Punisher MAX #68

A comic review article by: Dan Hill

So the carnage continues. Swierczynski wastes no time, picking up right where the last issue left off and launching straight into the thick of things. Head shots abound. Eyes are blown out, all bathed in a grimy red neon light by the talented Val Staples (continuing a colour motif that has ran throughout this arc). During this opening scene Frank laments how the poison in his veins is slowing him down, causing him to play catch up with his reflexes. Despite this though, he still manages to dispatch the guns for hire with minimum effort. Granted, he loses both his vehicle and his supplies, but the scene only serves to show that even in the face of such adversity, Frank Castle marches on relentlessly, an almost elemental force only existing for one purpose.

Swierczynski doesn't make Castle completely infallible though. A short while later, he shows Frank physically stumbling whilst another team of mercenaries give chase. It's not pretty, and it's not graceful. A far cry from the well oiled machine we're used to seeing.

Walter, the slightly creepy, not all there, bundle of tension makes a reappearance too. He serves as a bodyguard for Dre, one of the people responsible for the poison currently residing in Frank's veins. We learned in the last issue--courtesy of some small flashbacks--that Walter served in Vietnam and at one point was captured and tortured by the Vietcong. It's pretty clear that it was this event that turned Walter into the man he is today. Swierczynski and Lacombe did a great job in the last issue of building up the idea that this guy has a LOT of bundled up anger beneath that dim, almost child like exterior, and it's in this issue that it pays off. Not only that but there is a twist in the relationship between Dre and her bodyguard. One, that given Walter's mental state, is oh so wrong and true to form. Very, very creepy.

The flashbacks concerning Walter last issue were very small (a few panels at most) but still managed to get across what this guy was about effectively. Swierczynski performs a similar trick this issue for Dre and Benjamin. In the space of a few pages the backgrounds of both characters are fleshed out nicely along with a revelation about Walter that directly influences the ending of this issue.

When I reviewed the last issue, I looked forward to a Walter/Frank confrontation. This issue doesn't deliver on that but definitely puts it on the plate for the next issue. This, in a nutshell ,is my one complaint about the book. Compared to the last issue, not much happens. This is more of a transition issue, fleshing out characters and moving the pieces into place for the next issue.

That being said though, this is still top work by all involved. Swierczynski's writing improves every time I read an issue by him. Here he gives a good example of economical storytelling, filling out the backgrounds of the supporting characters in a short amount of space. Lacombe's art is solid, and he has a knack for really capturing the nuances in a character's expressions. Val Staples continues to shine, bathing the violence in a neon glow, whilst retaining the shadowy elements of the book when needed. 

A solid issue but more of a set up for next month. 

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