Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trade Waiting - Why Garth Ennis' Punisher Max Comics?


Garth Ennis can be a polarizing writer for comic book fans. Arguably one of writers that made Vertigo what it is today, one set of fans applaud Ennis for his unflinching view of violence and an outsiders portrayal of America whilst others have developed a distaste for his seeming disdain of the superhero genre and all the trappings that come with it. What can't be denied is his track record of critically acclaimed comics; from his early American work such as Hitman and Preacher all the way up to his recent work on The Boys and the highly questionable riff on the zombie genre Crossed, Ennis has had a keen ear for dialogue and an ability to plot a comic like few others. After parting ways with DC Comics, Ennis followed longtime Vertigo editor Axel Alonso over to competitor Marvel where he was given an opportunity to revamp the (at the time) misused character The Punisher. Then after his tenure on the character was over, he was given the opportunity to revamp the character again, this time on the adults only imprint, Marvel Max. Is it any good? And how does it compare to Ennis' other work? Find out after the jump.


The Punisher
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Various
Published by Marvel MAX

The Punisher is often an enigma for creators, how do you make a character who has no powers to speak of, just a determination to get the bad guy and a lot of guns, and have him co-exist in a world of Avengers, X-Men and more? Garth Ennis has the answer, take him out of that world and bring him to one that resembles something like ours. How do you then make this character interesting rather than just a cipher for violence? Again, Ennis has the answer. Taking a page out of John Constantine's book, Ennis keeps Frank Castle as a Vietnam veteran and ages him in real time, making him a character in the tail end of middle age who has been fighting the good fight on the streets of New York for thirty years. In this world, Frank Castle is Harry Callahan, now an old man who has overstepped the boundaries one too many times still fighting the good fight but this time on the wrong side of the spectrum. It's an intelligent move on Ennis' part, by doing this we are thrown into a world where the mafia and other bad guys have been dealing with his one man war decades with his reputation already cemented. Ennis also pushes the boundaries for what we know The Punisher's personality to be, showing what a man who has been mercilessly slaying bad guys for decades would eventually turn into, one of them. 

This doesn't mean that Frank Castle isn't someone to root for. Remember, his one never ending goal is to wipe the Earth clean of the real scum, the lowest of the low. This is where Ennis lets a few heavy real world issues seep in. The usual mafioso scumbags get their time in the spotlight but Ennis lets his razor sharp pen explore other, darker territories too. Corporate crime, IRA separatists, Pimps, Pushers and Cold War relics are not safe from The Punisher's single minded attitude, each eventually going the same way as the mafia do. There are times that Ennis gets very close to the bone with the real world subject matters he is dealing with. One is the CIA and the theory that they may have known more about Al-Qaida than they are letting on.This is shown in the form of Rawlins; a true scumbag who has no qualms with training extremists to aid the US Governments agenda. Another example, and possibly the most harrowing story line within the whole series are The Slavers, a group of Eastern European gangsters who sell young girls the dream of a better life in America only for them to be ruthlessly sold into the sex slave trade. The Slavers is not an easy read, especially knowing what goes on in the real world, but it is an essential one, showing us the real bad guys rather than the cackling super villains too often seen within the pages of Marvel's comics. Obviously, Frank deals with these characters the same way he does with any, at the end of a barrel, but Ennis takes great pains to show that these things aren't stopped by The Punisher and that Frank Castle is like a man fighting against the ocean; the tide will just not stop. Marvel, Ennis and Axel Alonso deserve credit for dealing with such a raw subject matter in a thought provoking way. 

Part of what makes Ennis' run on the character so interesting is the way he fleshes out the supporting cast. In fact, each story line that he deals with is the main star, and it is Frank Castle who is the supporting character, dropped in to a world that the rest of the cast inhabit to wreck havoc on the ne'er do wells. It's obvious that Ennis has great fun dreaming up antagonists for The Punisher to go up against. The aforementioned Rawlins, Sadistic Mafia Don Nicky Cavella, Cold War general The Man of Stone, Irish psychopath Finn Cooley, and gangster hitman nutjob The Barracuda are all fleshed out with such ease and to such an extent that they are instantly believable and easy to hate from the moment you are first introduced to them. Also the people on Frank's side all get a chance to shine too; disgruntled police officers, old Vietnam buddies, social workers, and ex-CIA agents cut off from the company all have understandable reasons to aid Frank in his quest to rid the world of scum. There are no half formed characters in this run and each help to build an interesting, dark world. As a bonus, Nick Fury even shows up, a character that Ennis obviously revels in writing.

