Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: UDON with Alvin Lee, Eric Vedder, Rob Ross, Calvin Lo, Arnold Tsang,
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Agent X taking a tour of his newly inherited amusement park, and while the place is a dilapidated collection of deathtraps, Agent X is in full denial mode, as he's got himself his own amusement park. After seeing that this park is likely to make Agent X the target of the ruthless Four Winds organization, we join our amnesiac mercenary as he finds himself at a meeting where five rich men have each hired themselves a mercenary, and set up a contest where these hired guns will attempt to get their hands of the .45s that the infamous Punisher uses in his war on the criminal underworld. As the game begins we see Agent X & his occasional ally Outlaw team up to take out the other three hired guns, and then the two race to become the first to steal the Punisher's guns and collect the $250,000 reward. However, when the two become involved in a rooftop fight, the Punisher slips away, which leaves them both wondering what their next step will be. After spending a night on the town together, and discovering they get along rather famously, the two decide to slip into the Punisher's place and steal the weapons. Needless to say this plan doesn't quite work out, but someone does collect the $250,000 reward.
This book continues the pattern that Gail Simone established during her stint on "Deadpool", as each issue does seem to strive for a done-in-one format, which makes it a refreshing move away from the current trend where monthly titles seem to be striving for the six-seven issue arcs that are the perfect size for Marvel's accelerated trade paperback program. Now there were a couple elements that did carry over from the previous issue, but thanks to the opening page recap, and the fact that this book's lead character effectively has no past continuity, this book currently stands up as the most reader friendly title Marvel puts out. One can pick up an issue of this book, and receive a highly entertaining read that gives one a complete story. This time out we see Deadpool become involved in a bizarre competition that has him trying to steal the Punisher's .45s, and while I feel the comedic potential of this situation wasn't fully realized, the issue still does a nice job of dealing with this scenario. We also get a better look at Outlaw, a fellow mercenary that Agent X teams up with in this issue, and she's certainly an enjoyable addition to this book's cast.
The Punisher's one of the few characters who I have myself a perfect movie analogue for as Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character from his Sergio Leone directed trilogy of Westerns (Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) has always struck me as the ideal cinematic counterpart for Frank Castle. I mention this so you'll understand why I found this issue's approach to the character so disappointing, as instead of having some fun with the character, this issue almost seems afraid to poke fun at the Punisher's approach to dealing with others. I mean the story makes it clear that thanks to his amnesia Agent X doesn't have any idea of who this Punisher fellow is, and given he's shown he's not afraid to take a bullet, the scene where he's begging for his life simply didn't sit right with me. Mainly my disappointment stems from being robbed of the comedic potential of the ultra-serious Punisher running up against a criminal who won't stay dead. I mean this issue seeks to make the Punisher funny by having him engage in silly behavior like stealing Agent X's clothes & wearing a cowboy hat, and I just don't think the Punisher fits that comedic style.
UDON Studios seem to be an ever-expanding army of creators, as it seems like the list of people involved in the creation of this book is increasing by the issue. Still, the finished product is certainly good at keeping a uniform look to it, and while I do have a couple of quibbles with the work, for the most part the art is quite strong. The comedy of the book is nicely presented, as I absolutely loved the visual designs that were used of the disposable mercenaries that Outlaw & Agent X found themselves competing with, and the amusing way that our two heroes deal with them is nicely conveyed by the art. I also enjoyed Agent X's little tour though the hell that is the country music bar, and his little encounter with Outlaw's decapitated head also made me smile. The art also does a nice job keeping us from seeing the Punisher's face until it's ready for the big reveal shot, as I had started to suspect that the Punisher they were after was going to end up being a decoy. As for the problems I mentioned, I have to say that Agent X's amusement park should've been a lot more eye-catching, as even a rundown park should be a visual wonderland. Also what's the deal with the plate with no salsa?
Another enjoyable issue that I felt was somewhat undone by the decision to focus more of its energies on Agent X's partnership with Outlaw, at the expense of the time spent dealing with the Punisher. Now Outlaw ends up being a highly entertaining addition to this book's cast, and Gail Simone does a fairly solid job getting us inside the character's head, as we see there's a bit more to her than just a hired gun who dresses up like a cowboy. Still, with Agent X being largely a blank slate, at this stage of the game the character needs someone to interact with to keep things interesting, and it's a shame that the Punisher wasn't given more panel time with Agent X, as this would've likely resulted in some fun moments. Still, this book does earn marks for the rather unique means that it used to generate its encounter with the Punisher, and the wrap-up to this adventure was rather cute.
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