on August 13, 2008


Bookhouse - That would be the Marvel Knights punisher, the first Ennis run on the character, which leaned pretty heavily on black comedy (and would have, for instance, Castle using a dazed Spiderman as a human shield and telling him later "We had a team-up. You were great."). The Marvel MAX series that Ennis wrote (starting with In The Beginning, and ending this week) has much less humor, doesn't feature any marvel universe characters bar Nick Fury (who doesn't resemble the regular Marvel version much) and is pretty much unrelentingly bleak in it's world view (see the above mentioned Slavers). It's still incredibly violent though, so if that's not your bag you might want to stay away.

...or what Merzbau said.

Lead bullets, honest.
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on August 13, 2008


It's still incredibly violent though, so if that's not your bag you might want to stay away.

Oh, Goodness, no. I love me some brutal violence in my art. I'll give him another try with the Max series.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:12 AM on August 13, 2008


Artw: I've read the argument that Ennis' Marvel Knights run was so crappy (repeating tropes and plots from Preacher and Hitman and featuring wildly out-of-character versions of Wolverine (among others) because he wanted Marvel to either fire him or let him write the version of the Punisher that he wanted to do in the first place, complete with no-flying-car Nick Fury. Could be true.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:50 AM on August 13, 2008


Ennis just hates capes. Read anything he has done with conventional superheroes and it shines through. The Boys is probably the best example of this (and probably why he struggled to find a publisher for it as well).
posted by longbaugh at 12:12 PM on August 13, 2008


(and probably why he struggled to find a publisher for it as well)

From the Wikipedia article that you link to:

The first six issues were published by Wildstorm, starting in 2006. On January 24, 2007, the series was abruptly canceled with issue #6... In February 2007 the series was picked up by Dynamite Entertainment

That's some struggle. (And wouldn't have been a problem at all if DC EiC Dan Didio had had any inkling that Ennis hates capes--say, from his previous series Hitman... published by DC Comics for all 60 issues (and spinoffs).)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:28 PM on August 13, 2008


Also, I love my copy of 'The End' by Ennis. It's a stand-alone single issue which is about, well, it's pretty self-explanatory... Absolutely brutal and awesome. It goes a long way to show who/what the Punisher truly is.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:32 PM on August 13, 2008


DC seems mysteriously unable to get it's shit togetehr as far as Hitman trades go though... which is a real shame, since for my money it was actually better than Preacher.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on August 13, 2008


Oh I remember what happened at the time Halloween Jack but I am so very lazy with my writing nowadays - I apologise sincerely as it makes me look like a jumbo spanner.

Also, is your real name Wave Lindsay by any chance?
posted by longbaugh at 12:39 PM on August 13, 2008


I'm still hazy about what exactly it was that caused DC to get cold feet on The Boys - the business with the hamster? The foul mouthed Stan Lee living in the basement of a comicboo store?

Also they just did something rather nasty to The Hulk in that new Comic Book Legal Defense Fund book.
posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on August 13, 2008


How many pub scenes are there?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:33 PM on August 13, 2008


Shockingly the Ennis Punisher DOES NOT DRINK GUINNESS, and mainly goes into bars to shoot everybody in them, or occasionally just to chat with Nick Fury. He does, however, get more sex than you’d expect.
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on August 13, 2008


Shockingly the Ennis Punisher DOES NOT DRINK GUINNESS

I refuse to believe that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:47 PM on August 13, 2008


However the worst Punisher MAX story is called “Kitchen Irish” and has a lot of pubs and most probably Guinness in it.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on August 13, 2008


"You murdered some of the nation's greatest heroes...and the X-Men Cyclops and Jubliee."

Ouch. Though he did have a point with Jubliee...still ouch.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:43 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I love how that line functions as both "mutants are second class citizens" and "these characters are quite astonishingly dull, aren't they?"
posted by Merzbau at 4:29 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Punisher's good, but he's no Red Scorpion.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:33 PM on August 13, 2008



I was disheartened to learn that The Punisher is going to be released yet again as a film when it's Daredevil that desperately needs to be redeemed.
posted by vurnt22 at 5:45 PM on August 13, 2008


vurnt22: See this.

I like the looks of the new Punisher movie, especially since it's got that guy in it. You know, the Roman guy. From Rome.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:05 PM on August 13, 2008


I was disheartened to learn that The Punisher is going to be released yet again as a film

From the director of the modern cinematic classic Green Street / Hooligans, no less... saw it on tv last week, genius. It is supposed to be a comedy, right?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:08 PM on August 13, 2008


I choked him, momma. Until his goddamned eyes bugged out.
posted by britain at 7:55 PM on August 13, 2008


Also, all this talk of Frank Castle, and no mention of Mack Bolan, who he's almost entirely based on?

My god, is that a hilarious wiki article. Half of it is trying to convince me that Mack Bolan isnt gay. "NO HE PREFERS GUTSY WOMEN. HE'S REALLY IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE ELSE. HE DOES MANLY THINGS ALL THE TIME."

uhh ok.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:36 PM on August 13, 2008


Artw,

Thanks for the heads up on this series. I just bought the first 2 trades from my LCBS.
posted by Telf at 7:36 AM on August 14, 2008


I cried a single man-tear for the end of Valley Forge.
posted by Artw at 9:33 AM on August 15, 2008


The new film looks like being another 'classic'... the've booted off the original director and there's a strong rumour that the studio is pushing for PG-13
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:32 PM on August 15, 2008


I liked Punisher #60. Not what I expected but what I wanted.

BTW, Barracuda was THE SHIT.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:46 PM on August 15, 2008


I’m kind of curious to know if the bits over Fury in the bar were sourced from somewhere.

Oh, and this is pretty much the first time since Watchmen that text pages in a comic have worked for me. As others have said elsewhere maybe Ennis has a Vietnam novel inside of him.
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on August 15, 2008


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