Over sixty issues Garth Ennis shows imitators how to make a long form story work. Stories and characters weave in and out of plots with each eventually getting a satisfying resolution. Literally no plot threads are left dangling, by the end Ennis is even seeking to resolve Castles story with the harrowing war tale, Valley Forge Valley Forge. To talk about each arc one at a time would do the story an injustice as the whole run is really one big story with a start, a middle, and an end. A refreshing change to the usual ongoing nature of serialized comic books.

Whilst the artists are many over the sixty issues of The Punisher, the tone of the art remains consistent. Leandro Fernandez, Goran Parlov, Doug Braithwaite, Lewis LaRosa, and Lan Medina (the five artists that put the most issues in) each have different styles yet are all grounded enough in reality to make the world that The Punisher inhabits believable. Parlov in particular really shines, one of those artists that doesn't need many line to make his stuff look absolutely gorgeous. It's no coincidence that Ennis has been re-teamed with Parlov for the ongoing Fury MAX series, (in stores now kids.) Leandro Fernandez also deserves an honourable mention, handling almost half of the entire run. His style is completely suited to the tales that Ennis is working on, looking like a Steve McNiven that hasn't washed in a few weeks. Aiding to the consistency of the art is the colour work, which again whilst performed by different colourists all use the same palette, making the changes of artists between story arcs feel seamless and easy on the eyes. A special shout out also goes to Tim Bradstreet, who handled all the covers in the series with a photo realistic style that really suits the tone of the tales contained within the pages.

So, how does it compare to Ennis other works and the other Punisher stories told over the years? The answer is very favourably. It would be hard to argue that this isn't the best Punisher story ever written. It really gets to the heart of the character and makes for not only an entertaining read but a thought provoking one. When it comes to comparing it to Ennis' other works this writer feels that it is the best thing Ennis has ever written. There could be arguments made for Preacher, Hitman, or even The Boys but all those books, whilst excellent, rely on crutches of humour, or fantastical elements to get their point across. This is Pure Ennis, boiled down to its most potent. It is a hard, unflinching, violent, and most importantly sad tale about a man who is playing a game he knows he can never win, yet continues to play anyway, seeing it through all the way to the very end. The only other Ennis books that really come close to that sort of storytelling are his admittedly fantastic war books, books that unfortunately not very many people read. At the end of the day Ennis hoodwinked us all, using a character that people already know and love to tell the stories he really wanted to tell all along, making it easily one of the best stories told in the modern era of comic books.


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9 comments:

Liam José said...

Gotta agree with your assessment here.
I love me some Ennis, but do definitely think that Punisher Max is the best thing he's ever done (agree completely on the war comics - more people have gotta check those out. Also, the first Crossed series is pretty spectacular).
Nice article, mate.
I would go so far as to say that this Punisher run is one of the best comics published in the 2000s (which was a very strong decade).

Unmarked Door said...

Added to the never ending "To Read" list. Also picked up Fury Max on strength of this.

Anonymous said...

Ennis and the Punisher. Perfect together.

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نبضة قلب said...


