“Streets of Laredo Part 2”
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: Cam Kennedy (p), Avalon Studios (i)
Publisher: Marvel Knights
The Punisher seeks to infiltrate a gun running gang that conducts its business in a small Texas town, but has little luck due to the stupidity of the gang members. The sheriff of said town, who happens to be gay, argues with his boyfriend, who happens to be the son of the gang’s leader, before learning Frank Castle’s secret identity. The story ends with the malicious wounding of one of the more sympathetic characters.
Garth Ennis’s love affair with Texas continues in this issue of Punisher, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. Sure, he doesn’t fall into the typical tropes writers tend towards when writing about the Lone Star state (i.e. cowboy hats galore or omnipresent “y’all”s), but his writing here lacks the same power of conviction found in Preacher. And I’m not quite sure what to do with the fundamentalist preacher we’re introduced to on page one, either. Why introduce another preacher when there’s no way he’ll be as good a character as Preacher’s Jesse Custer? Ennis has set up a nice dichotomy by placing someone like the preacher in a town that’s open-minded enough to elect a gay sheriff, and this should make for an entertaining conflict to follow provided Ennis fleshes it out enough.
The character driven moments between Frank and Kim Wells, and between the sheriff and his boyfriend are engaging enough, but they really can’t carry the weight of the issue. Frank is a man of action and, while he does get to kick a little butt this time out, the majority of this issue is comprised of talking heads. If this were a Brian Michael Bendis book, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but Ennis doesn’t have his gift for dialogue.
The art by Cam Kennedy doesn’t help the exposition heavy story in the least. His character designs are downright ugly, and the sedentary nature of the characters in this issue serves to accentuate his weaknesses. No one in this book is attractive, and at times it’s hard to tell people apart. You’ve got one guy whose dome looks like Mr. Potato Head and later morphs to resemble Sloth for “The Goonies,” and still another whose hair looks like he should be playing the alien in “Predator.” From the neck down Kennedy’s work isn’t too bad, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, either. Lines that should be straight tend to have bends in them, and that makes for some interesting architecture. Having said that, Kennedy does handle the movement in the action scenes well, but the ugliness of the characters gets in the way.
It saddens me to say this because Garth Ennis was one of my favorite writers for a long time, but it feels like he’s been mailing it in on this book for a while now. He’s still capable of some great moments, but those have gotten fewer and farther between when it comes to Punisher. If you’re looking for a good Frank Castle story, stick to the Darick Robertson illustrated Born.
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