تتميز الرحمه في تقديم جميع خدمات التنظيف مثل : تنظيف خزانات - تنظيف منازل - تنظيف بيوت - تنظيف شقق - تنظيف سجاد وموكيت - تنظيف مدارس ومساجد

شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض
شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض

افضل شركة جلى بلاط بالرياض

كشف تسربات المياه
__________________

كثيرا ما تحتاج شركة نقل اثاث عند شرائك اثاث جديد او عند تنقلك من منزل الى منزل اخر او من مدينة الى مدينة اخرى
توفر الرحمة اسطول من سيارات نقل الاثاث الحديثة للحفاظ عليه من العوامل الطبيعية مثل الشمس او الامطار
شركة تنظيف بالرياض

تنظيف شقق بالرياض
تنظيف فلل بالرياض

إن كنت تعانين من مشكلة الحشرات في مطبخك وخاصة الصراصير، إتبعي نصيحة أطيب طبخة وحضري خلطات سهلة وطبيعية لتتخلصي منها بشكل نهائي وفعال.
1- خلطة سحرية

أخلطي القليل من حمض البوريك مع الدقيق والسكر البودرة ورشي الخليط في الزوايا، تحت الخزائن والثلاجة وباقي الأماكن التي تتكاثر فيها الحشرات. فمزيج السكر والدقيق كفيل بجذب الصراصير وحمض البوريك سيتولى القضاء عليها!
2- تنظيف الأثاث الخشبي

إهتمي بتنظيف الأثاث الخشبي في المنزل بعناية فالخشب يعزز وجود الحشرات وخاصة الصراصير وتكاثرها لذلك تأكدي جيداً من تنظيف هذا النوع من الأثاث.
3- مزيج من الماء والصابون
شركة مكافحة الحشرات بالرياض
شركة تسليك مجاري بالرياض

__________________________

وان كنت تريد ان تتخلص من الاثاث القديم الذي يسبب لك الازعاج فشركة الرحمة تقوم بشراء الاثاث الستعمل فهى افضل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض

شركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض
شركة عزل الاسطح بالرياض
افضل شركة تنظيف كنب بالرياض
افضل شركة تنظيف موكيت بالرياض
شركة تخزين عفش بالرياض

__________

نبضة قلب said...


الاول سيو افضل شركة تسويق الكترونى تعمل على تسويق المواقع وارشفتها باحدث وسائل السيو فهى تقوم بتهيئة المواقع لمحركات البحث لجلب الزوار والعملاء
ومن اقسام الاول سيو قسم الخدمات المنزليه مثل افضل شركة تنظيف بالرياض
وافضل شركة تنظيف شرق الرياض بالاضافة الى افضل شركة مكافحة الحشرات بالرياض وتغطى خدماتها شرق وشمال الرياض فالاول افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات شرق الرياض تستخدم اقوى المبيدات الحشرية
واسعارها في متناول الجميع ومن الهام التاكد دائما من خلو منزلك من تسربات المياه حتى لا تتعرض لمشاكل مثل انهيار وتصدع المبانى الاول افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض تستخدم اجهزه الكترونية اكشف التسرب بالذبذبات وتغطى كافة مناطق الرياض فهى افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه شرق الرياض


شركة تنظيف كنب بالرياض

الاول شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض
توفر افضل المستودعات لتخزين الاثاث والعفش التى تتوفر بها كل عوامل الامن للحفاظ على الاثاث وتقوم بتغليف الاثاث قبل تخزينه للمحافظة عليها فالاول افضل شركات تخزين العفش بالرياض ونوفر سيارات لنقل الاثاث من اى مكان داخل المملكة .
شركة تنظيف خزانات بينبع

بالاضافة الى خدمة نقل اثاث بالرياض فنحن نمتلك اكبر اسطول نقل بالرياض يوفر لك افضل خدمة نقل اثاث بالرياض
بالاضافة الى ان اسعارها في متناول الجميع فهى فالاول شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض رخصية بالمقارنة مع باقي الشركات بالرغم من جودة عملها ودقة المواعيد فهى تقوم بتغليف العفش للحفاظ عليه اثناء النقل وتقوم باستخدام سيارات مغطاه مخصصة لنقل العفش للحفاظ عليه من اضرار الشمس والامطار والاتربة فالاول افضل شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض وتغطى كافة مدن المملكة
نقل اثاث بالرياض

وان كنت بحاجة الى شركة شراء اثاثك القديم المستعمل فباتصالك بنا تحصل على افضل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض والخرج
حقين شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياض

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